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Invisible Entrepreneurs & Nano-Enterprise

by Mike Banks Valentine

Imagine yourself so tiny you're sliding down a nanotube. These things are the latest tech invention that are so small that only single molecules can pass through them. Now imagine that you are the size of a mouse, that's the thing under your right hand there, hovering just above the "Delete" button - ready to click.

The comparison in size between a single molecule sliding down a nanotube and the size of the computer mouse is actually vast beyond comprehension. But there are bigger things like the Apple sitting near my mouse. It's an IMac and still small by computer standards. Apple Employed over 175,000 people worldwide in 1999 and they are considered a "small" company because they have "only" five percent of the personal computer market. Just a tiny fraction, you might say. Nearly nothing. Almost invisible.

But Apple is not quite too tiny to see. They are the size of a tasty bit of fruit worthy of a snack by investors and, with over a BILLION Dollars in the bank - in CASH - Appple might be said to be doing well by most standards. Certainly by my standards. I am one of those itsy-bitsy single molecules sliding down the nanotube of business. I am too tiny to see and so are you. In fact nearly fifty percent of the US economy fits in that category of too tiny to see. Under 10 employees earning less than ten million per year. We are invisible.

But how can half of anything be invisible you say? Half of the economy is too tiny to see? Well, apparently so.

My tiny mind took this invisible path this evening after reading a paragraph at the end of a CBS Marketwatch news story. A paranthetical afterthought to REAL news reads:
Loudcloud said it's selling its managed-services business to EDS for $63.5 million in cash. They raised $350 million in debt and equity over the years and it now has roughly $100 million left. What's more, the global recession has made it difficult for small companies to land big accounts. "Demand shrank," said Andreessen. "People are looking for big companies (to work with)." Loudcloud raised $172.5 million and had a market valuation of $439.5 million, according to Dealogic. Shares of Loudcloud jumped 22 percent to $1.99.

Fellow internet junkies will recognize the name of the LoudCloud CEO, Marc Andreesen as an early architect of the internet and the developer of the first "browser" to allow surfing the web, called Mosaic. He's quoted in that story above, lamenting the fact that his latest project is seen as too "small" with a valuation of only $439.5 million.

Marc, take a vacation! You've earned it!

Now my real motive in penning this essay is to ask why? Why does this economy see NONE of us that make up the remaining 50% of the economy and lament that companies worth nearly a half-billion dollars are "too small"?

You have literally millions of small business people doing virtually millions of jobs out here. The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick maker are all out here daily doing what needs to be done to make the US economy run smoothly and continue to hum while the big bad boys of ENRON and KMART and PG&E are going bust even with their billions?

Even the slightly dishonest used car dealer who wheedles a few hundred more than necessary from the hairdresser that "just loves that little sports car over there" is better than greedy corporate CEO's filling their bank accounts before trashing the companies they run.

Ultimately, Joes Used Cars CEO contributes more to the economy than does the CEO who sees to it that his own account is flush before putting his invisible employees on the street to look for new work.

I'm stunned that when analysts talk about small, that they are talking about those businesses earning nine-figure incomes! You've heard of what amounts to that fantasyland dream of earning six figures, right?

Why is that not enough? And why are those of us out in the real world making less than that fantasy figure like single molecules sliding through a nanotube?

We are the invisible entrepreneurs.

Francois de Visscher, a Greenwich, Conn. based financial consultant and investment banker said, "If you are a $100 million company, a $500 million, or a $1 billion company, you're not a small business anymore."

Thank you for that Francois, at least I know I'm still a small business. Thank goodness for that.

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