Okay, now it's official. Not only are all sorts of young people making and chasing Internet fortunes, but even old and middle-aged guys are getting into the act. Take last week. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. surgeon general, became a multimillionaire at the age of 82 when Drkoop.com, a health Web site that licenses his name and face, went public. His piece of the company was worth $30 million at Friday's price, with the whole company valued at $500 million. Not bad, considering that Koop hasn't been surgeon general since 1989.
Then Lou Dobbs, 53, quit as anchor of CNN's "Moneyline" show to join a start-up called Space.com. Dobbs, whom I've known for years and who once hired me for a weekly CNN gig, has been a Net fanatic for a while now. He hasn't said anything, but it wouldn't surprise me if Dobbs ended up opening his own financial Web site. In any case, it's not every day you see someone bail on a multimillion-dollar contract and walk away from one of the most powerful jobs in journalism.
So much for the news. Now for what really matters: our money. How can we cowardly wage slaves -- who don't have a national reputation from being surgeon general or a TV anchor -- peddle ourselves on the Internet?
Listen up. Here's the answer. We can use the Internet to sell the right to do business with us. Companies pay big bucks to buy other companies to get their customers. We can bypass that middleman and auction off our customer rights ourselves. You create your own company -- Yourname.com will do -- to do the auction.
How much are you worth? Quite a lot, really. Let's start with being a cable TV customer. Cable companies typically pay $4,000-plus per subscriber in acquisitions. We ought to be able to get at least $3,000 if we peddle ourselves. Then there's Internet service. America Online currently sells for more than $7,000 a customer, according to David Simons of Digital Video Investments, and Amazon.com for $1,800 a customer. So competitors should value that business at several thousand bucks. Then there's electricity, natural gas, local phone service, long-distance, cell phone. Based on a highly unscientific survey, customers sell for $3,000 to $5,000 per service, for a total of $15,000 to $25,000.
Now, for major bucks. E-Trade is paying $1.8 billion -- $45,000 to $60,000 a customer -- for Telebanc. (That's the purchase price divided by the number of customers, a standard valuation measure.) Open a $1,000 Telebanc account and you're worth at least 40K to someone. For that matter, why stop at one cyberbank? Open $1,000 accounts at all of them, at a value of 40K a throw. And sell the right to open more accounts as more cyberbanks are created. Your credit-card business is valuable, too. Look at the 100 mailings they have to send to lure one new customer. And what about advertisers, who pay tons to TV, newspapers and magazines for the right to shower you with ads? We'll sell them access to our eyeballs.
Why stop here? Let's get someone to pay for the value of our jobs. After all, the state of Alabama paid Daimler-Benz subsidies of $200,000 per job to open an auto plant a few years back. What do you think Alabama would pay to have us live, work and pay taxes there? Or, for that matter, how much could I extract from New York City, which regularly pays companies not to relocate, to keep working there? While we're at it, let's get competing Internet auction companies to bid for the right to have us peddle our garage-sale junk on their sites. I'll offer cybertours of the wildlife in my backyard -- my town is suffering from a deer infestation, but people love Bambi. I'll even knock 10 bucks off the price if you'll take my resident groundhog away.
By the time we're through, we can probably come up with a million bucks. Because Yourname.com is getting this million bucks, it counts as Internet revenue. And Lord only knows what investors would pay for that. Even better, at least for me, I'll offer to sell our customer rights en masse through my Web site and give you stock in return, keeping a piece for myself. Then, on to Wall Street. With luck, a few weeks after we sell stock in AllanSloan.com to the investing public -- don't even think about squatting on the name, I've registered it -- some insecure old-line company will buy us out for cash. We'll all be rich.
About now, you've probably figured out that if I stuck my tongue any deeper in my cheek, I'd need surgery to extract it. But there are probably worse ideas than mine raising money even as we speak. So what the hey? If this plan works, I might end up with enough money to hang with Dr. Koop and Lou Dobbs.
Anjali Arora contributed to this column. Sloan is Newsweek's Wall Street editor. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.