Masters of the new universe, they were. Wunderkinds. Almost as single-handedly responsible for the dot-com dizziness as the highly polished Mary Meeker and Henry Blodget and those flamboyant 20-something-year-olds at Kozmo.com, pets.com and boo.com, many managers of what were some of the most high-profile Internet funds are, today, amazingly still sticking to their guns.
In the same spirit that Fortune magazine recently revisited some of the one-time multi-millionaire drivers of the Internet rage, Mutual Fund Market News caught up with some of the top dot-com fund managers. Their take on the future of the Internet and the state of high tech might surprise you. Regardless of their funds' names -"Internet," "Wireless," "World Wide Web" - many have backed away from Internet pure-plays.
As for Ryan Jacob, who declined to be interviewed for this piece now that many technology funds are 95% off their Nasdaq highs, no matter. We tracked him down, anyway.
Less Than Zero
Like so many other Bright Lights, Big City New York tales, that of Ryan Jacob, starts off with just a few dollars in his pocket. Relatively speaking. When Jacob assumed control of the $200,000 Internet Fund in late 1997, he took it on as a mere lark. Skilled in understanding venture capital as former director of research for IPO Value Monitor, however, Jacob discovered he had a hot hand for hot Internet stocks. As the Internet Fund achieved an average return of 206% in 1998 and 1999, Jacob became one of the star analysts and portfolio managers making an improbable, yet firm, forward-earnings case for the many unprofitable dot-coms grabbing the headlines.
It made perfect sense, then, for Jacob, just 29 at the time, to start his own asset management company. Jacob Asset Management attracted 1,000 times the amount of money Jacob started out with: $200 million. Today, after losing 79% of its assets in 2000, 56% in 2001 and 46% year-to-date through Oct. 10, according to Morningstar, the Jacob Internet Fund is down to a mere $10 million.
From running the most successful mutual fund of all time, Jacob now has the dubious honor of being second from the bottom on the tech fund performance list.
There are still "tremendous opportunities" for the growth of the Internet, Jacob recently told CNNfn. Noting that only 10% of airline tickets and only 3% of all hotel rooms are purchased or reserved over the Internet, Jacob also said he is seeing brighter news for Web-based companies that rely on advertising spending.
But just like five months into the beginning of this bear market, and like even the most conservative of his brethren, Jacob is still touting the downfall as a great buying opportunity.
Morningstar, depicts the Jacob Internet Fund as "a bottom-fisher for stocks trading below net asset value," only magnifying "the risks inherent in focusing on an unprofitable sector."