Only a dot-com could get away with it.
wanted to show more than just boring old Web-development tools. So it recently spiced up the
Banc of America Securities Technology Week 2000
with a demo to get the crowd fired up about
, its entertainment site. To jar investors out of their conventional perceptions of Macromedia, CEO Rob Burgess used ... well, let's just call them "off-color" animation clips. Off-color as in a 15-chinned caricature of Attorney General
crowing, "There's nothing like the small of a man's back."
Nothing like a stomach-churning mental image to make investors skip a midpresentation catnap.
Macromedia paid little attention during the presentation to the software business that brought in $64 million in revenue in the final quarter of 1999. CFO Betsey Nelson briefly wrapped up its numbers in the last two minutes of the speech. Turnaround CEO Burgess took the first two to breeze through the 200 million downloads of Macromedia's Flash player, which allows Internet users to view multimedia content. Flash is on 88% of Web browsers, according to company figures, more than Java but still less interesting than another side of the Web business.
Macromedia skimmed over its 1999 acquisition of
, despite the scrumptious potential Andromedia's Web-analysis tools give its new parent in business markets. Who cares about a business-to-business strategy? What do we care that Burgess and his team successfully exchanged a dreary graphics-software business for downloadable Web plug-in ecstasy and we'd like to hear the story?
Instead we got a hard sell on five-month-old Shockwave.com. It seems the Web site is the business of the future. It gives Macromedia a piece of the content action, mostly animated stuff, which gets created with its fabulous technology. Macromedia's Dreamweaver and Flash tools, along with the Shockwave.com site, will bring a high-bandwidth experience to the low-bandwidth world.
Burgess counted the ways we should love Shockwave.com. Last year, Macromedia signed a deal with
to repurpose UA content for the Web. That was just one big deal for what Burgess called "an accidental entertainment company." He boasted of 115 million Shockwave.com visitors in December 1999. And he detailed deals with
Stan Lee Media
(creators of Janet Reno) and "South Park" creators
Finally, before the animation began, he explained that Shockwave.com should be considered an independent venture because of its business and its culture.
Consider it priming the IPO pump well in advance.
Potential investors most certainly took note of Burgess' Shockwave.com demo, but it wasn't because of the flawless business model. Burgess unleashed content mayhem, playing a clip with a grungy, animated teenaged newscaster grilling a
Jabba the Hutt
-looking Reno (softened with a pink power suit) on the Chinese espionage threat and
missteps in Waco, Texas. When slack-jawed Skeeter asked if it was true that "you can't swing a lesbian around the state department without hitting a Chinese spy,"
water glasses were simultaneously jostled on nervous laps.
Before the audience had a chance to recover from its bewilderment, Burgess awkwardly quipped, "If you get easily offended, don't listen." He instantaneously started up another Shockwave-enabled cartoon of undeniably funny yet highly inappropriate (at that moment) comic
. Rock's cartoon self-blasted the
for "gangsta s---" tactics and accused the IRS of abusing hallucinogens before Burgess shut Rock down with the disclaimer, "We don't actually have the rights for this one."
Now that's a business!
Macromedia is a fine company, and it's perched for greater success in the business side of Web tools. Not a bad business. Then again, nothing quite as scintillating as Skeeter's wordplay off the espionage-exposing Cox Report.
With $30 million in revenue expected for Shockwave.com this year -- half in advertising and half from a mix of "e-content" and services -- Macromedia shouldn't shrug off its core business. CFO Nelson wondered aloud why
has a more generous valuation than Macromedia. Even though Macromedia's stock is back out of the high 20s of February 1999, its executives obviously think there's a long way up to go.
So tell us why. Sell us on the cash cow. Don't worry, we'll get excited about Shockwave.com when the time comes. Just don't get off track.
Tish Williams' column takes at look at the people who make Silicon Valley tick. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, she doesn't own or short individual stocks, although she does own stock options in TheStreet.com. She also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. She waits breathlessly for your feedback at