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The Almighty Buck Books Media Book Reviews

F'd Companies 208

Alex Moskalyuk writes "Philip J. Kaplan's F'd Companies is a compilation of famous and not so well-publicized dot-com flameouts. Most of the companies that are described in the book do not exist today, for some others the domain names are being used for similar businesses, but the original management and business plans are gone. Even though F'd Companies presents several chapters in the table of contents, it's better viewed just as compilation of dot-com mishaps, with about one or two pages dedicated to each company." Read on for more Schadenfreude.
F'd Companies
author Philip J. Kaplan
pages 224
publisher Simon & Schuster
rating 8/10
reviewer Alex Moskalyuk
ISBN 0743228626
summary Spectacular dot-com flameouts

Everyone who's visited the author's Web site at least once has probably noticed Kaplan's style of writing -- raunchy humor abundantly supplemented with free use of four-letter words, which is then mingled with frequent references to the author's male organ and Internet pr0n industry. Not that the book loses its charm because of it -- F'd Companies would probably make a poor choice for a kid's present, but after getting used to Kaplan's style of writing the obscenities and euphemisms add hilarity to otherwise dry management text. Here's Kaplan's contemplation on the value of domain name Wapit.com (now defunct):

The company had a cool name though. I love to wapit in the morning when I first wake up with my stiffy, wapit in the stall of the men's bathroom at lunchtime, and wapit before I go to sleep.

The book is full of references to defunct companies, and reader can easily skip the chapters if some companies sound more interesting than others. The chapter names are well-chosen and represent the author's style well. "$100 SHOPPING SPREE IF YOU READ THIS CHAPTER" talks about the numerous get-paid-for-browsing-the-Internet companies, the industry that was pioneered by AllAdvantage.com and supported later by numerous copycats. "Portals to nowhere" talks about such huge money-burners as Go.com and QuePasa.com. The chapter for 'miscellaneous' companies that did not fit any other chapter is titled "I've no fucking clue."

If you look for objective analysis, or used to work for some of the companies mentioned in the book, do not buy it if you consider yourself a sensitive person. Kaplan disparaging remarks are what makes this book a worthy read. Here are some of the selected quotes regarding bankrupt dot-coms.

IHarvest.com: "I don't think I've ever seen a more useless company than iHarvest.com. Actually, I am sure of it. Such a waste."

CalendarCentral.com: "Why would an application service provider like CalendarCentral.com, a site that provides shared, online calendars for group scheduling, go out of business? Microsoft Outlook/Exchange you say? [description of business model that never worked follows] Another one assimilated by the Borg... and Microsoft probably didn't even notice."

OnlineChoice.com: "And this one cost investors around $20 million and employed seventy people. Seventy people. This business, this WEBSITE, could have been run by a SCRIPT. Zero employees. Okay, MAYBE a couple of people to broker deals with suppliers."

SwapIt.com: "So let me get this straight: 1) I send them a CD. 2) They give me useless "SwapIt Bucks." 3) They go out of business. 4) I get nothing. Great, sign me up! [...] I believe this is the only dotcom that actually had people SENDING them product and they STILL couldn't stay in business."

Being a Web developer, Kaplan just goes into fits when talking about the high-cost Web site development. He admits that some sites might be more demanding than others, but any 6- or 7- digit number and above, in his opinion, is just plain ridiculous. Talking about Rx.com, Kaplan is blunt: "This company had $350 million to build a fucking website and market it a little. I mean, if they spent $1 million a year, they could have been around for hundred of years without a single sale." In a two-page rant about high-cost developer MarchFirst.com, Kaplan admits: "Anyway, building websites is relatively easy. That's not to say that everyone can do it, nor that anyone would be interested in learning how. [...] Generally, it's not brain surgery (which I'm assuming is kinda tricky). [...] I'm an idiot and even I was able to build a successful small business building websites. Thing is, we didn't charge millions to build a five-minute CGI email form. That's why we're still around." (Kaplan's agency is PK Interactive.)

By now you should get a feel of the book. It's easy to read, and is sometimes just hilarious, as Philip Kaplan has good-quality sarcasm almost in every sentence. The book would be of interest to tech types, especially those who had been involved in dot-com craze. For serious business types it provides valuable lessons on how not to run a new business. Kaplan's book is a valuable addition to the history of the Internet economy.

