The spectacle that follows cyber security pioneer John McAfee is a bit like that viral car crash video with Jay Leno in it.
Would Jay make it through alright? Anyone hoping he’d get hurt? Was the crash some kind of prank? Nowadays, we never know what the public thinks or what we are really watching. At the very least it was entertaining.
Maybe McAfee's journey is not so much a car crash, but think about it - very few of us can say we've invented a revolutionary computer technology, burned through a fortune, evaded a country's armed forces, faked TWO heart attacks, and is running for president. It is certainly not a boring life. The latest chapter in his ongoing saga is his forthcoming return to the position of CEO of a publicly held company, MGT. After a lengthy presidential campaign as well as a continued effort to transform grassroots politics, it would seem that McAfee has gone a long way towards establishing quite a bit of "normalcy" in his public image. As MGT transforms into what McAfee envisions as the next generation of security technology, investors have bolstered the company's value and trading volume to unprecedented heights. This run on value has not come without significant drama however, as the ugly side of investments, manipulation, and determined detractors have emerged.
Since the news broke of McAfee’s involvement with MGT, there have been critics of this seemingly unholy arrangement between a vagabond rebel and Wall St. With a steady run of press, prominent cybersecurity appointments to the board, the acquisition of intellectual assets, the acquisition of leading talents, and maneuvers in the Bitcoin industry, the company has attracted patient investments that look to catch McAfee lightning in a bottle again.
Critics have been quick to point out the immediate lack of a marketable product and some have taken the announcements cynically, choosing to opt out of the MGT investment commotion. MGT, however, has been steadfast that the development of its ultimate product(s) is based in the future, not the present. Additionally, anyone that has observed McAfee for any amount of time should know that he is inclined to expressing his opinion and being as public as possible.
For weeks on end, it seems that investors betting on short sales of the stock (or professional trolls) have taken to releasing false information and rumors to try and shake the value of the company.
Just yesterday, one of these trolls posted a rumor that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had raided MGT, with McAfee “in cuffs”. The Yahoo Finance message board account “cavanyc” (and a number of possible aliases: Mr. Jamison, Rdmikes and Statustatus) have dedicated an extraordinary amount of time to starting rumors and spreading false sentiment in order to affect the price. The post about SEC investigation has been deleted, but it was closely followed by an observed drop in value. Coincidental, perhaps. Related? Maybe. Will it matter though? Most people that see something they don't want to buy, simply go buy something else. If you're in the grocery store and I don't want to buy the peanut butter, you don't stand in front of the peanut butter for weeks, saying how nobody else should buy the peanut butter. Unless, you're a troll, a lunatic, or you're hoping to buy the peanut butter on sale.
Just as there are companies that have played dirty in the past, traders (and trolls) can also play dirty games. At the very least, companies have far more rules to deal mewhere in between and it leans one way or the other depending on the observer.and comply with than faceless accounts found on opinion boards. The bottom line is you either believe McAfee can do it again with the team and assets he is building, or you do not. You either believe in the fable of the eccentric startup, the “crazy people” that pursue dreams, the ones that don’t give up, or you believe that all great companies were formulated out of sheer discipline and analysis. The truth is somewhere in between and it leans one way or the other depending on the observer.
Whatever McAfee is up to, he has a lot of people guessing and many stepping up to be a part of this story.
Photo credit: WhoIsMcAfee.com