Mary Meeker first became famous as Queen of the Net. That is the title Barron’s magazine granted her in 1998, after a 1995 report she wrote for Morgan Stanley predicted the power and shape of the then still exotic World Wide Web. Ms. Meeker, who recently moved to San Francisco to become a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, continues to be a forward-thinking guide to the global technology revolution: Her recent reports on mobile devices and the Internet in China have joined her 1995 ‘‘Internet bible’’ as instant classics among the digital cognoscenti.
One of the secrets of Ms. Meeker’s success is her flair for PowerPoint. In the hands of most of its users, PowerPoint is both an excuse for fuzzy thinking and one of its causes. But Ms. Meeker, who told me working with PowerPoint was a fun personal hobby, is a poet of this usually dreary and bureaucratic medium.
Ms. Meeker’s PowerPoint presentations pack a powerful numerical punch — which appeals to everyone’s inner geek and confers a potent aura of legitimacy in this age of the supremacy of data. But her real genius is using those charts and graphs to tell a story, always with an emotive zing and a dramatic narrative arc.
Ms. Meeker has now turned those skills to America’s fiscal woes, with a presentation called ‘‘USA Inc.’’ in which she examines U.S. finances as if the country were a business, then asks what a turnaround expert would do to put USA Inc. back in the black. Not surprisingly, it has been a huge hit with America’s business and finance chiefs: Michael Bloomberg and Paul Volcker were among the five wise men who blessed ‘‘USA Inc.’’ with a glowing foreword.
But it has been a popular success, too. Seeing Charlie Sheen instantly attract more than a million Twitter followers may have made you mourn the state of the republic. So take heart from the fact that over the past month, Ms. Meeker’s collection of 460 decidedly wonkish slides has been viewed some 40,000 times.