You can purchase F'd Companies from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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F'd Companies

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  • this book is not worth $16
    • If F'd Company has taught us anything, It has taught us that greed for greed's own sake is not a business model. Profit is the result of providing a valuable product or service that the public wants at a fair price. If profit is the only goal, your business will fail. While F'd Company may not necessarily be a chronicle of capitalism's failure as an economic theory, it is a chronicle of capitalism's falsehood as a religion. The seven deadly sins do not become the seven cardinal virtues just because you are in business. The people at the top all the failed dot coms, Enron, Worldcom, et al thought they do. It is just to bad the millions who used to work for them got F'd, and most of the CEOs, CFOs, and other big bosses still got rich.
  • Basically... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by mschoolbus ( 627182 )
    Its seems that most online companies are F'd.... I could have written this book in 1 paragraph =P
    • Re:Basically... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jmertic ( 544942 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:27PM (#5127776) Homepage Journal

      The whole era taught us (again), that there truely is no thing as a free lunch. A successful internet company actually has to have a non-internet side of it to be successful, with some exceptions ( namely Ebay, Yahoo, Google to name a few ). You can't just start a internet business in your basement and expect the money to come rolling in.

      You also have to be able to sell something online that someone would likely buy thru that medium. For example, selling cars and furniture online doesn't work as well as going to the car dealership or the furniture store; it's just not something that we can be comfortable with. And back then, everyone tried to find a way to sell everything possible online; some found success ( ex. books/videos/CDs with Amazon, CDnow, etc ) and some realized it just couldn't be done easily or at all.

      This can be extending to advertisement space ( ie banner ads, popups ). This works well outside of the internet ( TV/radio ads, billboards ), but it's value was overrated during the .com era. Paying a website to refer someone to some other website was predicated on the idea of that person actually buying something there, which never really panned out as they hoped (ie Web Site Visitor != Web Site Customer). Then to make things worse, a company solely built around income from such referrals (AllAdvantage.com) was just a ticking timebomb, especially when people figured out the cheats ( I know I did )

      Today companies with a large online presence typically have a similarly sized complimenting offline presence. For example, you can go to an Apple store or dealer and buy and iBook, or goto the Apple Online Store and buy one. It seems to be the best bet.

      • Here [dyndns.org] is a company which started in the founder's basement and solicited donations from its users. After a year or two of doing that, the volunteers who ran the organization realized it could actually be profitable.. and it is! Great to be making money on a purely internet service after the dot-com bust. (Disclaimer: I've been both a volunteer and a paid employee in the past - but I'm currently concentrating on finishing my degree.)
  • Sounds like the /. version of "America's dumbest criminals" Can you really get any insight from one or two pages for each company?
    • I do believe that was the intent! This was not, I imagine, intended as a textbook to be used in a marketing class - seems like the goal was the general amusement of those of us who *DIDN'T* lose a pile of cash on their IPO's. Or, maybe if you did, but have a dark sense of humor.
    • by Pike65 ( 454932 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:48PM (#5127528) Homepage
      "This company had $350 million to build a fucking website and market it a little. I mean, if they spent $1 million a year, they could have been around for hundred of years without a single sale."

      I'm surprised that manage to make them as long as two pages with bogosity like that. I mean, I'd have made them a decent site for $100 million . . .
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:34PM (#5127407) Homepage Journal

    What chapter does VA Software [vasoftware.com] appear in?
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:35PM (#5127416) Journal
    I mean there's only so far you can pad out the "do X; ???; Profit" troll.
  • by Skevin ( 16048 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:37PM (#5127438) Journal
    What's in Chapter 11?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    All the registars I've tried always say a hyphen must have a alphanumeric on both sides of it, this elimination domains which start or end with a hyphen, or have 2 or more in a row.
    • Since Network Solutions decided on no authority whatsover that they could charge for domain registrations. At that point the first fool with $50 got the name.

      The DNS RFC says that the domain name must start with an alpha. 3Com had to fight for 3com.com and once they got it they were all alone in having a name starting with a digit for years. Not no more.
  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig.hogger@gmail.NETBSDcom minus bsd> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:39PM (#5127446) Journal
    Did they think putting-in slashdotted companies?
  • by dietlein ( 191439 ) <(dietlein) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:39PM (#5127447)
    The Boston Globe gave it a "D".

    Here's Salon [salon.com]'s review: Looks like a "D" to me [salon.com].
    • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:59PM (#5127603)
      Wow, so was Salon.com featured in the book? That guy sounded pissed off! It's too bad that he spent most of the review telling us all how he hates Phillip Kaplan, and only got around to making one actual criticism of the writing. He claims he's in the target audience, but I doubt that the target audience consists of the idiots the book is about. I would think it's more aimed at all the people who thought they had missed out on the whole dot-com thing, and are now getting to point and laugh at all their buddies who bragged about being so wealthy for a few years.

      Somebody explain to me why salon is still around.
      • by MisterFancypants ( 615129 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:51PM (#5127915)
        The Salon review was satire, not a real review. If you don't believe me, just click the link again and look up at the top, where it is clearly labelled "Satire".
        • Oh, I get it--he was writing his review in the same style as a fuckedcompany.com entry! Roll over Jonathan Swift!

          Personally, I think that having to put "satire" above an essay or review is like having to put a sign that reads "food" on the apple pie that you baked for the county fair so that no one mistakes it for a cow flop. Is it even worth your time?
      • Somebody explain to me why salon is still around.

