If demand in the New Economy is slowing as a result of the market's recent downturn,
isn't seeing it. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is something like the lymphatic system for the Internet; its services do real-time domain-name routing (you type it, you find it), digital certificates (you is who you say you is) and transaction confirmation (your credit is good here) throughout the Internet -- protecting the very integrity and health of the Web.
So if anyone was going to see a slowdown, it would be VeriSign CEO Stratton Sclavos. But he says it hasn't happened. "Demand for all of our services continues to be strong," said Sclavos at a presentation Wednesday at the
Chase H&Q Technology Conference
. "And we've already signed on three new affiliates this quarter. It's the earliest we've ever signed up that many affiliates in a quarter."
Sclavos went on to say that VeriSign's deferred revenue continues to outpace reported revenue, as it has for the last five quarters. "That's a great sign," he said, "because that means that bookings in the current quarter are better than the last quarter."
After his presentation, Sclavos told me that the merger with
was on schedule, also unaffected by the market's recent pain. VeriSign said when it announced the deal in March that it would close in the third quarter. And he reiterated that there was no sign of a business slowdown. "Even if there were fewer new dot-coms being created," Sclavos said, "existing businesses -- and Old Economy companies -- have such a demonstrated need for our products that we don't see any sign of business slowing."
If These Are the Glory Days, How Come It Doesn't Feel So Glorious?
"Revenues in the first quarter of this year were more than the entire year of 1998," said a chief financial officer at a presentation late Wednesday.
Can we stop and think about that for a minute?
If my grandfather's carpet store in Grand Rapids, Mich., ever had numbers like that, even before the store turned a profit, he would've fallen out of his chair (if he didn't collapse from exhaustion trying to measure all that carpet). But these are strikingly different times, when digitally fueled growth is a given.
How to turn a profit from that growth, however, can be a real question. So when the CFO above (it was
Ramesh Punwani) said this, it barely raised an eyebrow.
But a few brows were hoisted when CEO Terrell Jones followed that up by endorsing the shocking notion of near-term profitability. "We haven't announced profitability," said Jones, with a wink and nudge. "But the various analysts say in six to eight months. And I can tell you that we continue to drive down our biggest costs, customer service, and hold down customer-acquisition costs."
Why Do They Call Him "Chief" Yahoo?
There is nothing you could tell me about
that would surprise me. Race car driver? Sure. Personal wealth of $51.5 million. Uh-huh. Age 48, single, and never-been-kissed? OK. Genetically altered space alien? Whatever. (OK, I have no evidence that he, or
for that matter, are space aliens, but I can't really dispute it.)
And yet I was surprised to find "T.K." (as he's known in Silicon Valley), squirreled away in a dark corner of the press room here at the Westin St. Francis Hotel, poring over a computer printout of his slides in advance of his presentation. "Oh, is this a press room?" he asked when I said hello. "I didn't know." He had a good hour to go and he has little to prove, and yet here he was hidden in this little room, doing everything he could to make sure his presentation came off smoothly and well considered.
So when Koogle's
Viao laptop froze mid-presentation, little wonder Koogle was able to carry on talking about revenue and growth in great detail, without even a glance at his notes. Proof positive that, above all things, T.K. is as hard-working, prepared and inspired as any CEO in the Internet business.
Of note, before the crash (his laptop's, not the market's) was Koogle's first public discussion of Yahoo's new emphasis on creating content for the Internet (full disclosure/programming note: I appear on
Yahoo! Finance Vision
every Friday, unremunerated). "There's a corollary to Moore's Law and it is: Bandwidth will continue to grow, it will get cheaper and it will get more ubiquitous -- period," says Koogle. "Those three trends will continue and you can take it to the bank."
So in Koogle's view, with the old, low-bandwidth World Wide Wait (as wags dubbed it) search engines were the primary content. But now that broadband is here, television-like programming will increasingly be the content of the Web. So Yahoo! has decided to create broadband content so that Yahoo.com remains a leading destination. Koogle points out that most of the workplace population connects through T-1 or faster Internet connections -- that is, a broadband connection. "More than 50% of the consumption of Yahoo! is from the workplace," he says. "That's one of the reasons we bought
a year ago."
And that, he says, is why Yahoo! isn't waiting for television programmers to broadcast on the Internet, but started in March creating that content itself. "Convergence is happening now and we will drive this much further," says Koogle. "We just happen to be in finance right now. But stay tuned, we're going to be doing more and more, and we're just started."
Cory Johnson files weekly from TheStreet.com's San Francisco Bureau. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he neither owns nor shorts individual stocks, although he owns shares of TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Johnson welcomes your feedback at
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