NatPost Column: Google’s IPO is 2004’s Business Story of the Year

Here are the first few paragraphs from tomorrow’s National Post column. I pick Google’s IPO as the business story of the year, and then conclude ominously by warning that while Google may be prominent in biz press again next year, but it won’t be for any cheery reason:

Here is the business story of the year for 2004: Two California graduate students start an online company, get venture capital from marquee firms, go public, and make billions.

Is this some sort of flashback? After all, money for nothing sounds like the kind of dot-com-ish dizziness that ruled the business press in 1999. But that all ended almost five years ago, did it not?

Not really. Some online companies survived the 2001-2003 technology downturn, and some of them were fast-growing firms built on doing Really Useful Things. Such was Google, and that is one of the reasons why the search company’s erratic but ultimately successful path to an initial public offering was the business story of last year.

The Google-goes-public story had it all, from distant echoes of the dot-com debacle, to adolescent arrogance, to soft-porn. Bizarre decisions, smart recoveries, and, ultimately, billions were made and … okay, mostly made.

It is worth reminding oneself that at its core Google is an implausible company. If it had been launched, say, in Canada in mid-1998, instead of in Silicon Valley, the company might never have happened.