        Nice attitude you have.

        I sent them $50 for a 2-year Premium subscription sometime in 2001. Maybe that has a little to do with it. Even if they fold tomorrow, I still think I got my money's worth. I view them as a sort of charity.

        People have some weird attitudes about Salon. I've seen many people cheering for its destruction, who obviously disagree with it politically, but their major argument against it seems to be that Salon isn't profitable. It's one thing to say that about Salon as a corporate entity, but another as a source of news. Not all of us are stockholders- most of us are members of the general public. Salon is one of the few remaining holdouts in the otherwise corporatized U.S. media. And at least they're shelling out money to produce actual content- it's not like they're a worthless dotcom that was surprised to find that people didn't want to buy 20 lb bags of kitty litter online.

        Everyone knows Salon is a little pink, and it does print some stupid crap sometimes, but it does cover a lot of topics that otherwise don't receive any attention from the rest of the U.S. media- DMCA/copyright, the erosion of civil liberties, software patents, globalization, deCSS and freedom of speech, webcasting, etc. etc. A lot of their articles appear here on Slashdot. It will be sad when I have to go to foreign sites to get news about crap that's happening here. When the press is reduced to nothing but corporate whores, you'll be sorry.

        I do remember when this review came out back in April though, and naturally there was a quick reaction on fuckedcompany [fuckedcompany.com]. I don't know if Salon was mentioned in the book itself- Pud didn't mention it so I don't think it was. If you dig through you'll find that the Salon review author (Damien Cave) is one of the posters in that thread.
    • Agreed. Makes you wonder if the review was posted simply because timothy wanted a chance to use 'Schadenfreude' again. ;-)

  • by Chocolate Teapot ( 639869 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:40PM (#5127456) Journal
    ...picking on companies who aren't around to sue his sorry ass. I think I might buy this.
    • I mean, how can you market a viable product (the book) if you're going to get sued repeatedly. That would decimate the bottom line.

      I guess that's what makes Kaplan qualified to author such a book.

      My own company (I was an employee, not the owner), back in 2000, was featured on the website [fuckedcompany.com], and at the time, had generated the most comments ever. If any of you have a subscription, search the archives for a thread entitled "Amazing Grace." It'll be worth your time, providing a good deal of amusement, that is, until the racist trolls took the thread over.

  • old news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aa0606 ( 250018 )
    isn't this book about a year old now?
  • but wouldn't it be nice if we didn't need f'd Co? But then who would write the postmortem of f'd Co when they hit the wall and flamed out?
  • Insights? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PhysicsGenius ( 565228 ) <physics_seeker AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:41PM (#5127471)
    This would probably be a fun read, but I can't imagine "serious business types" gaining any insights. Real business people already know you have to have a good plan and a product to make money. Very few of these failed dotcoms had either one and almost none of them were run by anybody with any business sense. Most of them were a couple of college dropouts with a meager knowledge of web site "design" *cough*slashdot*cough*.
    • while you could argue this either way, i knew plenty of "serious business types" with multiple successful ventures over decades, who consequently plowed tens of millions (directly, not through funds) into startups and consequently losts tens of millions + however much more they were convinced to throw in.

      the slashdot comment is appropriate, though. :)
    • Re:Insights? (Score:3, Insightful)

      Insights? No. However, the book probably preserves the zeitgeist of the bubble for more than a few Gen-Xers. It's good to be reminded of our past follies every so often.
    • Re:Insights? (Score:3, Informative)

      by iSwitched ( 609716 )

      Actually I have to disagree - "business types" are exactly who need to read this, lest they not learn from their mistakes.

      During my time with failed "dot-com X" during 1999 - 2002, we constantly tracked the downfalls of our 'competitors' via f'd company. Almost every one was highly funded and run by "business types". In fact, during the whole time I only met two college-kid basement startup types, and they had sold to MS and retired as millionaires.

      That being said, I'm pretty sure the business types have learned a little since then, so the material in this book may be a bit dated. We won't see boom-times like the late-90's again - man what an era!

      • Those "business types" simply had a different set of goals than your management. It was pretty clear to anyone with even an inkling of economic sense that the .com bubble was nothing more than a replay of the Tulip Bulb Craze or the stock build-up that lead to the Great Depression. Heck, the vestiges of that bubble are even still with us today. Take a look at Microsoft's P/E or P/S ratio and then tell me where that kind of growth is going to come from. The market still clearly has pockets of "irrational exuberance."

        The professional managers of these companies almost certainly understood that the bubble would burst someday, but they also knew that before the bubble popped there would be plenty of time to make out like bandits. Their goal was simply to get as many stock options as they could and get out before the market crashed. Those that were successful in their goal made plenty of money. The VCs had an even easier time of it. All they had to do was hype up their tech companies and make it to a successful IPO.

