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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the October 23, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Internet Pioneer Launches Phase II

<d>Bill Martin sold his first business two-and-a-half

years ago, sits on the board of a publicly-traded company, publishes

an industry newsletter, and launched a new business in August. As

we spoke about his new ventures, Martin’s mother called from the road

to get driving directions to his Princeton condominium.

"She’s coming by to drop off my birthday present," Martin

says, talking on two phones at once. "Yesterday was my birthday."

He had just turned 25.

Martin, founder of Raging Bull, one of the most popular financial

websites, is an Internet winner. He and his partners sold Raging Bull

to Lycos in February of 2000. Most investors will recall that March

of 2000 marked the beginning of the end, not only for dozens of young

Internet companies, but also for heady stock prices throughout the

entire tech sector — and beyond.

Yet Martin, low-key and instantly likable, is still a believer, both

in the Internet and in the stock market. Terms of the sale of Raging

Bull have not been disclosed, but he does allow that "it turned

out pretty well." Well enough so that now, he says, "it’s

all about finding something I love."

"I’m excited about the Internet," Martin says, "the worst

of the bad times are over." He speaks about the Internet at the

Trenton Interactive Publishing Forum’s seminar, "The World We

Live in and the Future We Face," on Friday, October 25, at 8 a.m.

at Thomas Edison State College. Other speakers are Michael Mandel,

chief economist, Business Week; Paul Andrews, vice president

of interactive sales, Cygnus Business Media; Walter Fields,

CEO, NorthStar Network; and Dave Iannone, founder, Firehouse.com

Martin grew up in Millstone. His mother, Ellen, works for McGraw Hill,

and his father, Bill, owns a construction business. Martin enrolled

in the University of Virginia, but he says he didn’t do too much studying.

In his sophomore year, he and two friends dropped out to devote all

of their time to Raging Bull. They pooled their money — $20,000

in all — and set up shop in space Bill Martin let them use in

a corner of his Manalapan office. Soon venture capitalists started

to call, investing millions in the start-up.

But still and all, how did his parents feel about his dropping out

of college?

"Everyone asks that," he says with a laugh. In fact, the Martins

were enthusiastic. "Both of my parents saw that individual investing

was exploding," he says. "They both saw that the Internet

was exploding." Stocks were dinner table conversation at his house.

"My grandfather was a big investor," he says. Martin bought

his first stock when he was 10, choosing Hershey because he liked

chocolate.

Raging Bull married the roller coaster excitement of the stock market

with the equally thrilling power of the Internet. On the site (www.ragingbull.com),

the common man can become a star. Anyone can post musings on stocks,

and those who tend to offer on-target observations develop a following.

A list of the top five highest user-ranked members is updated hourly.

These are not names that appear in the financial press. No Peter Lynchs

or John Bogles here. On a recent Wednesday, at 11:57 a.m., the leaders

were KZAP, 2MIL, drbwilson, yayaa, and Icharus00.

Raging Bull, part of the Lycos network, is supported by advertising.

Martin’s new venture, FindProfit (www.findprofit.com) uses a different

model.

FindProfit is a subscription newsletter, offering model portfolios

and constantly updated information on the financial markets in general,

and on the prospects and movements of particular stocks. There is

no advertising, and subscribers, now being signed up at discount rates,

pay $189 a year for unlimited access to the site. It is also possible

to subscribe for six months for $99 or for one month for $19.95. All

subscriptions come with a free 30-day trial. Anyone interested in

trying out the website can sign up for the trial, and then cancel

after 30 days.

FindProfit is a newsletter with a difference.

"You usually get newsletters in the mail, in report format,"

says Martin. "This is real time, as it happens." Much of the

commentary is provided by Martin and by his partner, Matt Ragas, founding

editor of the Raging Bull, and author of The Power of Cult Branding

and Lessons from the eFront.

Journalism on the Internet is different, says Martin. Where a reporter

for a big city newspaper or a financial magazine may spend days —

and thousands of words — on a story, reporters working for the

Internet, as he and Ragas do, get the kernel of a story up fast, with

few flourishes. "Our is a little more free-flowing style,"

he says. "It’s more `here’s what we think.’"

Martin likes Internet journalism, saying it is "more fun and lively."

In his opinion, people enjoy it a lot more.

On the day we spoke, October 15, Martin and Ragas had posted 14 articles

by 3:23 p.m. The first, on a spate of recent stock buy-backs, went

up at 12:27 a.m. The second, a synopsis of a Barry Diller interview

on CNBC, went up at 1:55 a.m. Among the other postings to appear by

mid-afternoon were an update on FindWhat’s stock price — up 8

percent; a update on bond trading action; a look at the day’s moves

in big tech; a prediction on the short-term prospects of the stock

market — not great through year’s end; and the effect of a rumor

on French media company Vivendi — it shot up.

Postings use a wide variety of sources and weave commentary, analysis,

and perspective into the story. The tone is confident, but not cocky.

The style is literate and well-organized.

In addition to news and analysis, FindProfit showcases its three portfolios.

The Tiger Woods portfolio aims to be "strong, powerful, and consistent."

The Babe Ruth portfolio is substantially more aggressive, taking a

"swing for the fences" approach. The Special Opportunities

portfolio assembles a "unique assortment of proprietary investment

ideas."

While it launched in August, FindProfit has been actively signing

up subscribers for about two weeks. So far, says Martin, 200 people

have subscribed. His goal to sign up 2,000 subscribers. The average

subscriber is a male, age 35 to 50, with a good job, and a portfolio

of between $100,000 and $300,000.

As FindProfit grows toward its target numbers, Martin plans to add

contributors with expertise in industry niches. The next step would

be a roll-out of newsletters for institutional investors.

For now, FindProfit is a virtual company, with virtual headquarters

in Martin’s condo. His partner lives in Florida. One employee lives

in Boston and another lives in New York. When he sold Raging Bull,

the company, then headquartered in Boston, had 50 employees. FindProfit

will add employees, too, he predicts.

Though he has chosen a subscription model for his new company, Martin

says an advertising model can work well on the Internet too. He sits

on the board of Bankrate (www.bankrate.com), a publicly-traded consumer

website that provides extensive information on rates for car loans,

home loans, credit cards, CDs, and more. It also provides advice on

related topics — cleaning up credit, using home equity, laddering

CDs, budgeting for a home purchase, finding a better credit card,

and holding a successful garage sale. The website has attracted so

many advertisers, says Martin, that it has been able to raise its

advertising rates.

While far below its stock market highs of about $12 a share, reached

shortly after its early-1999 IPO, Bankrate’s stock price has been

climbing steadily this year, moving from 50 cents to $2.25.

This is the kind of story that Martin’s FindProfit spends most of

its time covering. It does look at large cap stocks — Fleet bank,

for example, which is in its Tiger Woods portfolio — but its founders’

expertise, contacts, and passion reside with smaller companies, especially

Internet companies.

Martin edits eFinance Insider, a free newsletter that covers the E-finance

industry. He says this publication helps him market FindProfit, keeps

his name in circulation — the better to bring in consulting business

— and provides him with valuable contacts to mine for information

to pass on to FindProfit subscribers.

Free, subscription, or advertiser-supported; Martin is finding ways

to make all of these Internet models pay off. Let others get discouraged:

Martin, having logged a very successful quarter of a century on planet

Earth, is quietly confident in his belief that the best is yet to

come.

"This is pretty much the optimum time to start," he says.

He’s speaking of his new venture, but in his infectious enthusiasm

is the breath of hope — for the Internet, for the stock market,

and for future of the entrepreneurial spirit in America.


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