5 - COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOR OF INVESTORS  pp. 83-121

COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOR OF INVESTORS

By Bertrand M. Roehner

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter



As a businessman established in California, Chuck Hazel is not scared by talk of a recession or predictions of soaring oil prices. He isn't alone. Prospects have seldom looked so good for entrepreneurs who, like him, head tiny high-risk companies who make innovative products. A key reason is that, despite high interest rates and fears of a business slowdown, money for investing in such risky ventures is plentiful. So-called hot areas are the entire data-processing and communication markets, medical care with new diagnostic devices and synthetic materials. Much of the seed money for these young companies and for individuals with a dream for a new product comes from professional venture capital firms that specialize in financing start-ups, expansions, and repurchases. Arrangements vary widely, but often a venture capitalist will provide, say, half a million dollars in return for a share of the privately held stock.

(US News and World Report, December 24, 1979, adapted)

This account describes fairly well the high-tech boom that led to the Internet revolution of the 1990s, but in fact it was written in 1979. As a matter of fact the high-tech boom of the late 1970s comprised many of the ingredients that would become famous in the 1990s: the dreams of individual innovators in the sector of data processing, the high-growth companies established in California, the crucial role played by venture capital, the bonuses payed to the staff in the formof stock options, the amazing amounts of money raised by initial public offerings (i.e. sale of the company's stock to the public).