        Yes, that's no way to run a business, but these folks weren't trying to run a business, they were trying to create enough of a shell of a business so that they could trick investors into bidding the stock price into the stratosphere. The VCs and their "professional managers" did just fine during the Internet boom (even the massive flameouts almost certainly made money), it's the chumps that bought into their "New Economy" spiel that paid the piper.

  • Perhaps the next big industry is examining the .com bubble and the ocean of stupidity it rose in and teaching people not to do it again.

    I'm not sure if I'm being sarcastic here or not. More's the pity.

    I will buy the book, if only for a laugh.

    • Or perhaps the next big industry is examining the .com bubble and the ocean of stupidity it rose in and is teaching people how to do it again.

      After all, you can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, etc ...

      Sounds like one of those 3-step profit things that would actually work:

      1. Study dot-com bombs
      2. Transpose to up-and-coming industry
      3. Profit
      ... sorry, couldn't resist!
  • by erf ( 101305 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:43PM (#5127487)
    I've read it. It's amusing. However, Philip Kaplan's writing is flat out the worst part of the book.

    How many times can you read about a company and have the comments boil down to "they were dumb, they went out of business"? That's pretty much the outer limits of Kaplan's critical and analytic skills. The whole dot-com boom & bust phenomena (which so many /. posters bought into) is deserving of much more thought and research than went into this little one off, quick buck, mindless catalog of failures.

    The book gets real dull. Fortunately it's short. Kaplan, next time get a ghostwriter. Heck, how about an interview with megalomaniac ESR on his old essay "musings on sudden wealth" now that VA Linux has essentially gone tits up.
    • by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:12PM (#5127684)
      "How many times can you read about a company and have the comments boil down to "they were dumb, they went out of business"? That's pretty much the outer limits of Kaplan's critical and analytic skills."

      Based on the excerpt provided on /., I doubt the guy really knew a whole lot what he was talking about. The Calender .COM example stuck with me. "It could have been done with a script". Not true. First you need people to build something on that level, then you need people to maintain the servers and fix problems that go wrong, then you need people working on making it better and better so that they don't lose to things like Exchange.

      I have no doubt that they were over-capitalized, that they could have done more with less. But let's be realistic, the guy claimed they could have done with a couple of people and a script. No. What probably really happened was a good chunk of the 70 people there were sales people making cold calls to get companies to try out their calender stuff. If they could get whole corps to sign on, they'd instantly have a big account with lots of people using it. Doesn't sound so mindless now does it?

      The reality is that if they'd gone with a more Google-esque approach, they'd probably have done better for themselves. But who knew that then? They had 20 mil to spend on it and they probably felt they needed to start big and quickly rake in the customers to maintain that.

      I definitely won't be buying that book. I don't think the guy's capable of interesting insight into a .BOM. I already read the list off the top 100 business failures in 2000, so why pay for the extended version?
      • But let's be realistic, the guy claimed they could have done with a couple of people and a script. No.

        It's funny that we're able to discuss this point on a site that is essentially comprised of a couple of people and a script.

        • "It's funny that we're able to discuss this point on a site that is essentially comprised of a couple of people and a script."

          It's funny that we're using a site built by a couple of guys recreating a well established forum of communication that had alreaady been done a million times before?
      • The Calender .COM example stuck with me. "It could have been done with a script". Not true.

        You got the CalendarCentral thingy and the OnlineChoice thingy mixed up. OnlineChoice was the one he claimed it could have been reduced to a script.
    • "The whole dot-com boom & bust phenomena (which so many /. posters bought into) is deserving of much more thought and research"

      I'd disagree. From where I'm looking, a new technology came along, loads of people took a gamble and lost when it turned out that this new economy had exactly the same rules as the old one.

      It really is that simple. Sites selling stuff on the internet are no different to mail order companies, which have been a not-very-exciting industry since the telephone was invented.

  • by Boss, Pointy Haired ( 537010 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:43PM (#5127496)
    to restore confidence?

    As a start-up today, one of the biggest hurdles is getting a potential customer to take you seriously.

    Even if you are a sensible start-up, funded out of your own pocket - and even profitable on a small scale - you are tarred with the same brush as the multi-million dollar collapses of two years ago.

    I have to work very hard to convince a potential customer that i'll still be here in 12 months time, and it takes human intervention - i've not yet figured out how to do it through the website.
    • by rindeee ( 530084 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:48PM (#5127521)
      What you need my friend are two things. A 42" Plasma Display and an Aeron chair. Then and only then will you be taken seriously.
    • As a start-up today, one of the biggest hurdles is getting a potential customer to take you seriously.

      If you have a sound business model and don't stress being a ".com", than no, potential customers will do what they can to save money with a reliable solution. Potential partners and investors, those are hard to find. At least ones you want.

      I have to work very hard to convince a potential customer that i'll still be here in 12 months time, and it takes human intervention - i've not yet figured out how to do it through the website.

