Thomas Weisel doesn’t have much personal experience with social media. He has never opened a Facebook or Twitter account, and he has resisted buying aniPhone.
But Mr. Weisel knows a lot about overheated markets. His firm, Thomas Weisel Partners Group, was a dominant force in taking technology companies public during the dot-com boom and was hobbled when that bubble burst in 2000.
Today, Mr. Weisel, 70, is assessing the industry landscape from his corner office at the Stifel Financial Corporation, the brokerage firm that bought his struggling company in April 2010. Although the current frenzy raises concerns, he says he thinks it is unfair to compare Internet stocks during the late 1990s to social media companies now.
“In a sentence, the big difference is these companies, in many cases, are enormously profitable out of the gate,” he said.
Mr. Weisel, who as co-chairman of Stifel’s board is still out hustling banking business, is among the many heavyweights from the dot-com days who are reinventing themselves in the era of social media.
Mary Meeker, the research analyst who was called the Queen of the Internet, recently joined the venture capital giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Frank Quattrone, the Wall Street investment banker who helped take Amazon.com public in 1997, now has his own boutique advisory group working with technology start-ups and stalwarts, including National Semiconductor on its recent deal with Texas Instruments. Sandy Robertson, previously a founder of Robertson Stephens, a technology banking firm, joined Francisco Partners, a private equity shop that focuses on technology.
Lise Buyer, a former Credit Suisse First Boston analyst who currently advises companies on potential public offerings at her firm, Class V Group, jokes that she is “running into everyone” she knew from the go-go period of the late 1990s.