Corrections or additions?
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
chief economist, Business Week;
of interactive sales, Cygnus Business Media;
CEO, NorthStar Network; and
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
"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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