      Provide a good site, with low overhead, and say that you are profitable. If they still think you're going belly up in 12 months, they're idiots and you probably don't want to do business with them anyway.
    • In addition to what other posters have said, it takes time.

      2 years ago the pendulum had swung so far into the other extreme that a ten year old could get multimillion dollar funding for a modern art made of dog poop 3d scanning through the mail startup.

      Now we're on the other end: People have seen so much stupidity and crap and dying dot coms with no business plan that we're at the end where we'll need a lot more to get things through.

      In time, the averages will work out. But that doesn't help you much now, does it?
    • Yeah but can you REALLY guarantee them that you will be around in 12 months? If you've been around for 10 years, they might have faith in that track record alone. Otherwise, it truly is a risk. Its a catch 22. The only way to prove you will be here in 12 months to have been there before. The only way to have been there before is to get customers to trust you will be there again, etc.

      It takes time and thats about all. I dont care how ingenious your business plan is, how incredible the product, those do not make longevity a given. Only longevity makes longevity a given.
  • New addition for next revision: Mandrake
  • by lawyamike ( 199551 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:47PM (#5127519) Homepage
    Yah, I can read the "News of the Weird" in the local alternative newspaper every couple of months or so, but the stories about stupid criminals, odd names, and the curious practices extant in certain foreign nations become tedious in the cumulative. So, ANOTHER person with the middle name "Ray" or "Wayne" is a murderer. That's funny-strange; it's not funny-haha.

    How long could one read about f'd companies? Are there really that many interesting archetypes? Don't the stories all blend together over time? Is it that successful companies are all the same, but unsuccessful companies are each f'd in their own individual ways?

    I've never worked in the Valley, and I am not a web designer, but it seems that the stories of failure would become pretty monotonous after a while. Three hundred-odd pages? Is there enough sarcasm or cuss-words to make the book interesting for that long?

    Heck, I'll buy the thing because I like the web site, but I get the feeling I'd save a couple of sawbucks if I just looked through the archives online.
  • > Here's Kaplan's contemplation on the value of domain name Wapit.com (now defunct)...

    Some of these names are ludicrous arn't they? I remember reading lists of these names copyrighted (or whatever) by "branding" specialists just waiting for some fine 200 year old company to come along for a corporate comb-over.

    I specifically remember seeing the name "JamCracker" and thinking, good grief, the picture that paints in my head is just not to be shared!

    However, somone ponied up: Jamcracker, Inc. - Managed IT Solutions [jamcracker.com]

    I'm sure they're lovely people but suddenly I'm not hungry...
    • I specifically remember seeing the name "JamCracker" and thinking, good grief, the picture that paints in my head is just not to be shared!

      Wil Wheaton's website is hosted by logjamming.com. Apparently it's actually not about gay lumberjack porn...
    • by Codex The Sloth ( 93427 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:43PM (#5127869)
      Salon had a great article [salon.com] about the way that names were created (back in 99). The company came up with a name JamCracker that no-one wanted:

      It seems that when Altman and Manning presented the name Jamcracker to a client recently, the reception was not everything they had hoped for. "I put the name up in front of their creative people," Manning says. "There were a couple of women sitting in. One of them got up and said, 'Oh, that's disgusting.' Another said, 'This is really sick.' I said, 'Excuse me, what are you talking about?' They said, 'We can't explain it, but that name is just creeping us out. We don't know what it is, but could you take it off the wall, please?'" Manning remains mystified by the incident. "There's apparently some strange, uncomfortable meaning attached to it in the minds of some women," he says. "God knows what that could be."

      I was somewhat amused in 2000 when a company started up using that name!

      • What exactly is "sick" about the name Jamcracker? It's not like the name was "Crack Jammer" (and even that does not really mean anything).

      • If you read the artical there was also an anecdote about a board who stared calling eachother by the 1000monkey's names, including a woman who called herself "JamCracker."

        I thought it was helarious (even registed the slashdot name jamcracker, btw).
    • And Here's the article [salon.com] you read it in. Bet you didn't realize you were admitting you read Salon :) Of course, so am I, but only for the articles.
  • by El_Smack ( 267329 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:52PM (#5127556)

    Welcome to Whose Line is it Anyway. Where everything is made up, and the points are so worthless they might as well end in "dot com".

    Just about fell off the couch when he said that.
  • Great, so in a few years when my daughter starts reading books that don't have puppies named spot in them she will come to me and ask me why I was stupid enough to move to the bay during the Dot Com boom. Colin
  • uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hobophile ( 602318 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:54PM (#5127569) Homepage
    I'm an idiot and even I was able to build a successful small business building websites. Thing is, we didn't charge millions to build a five-minute CGI email form. That's why we're still around.

    I'm sorry, but if companies are paying millions of dollars for a 5 minute CGI email script, and you decide your web design business is only going to charge a few hundred, then I have a hard time deciding who's the bigger fool here: the dotcom, or Philip "I'm an idiot" Kaplan.

