Bowie Bonds and a personal public offering
Facebook goes public today with what’s expected to be the world’s largest initial public offering. While the social network has been hogging all the headlines, a smaller, just as interesting story (in my humble opinion), has been hovering under the radar – I too am going public, with an IPO of my own.
Buying stock in a person is nothing new. If memory serves, rock legend David Bowie was the first to commoditize himself with “Bowie Bonds” – asset-backed securities based on his future music industry successes. Mind you, Bowie launched his financial product back in a more optimistic 1997, before financial chicanery like “credit default swaps” ruined the economy.
In fact, Bowie’s bid predated even the dot.com boom and bust, when anyone with a top-level domain name could get venture capitalists to buy them a Porsche Carrera and matching Foosball machine.
For Bowie, it worked to the tune of $55 million, which is no small ch-ch-change. As might have been predicted by the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie Bonds were eventually downgraded to a notch above junk status in 2004, after the music industry all but evaporated.
What’s not evaporated in the world of intellectual property, or IP, as we say in the trade, is the need for fresh, original verbiage in the form of the very words you’re reading now. Unlike the birdcage liner and fishwrap of yore, these babies will live forever on the Internet, where they will continue to accrue value and perhaps even meaning.
Sure, you say, “user-generated content is all the rage” and why shouldn’t it be? Facebook’s content is 100 percent made by people like you and me. Of course we like it. That must be why we do it for free! It’s a veritable potluck of reads, screeds, videos and all order of phonetically captioned feline follies, created and curated by us and us.
Kudos to Mark Zuckerberg and the gang at Facebook for hosting the party and no worries about their BYOC (Bring Your Own Content) house rule – they’re just college kids, right? Well, billionaire college kids now, but I’m sure they’ll share.
My model is a bit different. I believe the content I produce has intrinsic value (I know this because I get a check with my name on it every time I write one of these babies). And since everything I do is content-oriented, I will simply start charging for everything. If I could erect a pay-wall around myself, I would. Talking to me would be like chatting up a vending machine. My every utterance would be preceded by a swipe of a credit card under my lapel. I even take AmEx, if you’re wondering (people with AmEx cards always are).
What they get in return is a custom, original response tailored to their query. None of this chat-bot nonsense. A real, bespoke non-artificially intelligent answer. Though I can make no claim for accuracy or even honesty of my responses, I can assure that the end-user will at least be entertained by my maniacal laughter. It’s a hoot.
That’s just the beginning of my monetization scheme. I also plan to start invoicing the operators of surveillance cameras for the use of my likeness. By loitering in front of a 7-Eleven, I could realize a return on your investment inside half and hour.
Yes, I can make you rich. And for less than the price of a Porsche Carrera and matching Foosball machine. Much, much less. Also, I’m not one of those pesky start-ups that keeps returning for multiple rounds of funding. Once you give me your money, chances are you will never hear from me again. I guarantee it.
If you elect to periodically check on your investment, I will happily give you the “Investor’s Discount” on my time to update you (though this is offset by the penalty fee for requesting it in the first place). I’ll even let you invite your friends to invest in me (for a fee). I believe this is what’s known in the securities biz as a “Faustian Bargain.”
Here, I’d like to emphasize the “bargain” part of that term. At no other time could you get a piece of me so cheaply.
Unless you knew me in the ’90s, when I’d sell my grandmother for a pint of Petaluma Strong Ale. She’s gone now (thanks again for the beer, Grandma!) and my tastes have since improved, so I’m no longer susceptible to the allure of fermented river water. Just cash. Especially yours.
And if I already owe you money, you may now consider yourselves Angel Investors. You see, I just gave you wings. After all, an IOU is just an IPO ahead of its time. XO – DH
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Daedalus Howell goes public at DHowell.com.