Who wants to be an Internet millionaire?

In January, TV news reporter Jonathan Maitland borrowed £50,000 by mortgaging his house. He aims to turn it into £1m by the end of the year by trading in stocks and shares on the Internet. Here he describes his progress
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The Independent Online

4 January Feeling a bit nervous. Have just read the bit on the mortgage form that says: "Warning - your house will be at risk if you don't keep up your loan repayments." I have two main problems: 1) I am a cyberdunce (I regularly delete large swathes of TV scripts by accident); 2) What I know about stocks and shares could, in the words of Kelvin Mackenzie, "fit safely up a gnat's arse".

4 January Feeling a bit nervous. Have just read the bit on the mortgage form that says: "Warning - your house will be at risk if you don't keep up your loan repayments." I have two main problems: 1) I am a cyberdunce (I regularly delete large swathes of TV scripts by accident); 2) What I know about stocks and shares could, in the words of Kelvin Mackenzie, "fit safely up a gnat's arse".

Tuesday 11 January Have been taking a crash course in the stockmarket, and the more I know, the more I realise how little I know. There are a million websites, books, TV channels and financial publications to choose from, all packed with scary, jargon-filled information on companies' prospects.

I have learned this, though: Something Is Happening Out There. Everyone I know is online-trading: my neighbour Velda, my mate Richard, even Trevor has shown an interest. Researchers say that in three years, up to four million people will be doing it: it will be as common as having a credit card.I am sick of seeing pictures of twentysomething kids with slicked-back hair who are "worth" millions. If they can milk the Internet then surely I, a reasonably intelligent 38-year-old journalist, can as well?

Wednesday 19 January 0830: Have just done my first trade. Scary, exciting. I chose a company share I wanted to buy after reading a tip in The Mirror's "City Slickers" column. I logged on, and within seconds, there was a message on my screen saying: "You have 15 seconds left to decide whether you want to deal... 14... 13... 12..." That threw me, so I aborted and started again. In the end, I bought £300 worth.

13:00: The first signs of obsession.I have checked the share price four times already. But, wonderfully, my shares appear to be taking off: my £300 is now worth £340.

16:30: Call me George Soros: I have just completed my first "daytrade" and made a profit of £170.

Friday 28 January I am not a reasonably intelligent journalist. I am a stupid, gullible, lemming-like moron. I have lost several hundred pounds in the last week by following up newspaper tips.

I now realise buying a share tipped in a paper is often a phenomenally stupid thing to do. The people who make the prices have read the paper before you and may well have marked the share up accordingly. When mugs like me wade in and buy it, they make all the profits and leave us holding the parcel.

Monday 31 January Complete change of plan. I'm now going for the long-term approach: research the hell out of companies and decide if they're a good long-term bet (the Internet is very good for this).

Today I got a lesson in investment from an Asian chemist who has become very rich investing other people's money. He operates from above his pharmacy in Ruislip High Street. When I asked him what he did in his spare time, he said: "I read investment material. It is very interesting."

Monday 7 February I have identified eight or nine companies which I like the look of. One is a software outfit which has (I think) a brilliant product which, crucially, is difficult to emulate (or, in stock-speak: "The barriers to entry are pleasingly high"). I am taking the brave/foolish step of putting £30,000 on this one company. I like the fact that the chief executive has a beard. My mate says that if the CEO has a beard, it means he won't be in the papers much, and so won't get too much hype (à la Martha Lane Fox). That way, you can be more confident that the share price isn't overvalued. Also, people with beards who run software companies tend to know what they're talking about. Or at least look as if they do. Which, in the current climate, is crucial.

Friday 11 February Oh dear. One of the companies I invested in - £2,500 - is doing a good impression of the Titanic. It's down 30 per cent in a week. That means I'm down £800. I'm not going to panic. I am taking a long-term view, after all. If the share goes down, I will go with it, saluting all the way.

Tuesday 15 February Things are looking up a bit. The Bearded Software Company is chugging steadily upwards. Certain things are becoming apparent to me. One is that companies like lastminute.com are, in my opinion, not a very good investment prospect. Compare lastminute's financial situation with that of the Akash, my local curry house. The Akash a) makes healthy profits every week and b) has loyal, regular customers, 100 per cent of whom spend lots of money every time they visit the site. Lastminute has neither of these (fairly crucial) attributes.

Saturday 19 February I think I may have become A Very Boring Person. I spend much of my time burying my head in the FT or staring at a computer screen. I keep using financial metaphors in everyday conversations, in an attempt to be funny ("no one will want to buy shares in this story"), but no one seems to be laughing.

Things reached a nadir today when my band, Surf 'n' Turf (motto: "proper music played by professionals"), played one of our regular gigs at my local Italian restaurant. Matt, our guitarist, bollocked me for trying to play bass while simultaneously having a conversation about a share price over our singer's shoulder, just as she was coming to the most emotional bit of "Walk On By". I think he may have a point. Trying to do a full-time job at the same time as all this hasn't been easy, either. I need nine hours' sleep a night - I'm averaging four. I need a break, but I'm too obsessed to take one.

Thursday 2 March 1100: Ohmygoodnessgraciousme. The Bearded Software Co is taking off like a rocket. Its share price has gone up 10 per cent already this morning. During the hour I spent on my exercise bike, I made £200.

18:00: I need to drink something. The share price went up 50 per cent today. I have made £20,000 in one day. And it's not just a paper profit, either. I have cashed in £30,000-worth of my chips just in case the share price starts to slide. The reason for today's action was that the company has signed deals with several major computer manufacturers. Through judgment/instinct/luck, I think I may have backed a winner. Curiously, I'm more chuffed about that than I am about the fact that £30,000 is heading for my bank account.

Monday 13 March Things are still going well. After one month, my £50,000 is worth around £83,000: a rise of 66 per cent. If my portfolio keeps increasing at this rate, I will be a millionaire in six months. It won't, of course. Mind you, the project itself is generating a fair amount of income. I got a five-figure advance for the book, and my publisher, Hodder and Stoughton, says two national newspapers and several foreign publishers are expressing an interest in acquiring the serialisation and translation rights. And I've had so many enquiries about how I'm getting on that I'm starting up a website. Which could be the biggest money-spinner of all.

Friday 24 March In three days' time, when this article is published, I will be 39. Will I be a millionaire by the time I'm 40? Well, there's a chance - a real one. Today, I got an email from the CEO of a stock market-listed dotcom company, enquiring about buying a sizeable stake in my project. If the deal goes ahead (and I'm reasonably certain it will), my company will actually be valued at well over a million.

The irony is that this was conceived as a journalistic exercise, not a money-making one. I wanted to see how the Internet and the stockmarket work, and how easy it is to make, or lose, money in the space of a year. Obviously, I'd prefer the former, but there was - and still is, I suppose - a chance that things could go horribly wrong.

On the other hand, it strikes me that the best way to become an Internet millionaire just might be to write a book about how to become an Internet millionaire.

Jonathan Maitland is a reporter on ITV's Tonight With Trevor Macdonald. His book, 'How to Make a Million From the Internet (And What to Do If You Don't)', will be published in January 2001. Meanwhile, y ou can check the progress of his portfolio at http://www.howtomakeyourmillion.com

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