    Charge what the market will bear and don't leave money on the table. Sales and Marketing 101.

    • Re:uhhh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by halftrack ( 454203 ) <jonkje.gmail@com> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:12PM (#5127687) Homepage
      The dotcoms didn't sell websites for millions of dollars (I guess they wouldn't have gone under then,) but got millions of dollars from investors to create a website that were to sell/promote a service. The website was the business and the dotcoms went out because they blew millions on websites that weren't worth more than a few thousands, which is what businesses like the author charge.

      The author chose bad wording, but still ... the point's there.
    • Charge what the market will bear and don't leave money on the table. Sales and Marketing 101.

      Of course. Because nobody ever remembers anything and a company's reputation isn't worth building. There's a difference between a healty profit and being a scam artist. Sure, there are a lot of quick bucks in being a scam artist, but you have to be ready to leave town quickly.

    • It's called "Customer Relations" and "Repeat Business". You might want to look into it.

      As the old saying goes, just because you *can* do something, doesn't mean you *should*...
      • Actually, for what it's worth, I have run a successful computer consulting business.

        Basically all I'm saying is if a customer comes to you and says, "I need a website. This is what I want. I have a million dollars budgeted for this."

        You have a number of options. You can:

        1) Take all $1 million. The customer has it budgeted, they're willing to pay it, and if you get a million dollars from them for a 5 minute job it hardly matters if you keep them as a client.

        2) Take only $100,000, or only $50,000. Sure, the job's not worth a million, but is it really worth $100,000 or $50,000 either? The difference here is one of scale. Either way you're charging more than the work is technically worth to you, so if you really feel bad about it, there's always...

        3) Take only what it costs you, or even less. After all, if you do it at cost, or for free, they'll love you, and you'll have them as a client forever. In fact, they'll probably haunt you till the day you finally close up shop because you're burned out from handling all the jobs they throw your way and you're not making any money for your efforts.

        The reality of the marketplace is that demand and willingness to pay for a product at a certain price dictate the product's price.

        You can get all high and mighty about how you're honest and you still have a job, but maybe if you took a few of those million dollar throwaway jobs every now and again you'd have the luxury of posting to slashdot in the middle of the afternoon without your boss looking over your shoulder, instead of consoling yourself with how you're still in the web design business.

    • The bill... (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dr. Photo ( 640363 )
      5-Minute Website: $1
      Stupidity Surcharge: $10,000,000

      Total: $10,000,001

      Well, at least the company can write off most of that as an "education" expense... :)

    • Re:uhhh (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sql*kitten ( 1359 )
      Charge what the market will bear and don't leave money on the table. Sales and Marketing 101.

      You can only charge what the market will bear if you have your own cashflow under control. In 1998, a Fortune 100 website project was worth millions of dollars, because there were so few people who could build a high-end web site. The web agencies made one major mistake: they did not believe that websites would become commodities. So, they wrote their business plans assuming millions of dollars would come flowing in, that they could pick and choose clients, and that they didn't have to look for a new business model and get it in place before the bottom dropped out of the market.

      A smart company would be charging what the market will bear, but running the business as if the only money coming in was what the job was really worth, and saved the money in the cash reserve for the lean times.
  • Crap failures... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @12:58PM (#5127595) Homepage

    What a dull book, these aren't interesting failures.

    Now WorldCom, Enron, Tyco etc etc.... those are interesting failures.

    We all used to think that .COMs were the best failures ever. But it just goes to show, not only are traditional business the best at succeeding.... they are also the best at failure.

    Can't .coms be the best at anything ?
    • What are you kidding me? .com's are the stellar leaders in the innovative digital distribution of adult entertainment worldwide. No nobody can beat them at this game.
    • Re:Crap failures... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Didion Sprague ( 615213 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @02:37PM (#5128218)
      Are you for real? WorldCom is an interesting failure? WorldCom and Enron are like every other failure. You have a bunch of dumn executives attempting to swindle the so-called "little" people. I'm not sure what's so interesting about that.

      What's interesting to me, at least, is a spectacular flameout like WebVan -- the company that was drilled hard into the ground by a dumb CEO who managed to get himself a multi-million dollar pension for twenty years. Company goes out of business, but the CEO -- a dumb old guy -- is making millions. Now, maybe some folks consider him a "smart" guy if he's making millions, but whatever.

      Still the dot-com stuff is fascinating -- how so many people can fuck up so much shit. It boggles the mind. I mean, it's like all the gold mines out west that went out of business. The gold was there -- or tiny bits of it, at least -- but they didn't have the money or the time or the smarts to be able to capitalize on it.

