THE saga of Facebook's initial public offering has been fascinating. Those who had the chance to invest in the company during its early days are now millionaires, leading many to wish they were among that crew in a business-world version of lottery winner envy.
Truth be told, we doubt most of us would have seized the opportunity to buy a share of Facebook during its early days. In 2004, the idea of “social networking” would have seemed abstract, faddish and a poor business model. In the long run, those evaluations may prove correct. But Facebook's success to date has been remarkable.
The company has an estimated 900 million users and is one of the few profitable Internet companies to go public. Facebook is just the latest example of the dynamism of the America economy. Even the most outlandish idea can be made into a profitable enterprise in this country. And when there are flaws in business plans, those same companies can come crashing down, to be quickly replaced by another startup concept none of us anticipates today.
To identify and invest in those success stories before a company becomes an obvious winner is no easy task. Which brings us to President Barack Obama's recent attacks on Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Before he entered politics, Romney made his living at private-equity firm Bain Capital. Obama and his campaign characterize Romney and Bain as heartless corporate raiders who made quick profits off companies that they gutted and allowed to fail. For example, the Obama campaign criticized Bain for making $100 million off a $5 million investment in American Pad & Paper, an Indiana company that ultimately went bankrupt. The bankruptcy occurred four years after Bain's control ended, but that's a minor detail to the Obama team.
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