Not long ago, the world was awash with venture capital in search of the next Yahoo! or Amazon.com. No product, no experience, no technology, no business plan -- no problem. You could still get $40 million from investors to start up your dot-com. And you could get people to work around the clock for stock options and the promise of millions. Then, around April 2000, it all came crashing down.
Smart investors, esteemed analysts, and the business press found themselves asking:
• Who knew people wouldn't rush out to trade in their U.S. dollars for a virtual currency called Flooz?
• Who knew people wouldn't blow all their Flooz on a used car from the guys at iMotors.com?
• And who needed a used car from iMotors.com when they could just sit at home and have 40-lb. bags of dog food delivered to them by a sock puppet?
F'd Companies captures the waste, greed, and human stupidity of more than 100 dot-com companies. Written in Philip J. Kaplan's popular, cynical style, these profiles are filled with colorful anecdotes, factoids, and information unavailable anywhere else. Together they form a gleeful encyclopedia of how not to run a business. They also capture a truly remarkable period of history.
F'd Companies is required reading for everyone involved in the "new economy" -- assuming your severance check can cover the cost.
"I'm a computer programmer," Kaplan writes. "I'm that dude at your office in the dark cubicle who nobody listens or pays attention to (especially the hotties in marketing)." Kaplan's claim to fame is FuckedCompany.com, a Web site he built over Memorial Day weekend in 2000 to serve as a forum for bad news about Internet companies. His timing a few months after the Internet bubble began to deflate was perfect, and FuckedCompany became an immediate hit. Thousands of fired or about-to-be-fired dot-commers were more than willing to share their horror stories about the collapse of one Internet company after another. He has translated the material posted on the site into a book, offering brief vignettes of the demise of more than 150 Internet ventures. His basic formula includes a description of what the company purported to do (Mercata.com "customers would use the site to band together and purchase merchandise at wholesale prices"), how much money it blew through before going bankrupt and how many people were fired ("$89 million and 100 employees were burned"). Kaplan, 25, attempts to enliven each story with humor, which is often more crude than clever. That many of the stories sound the same is not Kaplan's fault, as most really are: someone comes up with an idea, finds a venture capitalist willing to pour funding into the company despite the flimsiest of business plans, and then goes broke when the money dries up. Although he tries, Kaplan delivers little more than an elegy for the Industry Standard, Pets.com, Contentville.com, Flooz.com, Bid.com and Kozmo.com, not to mention Zing.com, ProcessTree.com and MetalSpectrum.com.