      WorldCom and Enron? Give me a break. That's old school, old-white-guy swindling. It's the same corporate greed that's gone on for years. What, Mrs. Kenneth Lay goes on television and talks to a TV interviewer and says they have "nothing" and that they're broke? Please. I got nothing, I'm broke, but I live like I have nothing and am broke. I don't wear Versace suits or have a wife with Ferragamo pumps. I don't have six houses scattered throughout the country and can't interest any interviewer from ABC to come and sit with me in my living room to talk about how broke I am.

      And why? Because my story about being broke is like every story about being broke. It's a tough world out there. Sob sob sob.

      It's like Alec Baldwin in 'Glengarry Glen Ross' come from Mitch and Murray downtown to get the sales force motivated. First place, a nice new Cadillac. Second place? Steak knives. Third place? You're fired.

      What does it take?

      It takes these -- and Alec lets a pair of brass balls hang low -- click, click, baby. Brass fucking balls. Not Versace silk, homes in Aspen, or Swiss watches that cost more than you make in a year.

      So give me a break about Enron and WoldCom being interesting. That's old school, with a bunch of dumb old guys in charge. More homes in Veil and Aspen. Big fucking deal. Kenneth Lay looks like Billy Bob Thornton with a haircut and is as slow and dimwitted as they come. Him and his Andrew "Fast Eddie" Fastow, the sleek looking accountant who probably tells all his secretaries that people often mistake him for Richard Gere.

      Turn on something like Startup.com -- the film about Kozmo.com and the annoying guy that ran it -- and that's interesting. It's fascinating to see how people took hold of the cultural hot buttons and then attempted to cultify it in order to make money and gain leverage.

      That's what the dot-com "boom" was -- one big cult, brainwashes free-of-charge, with a bunch of gullible young people grasping for straws in a world that was paying no attention to Bin Laden, loose nukes, and the silent, gathering anti-Americanism roiling up like a tsunami across the globe.

      Enron and WorldCom are just a bunch of old-school, bad-luck, corporate nightmares with the same old-school, bad-luck lessons to be learned. What's interesting in that? That people gave a fuck?

    • I dunno, sometimes .com's can succeed wildly - where else could you find a company that went from hobby to millions of dollars in revenue in less than 4 years? [dyndns.org] (Yeah, I volunteered, then worked for them.. point's still valid).
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:00PM (#5127614) Homepage
    What's going on at Slashdot? This book was published in April 2002, and it was a bit dated even then.

    For a while, Slashdot had a spate of duplicate stories, angering many readers who realized that the "editorial staff" wasn't reading their own output. Now there's this rash of outdated book reviews.

    When a company starts fucking up on the basics, they're usually doomed.

  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:01PM (#5127622)
    Lucky Fucky!
    Pud [fuckedcompany.com] gets his book mentioned on Slashdot with an Amazon referral link! That oughta bring in enough money to keep the FC trolls happy for another month!
    When: 1/21/2003
    Company: PK Interactive
    Severity: 20
    Points: 120
    (25 comments in the Happy Fun Slashdot Corner!)

    F'd Servers
    PK Interactive [fuckedcompany.com] files Chapter 7. Last month, Pud got his book promoted on Slashdot's front page on the advice of his salesweasel who told told him bandwith was gonna be too cheap to meter. His salesnozzle didn't tell him when bandwidth would be too cheap to meter. Evidently, not yet. The bill arrived today.
    When: 2/21/2003
    Company: PK Interactive
    Severity: 100 - new hall of fame inductee!
    Points: 220
    (69 comments in the Happy Fun Slashdot Corner!)

  • by PrimeNumber ( 136578 ) <PrimeNumber@exc i t e.com> on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:02PM (#5127632) Homepage
    FuckedCompany.com would smell like peas.

    Pud was describing a startup that marketed web based smells. (IE a peripheral device that heated small containers of oil) Real useful. Useful as a CueCat.

    A browser would see special smell tags and the appropriate oil(s) smells would be released.

    When the user hit say Amazon.com, they could smell musty books. Slashdot users could smell unwashed bodies and trolls. :)
  • by aCheshireCat ( 574196 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:05PM (#5127646)

    I always trust a reviewer who equivocates four-letter words, penises, and pr0n with quality sarcasm because he provably still wapits to the lingerie section of the Sears catalog.

    Anyhow, F'd Companies was funny maybe in 2000 - 2001. This book is Kaplan's sad attempt to use every last scrap of the buffalo.
  • by droopus ( 33472 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:07PM (#5127653)
    Um, why is Slashdot reviewing a book that came out [amazon.com] in April 2002?

    In 2001 FC was a funny read, considering most of us either worked for, or knew people who worked for some of the firms in the book.

    Haven't been many flameouts of hugely funded wesellfuckall.com companies lately, so FC has turned into a rather nasty insult site, short on content. The book is nowhere near as fun to read as the site anyway.

    So, why a review of a ten month old book?
  • by frozenray ( 308282 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:24PM (#5127753)
    Here's a classic article [business2.com] from business2.com.


