SNS in the News - January 20, 2002

Ideas galore for Bill's little fund

21 January 2002
The Seattle Times

Jaws dropped last week when Bill Gates ordered his troops to improve the security and reliability of Microsoft software. They hit the floor later when Microsoft reported that it has amassed $38.2 billion in cash on its books.

Having grown up in Seattle, Bill must have an exaggerated idea of what a rainy-day fund should be. If he were to loosen the purse strings a bit, the company could go on one heck of a shopping spree.

If Bill chipped in his coffee money, Microsoft could finally silence Scott McNealy by buying Sun Microsystems outright. The Silicon Valley shop has a market capitalization around $39.3 billion.

Or perhaps Microsoft would like to get the feds off its back by offering to pick up the Department of Justice's budget for a year. Running the Justice, Treasury Department and Judicial Branch this year will cost just $30 billion.

Closer to home, Microsoft could end worries about the closing of King County parks because of budget shortfalls. The company could write a check covering the county's entire park budget for the next 1,000 years and still have $11 billion on hand.

Fiery entrepreneurs, icy models: The Investment Forum's second annual Winter Venture Ball, which features a "Fire and Ice" fashion show at the Experience Music Project, is scheduled for next Monday. Admission, by invitation, costs $125 a pop, but investors and chief executives get access to the CEO Lounge where you can "hang out" with the models. And they say software developers can't get dates.

The event also will recognize entrepreneurs and investors with awards a la the Oscars. The nominees for Most Valuable Venture Capitalists are Brad Silverberg of Ignition, Jon Staenberg of Staenberg Venture Partners, Chad Waite of Olympic Venture Partners and Tony Audino of Voyager Capital.

Out of Christmas cash? Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and early investor Tom Alberg of Madrona Venture Partners both cashed in some Amazon shares late last year. Bezos sold $6.8 million of stock in November; Alberg made $1.5 million off stock sales in November and December.

BTW, Jeff, we've discovered the secret to online shopping: snow.

Alaskans spent the most money online this holiday season, opening their wallets to the tune of $37.8 million, said, which tracks 2,000 e-commerce sites. Washington ranked seventh on the list with $28.69 million. Must've been the rain.

iSmack iMac: "Very White ... half-honeydew melon," with a lamplike design, is how one critic of the new iMac described the computer in a letter sent last week to Strategic News Service, a newsletter published by technology commentator Mark Anderson out of Friday Harbor, San Juan County. Frank Catalano, local tech observer and tech editor at KCPQ-TV, wrote: "It's clear the battle for the desktop was won, long ago, by Microsoft.... Apple apparently is going to settle for the end table."