I’m a terrible stockpicker. On the (very) rare occasion that a I make a bet on an individual public company stock, I always feel like a country rube wandering the streets of the big city, certain that he’s about to be hustled but not at all confident he’ll spot the hustle when it comes.
But occasionally I can’t help myself. Here’s my most recent indiscretion and how it came to pass: I’d been sitting on a rollover retirement account from some years-ago corporate gig. There wasn’t enough money in it to spend a lot of cycles on, but it was bugging me that there was this little pile of cash that wasn’t really doing any work. The money my wife and I are counting on to pay the kids’ education bills and keep us out of cat food in our waning years is being safely managed by responsible adults, but this account had somehow escaped their rational scrutiny. So I thought to myself, what if I made just one concentrated bet in that account, something I’d be willing to sit on for at least a year, and maybe many years. If it went wrong, it wouldn’t matter all that much, and if it went well it would be a fun way to stay close to a company I was interested in.
So I did a little mental inventory of the companies I paid attention to and thought highly of, and particularly the ones whose services I understood and valued, both as a consumer and a 12-year veteran of Internet businesses of various stripes. Google was the brain-dead obvious candidate, but I have a knee-jerk suspicion of the obvious so it took me a surprisingly long time to get comfortable with the idea of plunking money down to own the hottest single stock in the Internet business; between my basic belief in market efficiency and the incredible run the stock has been on since the initial offering it was hard to see how there’d be a ton of breakout performance left in it.
But then I made a list of all the Google products I use and I was literally amazed. Without even realizing I was doing it, I had slowly built Google applications and services into nearly every aspect of my personal and professional life. And, stranger yet, I was happy about it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I *had* to buy Google: they pretty much owned me, so I might as well own them right back. And I’m not sorry I did; including the most recent gyrations, I’m still safely north of my basis (for those keeping score, I bought on April 19 at $473.88), and I enjoy my daily Google-powered rituals all the more for knowing I’m contributing in some small way to my own bottom line.
If you want all the gory details, here’s the full list of Google products in my life, in declining order or frequency (and – in some cases – user satisfaction):
- Gmail/Google Talk – my first surviving Gmail thread is from April ’04. At the time, Yahoo! Mail was my default personal client and MS Outlook was the office standard. Gmail now owns both my personal and (via Apps for your Domain) work accounts.
- Google Search – So obvious I actually had to add it to the list after working through my first rough cut. I had essentially forgotten it was Google and just thought of it as search. (I use the browser toolbar version and almost never see the classic page). NB – I think of Maps as a component of search, not a separate service.
- Google Calendar – Ditto my Gmail comments. Outlook is out, GCalendar is in for both personal and business.
- Google Reader – I was a relatively late convert to feed readers (at least as compared to my fellow Web nerds), but I’m completely hooked now. I still visit some blogs directly, but only when alerted to a thread of interest by my Reader feed. The addition of search to my feed history was a recent and welcome addition that has only reinforced my love for this product.
- Google Analytics – we had just switched over to Urchin for our site analytics at Judy’s Book when Google bought them. The acquisition and subsequent enhancements made a good product remarkably better. I’m amazed every day that software this cool is completely free.
- AdSense – Like millions of other content sites, we dropped in AdSense on Judy’s Book as our default monetization engine. We dabbled with other contextual products but nobody had the sheer advertiser liquidity and relevance that Google can deliver. (NB, this is one of the main reasons I love the stock).
- Google Alerts – I almost forgot about this one too, because it feels like an extension of Gmail. Simply the best way to have breaking news and blog mentions on specific topics (like what your competitors are up to) pushed to your inbox. Accurate, timely and compact.
- Picasa – Not sure if this really counts. I just set up a Web album yesterday, but we’ve been using Picasa as our desktop photo archive and editor at home for at least a year now and it’s another product that’s almost too slick to believe it’s free.
- Google Docs – I didn’t really get this at first; they just seemed like crappier versions of MS Office apps. But then my wife and I started sharing some home logistics and planning info using the Spreadsheets app, I encouraged the founders of one my seed investments to use it for intra-company communication, and all of a sudden it was part of my life.
- Blogger – If I was late to feed readers, I’m still in diapers when it comes to blogging (this is my, um, fourth post), but given my limited experience it’s hard to see what the (entirely free) Blogger can’t do for me vs. TypePad, WordPress, etc.
- Grand Central – I almost forgot about this one, too. I signed up for a Grand Central account about two weeks before Google announced the acquisition and I haven’t really put it through its paces (I just wanted to see if I could grab a good phone number), but I love the idea of an online console where I can control who can reach me, at what number, without having to broadcast my whereabouts.
- AdWords – I’ve only set up one campaign myself, but the art and science of keyword selection and bidding are a daily topic of conversation at Judy’s Book and every other business I’m involved with. AdWords (self-service ad buying) + AdSense (self-service ad inventory creation) are the bedrock of why I love Google as a stock: they control a commanding (and growing) end-to-end share of the online customer acquisition business, and it’s hard to imagine a business – online or off – that wouldn’t benefit from working with them.
- Google Notebook – I just started using this to gather and share web clips and notes on various topics, both for personal and business purposes. I don’t love everything about the product (and have also applied for Radar’s Twine beta, which sounds like a much more promising way to do the same thing), but it’s OK.
No offense to you coolaid drinkers, but I prefer FSJ’s take on Google’s products: