There's no bubble, just a chance for the oldies

Wealth could be wasted on the young entrepreneurs, when common sense says fortune should favour those with well-aged experience
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The Independent Online

If anyone else asks me when the computer and internet bubbles are going to burst, I will explode. There are no bubbles. In a couple of years, there will be a computer in almost every home and using the internet will be as commonplace as reading the newspaper.

If anyone else asks me when the computer and internet bubbles are going to burst, I will explode. There are no bubbles. In a couple of years, there will be a computer in almost every home and using the internet will be as commonplace as reading the newspaper.

We are experiencing a communications revolution, a technological reformation. Whether we want it to or not, the new technology is going to change our lives.

Can you recall any other inventions in our lifetime where children have been able to teach the adults? How many of us have called on a neighbourhood child to sort out the computer or help us find our way around the net?

Look at the people who are taking over the business world. Some of the males don't look old enough to shave and the females must be more worried about their acne than where the next million is coming from.

There is a listof the richest young millionaires. Nine of the top 10 made their money from computers or the internet, and the odd man out, the 30-year-old Earl of Iveagh, inherited his £600m because he is head of the Guinness brewing family. Now consider the FTSE. Names we all know, NatWest, Hanson and Whitbread, are consigned to the bin. Their replacements are companies such as Baltimore, which a year or so ago we would have thought was a request for another portion of curry, and Kingston Communications, which could be Jamaica's weekly newspaper.

There is a temptation for those of us past the first flush of youth to sink our heads in our hands, get into cash and leave business to the young ones. Big mistake. I read a phrase recently that went like: "It's the pioneers who get the arrows and the settlers who get the land."

The new technology is in its infancy and infants are running it. This is our opportunity to pounce, because we have got what many youngsters haven't - common sense and business experience. If we apply these assets to computers and the internet we will be among the big winners. So here are the guidelines I use when looking at technology stocks.

You don't have to know how the product works, just the principles, who its customers are and how competitive it is. Now ask yourself - do I honestly believe it will be successful in the long term? Sites auctioning air tickets to far-off places or trying to find cheap accommodation for students - I don't think so. A piece of software accountants use and swear by or a company making computer chips - that's more my style.

Profit. Some of these new companies shy from the word, or refer to it airily as something that is well in the future and not relevant at present. They are either loonies or have something to hide. No company can survive without an expectation of profit. You must be sure about forecast earnings and profit dates. Look for a coherent strategy, rather than "jam tomorrow".

Size matters, and big can be beautiful. Some of the players in the high-tech field have excellent track records and strength in depth. Examples are Marconi, which makes IT hardware, Fyffes, which is developing a system to market world produce to wholesalers over the internet, and, of course BT, still at the heart of most ether communications.

Consider internet incubator companies. These provide equity funding for start-up technology companies. See if the incubator's board comprises a combination of IT expertise and business experience, and check whether they have opted for stock options rather than inflated salaries. These experts will identify fledgling IT companies and they are motivated by self-interest.

Don't be greedy. Decide what would be a reasonable profit and when the price hits your figure take the money. Unless you are absolutely certain, don't hang on in there.

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