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Meeker’s success offends me. Call me jealous or meanspirited, but I just can’t accept it when Barron’s insists Meeker is underpaid. Or maybe I just want an excuse to issue a reminder that when stock analysts earn more than inspired engineers and scientists, society loses. It isn’t fair that innovators who don’t happen to pursue e-commerce languish. Is it really possible that energy, materials, transportation and a variety of medical technologies aren’t worth betting on, too?

There’s no way of telling what promising innovations in other fields are being ignored; it’s impossible to know for sure everything that hasn’t happened as a result of the Internet frenzy. But the numbers are sobering. In the final quarter of 1999, venture capitalists directed a whopping $5.2 billion into Internet-related startups, more than four times the amount one year before. Sadly, the decision to go hog-wild on the Net wasn’t based on deep insights into the future of technology but the simple fact that the market value of Net stocks soared last year to $1 trillion, from $200 million.

Meeker is the human face behind one of the great sales jobs of modern times.When everyone-big or little-wants a piece of a Net stock, then there’d better be plenty to go around. Meeker helps to create the excitement around the companies entering the market, ensuring that there is enough to go around.

If there were justice in the world, Meeker would stick around as a Net analyst long enough to see if her grandiose predictions start to come true. Then even if her picks went south, she’d gain credibility by patiently explaining her failures. But in the surest sign that I’m not crazy after all, Meeker isn’t likely to do this. She is quietly plotting her exit from her field, according to published reports.

Meeker won’t comment on reports of her exit plans or any aspect of this column (she’s too busy, her PR person says), but Meeker-watchers say she may soon join a high-tech business. Fittingly, in my opinion, she has her sights on a so-called “incubator” company whose aim is to launch other Net companies. The incubator Meeker is expected to join intends to sell stock to the public later this year.

No doubt Meeker is needed to help this incubator sell stock. But it makes you wonder.When companies go public who help other Net companies go public, it would seem the endgame is near.

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