    In its prospectus, Buy.com unveils history's most elegant business model: "We sell a substantial portion of our products at very low prices. As a result, we have extremely low and sometimes negative gross margins on our product sales."

    Pure genius.

    And here [business2.com] you can find "The 101 Dumbest Moments in Business", featuring Steve "Monkeyboy" Ballmer prominently on the first page.
  • by ACK!! ( 10229 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @01:30PM (#5127799) Journal
    The dot commers are amazing. I was inspired to look up an old company I use to work for. They employed about 12 people total.

    They had three sales people, three support people, on tester, one secretary, three programmers. One of the programmers doubled as their sysadmin. The support staff had to work on bugs for Q&A in their time between calls. Advanced Productivity software literally had clients that were some of the biggest lawfirms around.

    They made a product. They sold a product. They made money.

    The guys who started the thing took out personal loans to keep it going for awhile. He passed out profits back to the employees when times were good. Honestly, if there was a place to be promoted to or a position open when I was ready to go on I probably would have never left.

    Small companies can survive in the IT world. They just have to have half a clue in their heads to do it.

    Fill a niche, concetrate and expand along the niche not outside it, keep employee and overhead costs low (their building was nothing grand but I had my own office).

    This is basic business stuff that many companies still have no concept of.

  • If you want to buy it, amazon has it cheaper. [amazon.com]
  • I don't want to hear anything more about dot.com meltdowns. I *lived* them. The first was a combination ebay and Yahoo-stores: "Build your auction site! Your own categories, your own listings....", the second was an e-drugstore. The e-drugstore blatently *copied* their product descriptions from their competitor's website about 6 months before I joined. When I found that out, I knew it was doomed. Either they would be caught when the grew large enough to warrent the attention of the competitor, or they would stay small and fade. The parent company pulled the plug when the stock market popped and fired the web staff.

    Maybe when I am 65 I will want to reminesce about the past and read just a book to travel down Memory Lane. But right now I don't want to hear ANYTHING more about stupid dot.com's and what a gullable shmuck I was. "Stock options" my ass. I did not actively seek such things, I just kind of ended up in the middle of it somewhow in a boil-the-frog-slowly sense. Well, it was kind of fun while it lasted I suppose. It was a roller coaster ride in which the tracks ended abruptly by jutting out in mid-air. Free fall.
  • One day when I had nothing better to do, I keyed "free stuff" into a search engine. One of the hits said swapit.com was giving away free T-shirts, so I gave them my address. Not only did they send me a T-shirt, but they also sent me a mailer for my CDs that looked like it cost at least a dollar to buy, ship, handle/process etc. I never did any business with swapit. They could have easily spent $10 to get my business--and I gave them nothing in return. I have no regrets. I still have the T-shirt, and I still wear it. It's a pretty nice piece of swag. It's black with the swapit logo on the front, and a swapit logo on the back upon which is superimposed the slogan "SWAP THE DEAD FOR LIVE". Now that's ironic, isn't it?

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @03:02PM (#5128406)

    I just picked mine up from the appraiser's office. I saved a ton of money compared to going retail and got me a great diamond. As far as I can tell it's the owner and 2 employees in a tiny office suite in Maryland. The diamonds are at wholesalers in NYC. These guys just charge an 8% mark up for running a website doing pretty well from what I have heard in the last week.

    This is what the internet is really about. Finding ways to sell goods more efficiently. Why pay the retail mark up which includes rent, insurance, security and salaries?
  • Zelerate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jboy_24 ( 88864 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @03:52PM (#5128804) Homepage
    My ol' company was in there, and for interest to slashdot users, it was an opensourced perl based system.

    The problem with Kaplan's review, is that he really just wrote based on that one sentance explanation. After reading that I put the book down. I presume Kaplan had a list made with name and one sentance discription and he just wrote a blurb based on that. There was no research into each company, I'm not sure by reading that you get any insight into each company's workings and problems. A better book, would be to allow an simpathetic former employee write an obituary, then include some of the comments from his website when the company went under to retort and bring some feeling back into it.

    Zelerate died for a number of reasons, the least being the capability of the opensourced model to sustain business. Our problems were basically the same as every other .com, the preasure to repay investor's money with a lucritive IPO gave too little time to the proper development of the software, too high a credence to marketing the company and the need for some 'star' founders put too little expierence in the management of the company.

    If we just developed, found patient beta company's to develop for, followed the traditional alpha-beta-production timelines, AND got our heads out of the clouds, we just might be still around. But, as anyone who worked in or around .coms back in 99-00 knows, all of that was an impossibility at that time.
    • And even worse, now the .org side of our company is now represented by a porn site!

      Not Safe For Work [zelerate.org]

      From once prominate slashdot advertiser, with our famous animal butts banner, to porn...

  • by FyRE666 ( 263011 )
    Most of the companies that are described in the book do not exist today, for some others the domain names are being used for similar businesses, but the original management and business plans are gone.

    "Business plans?", sorry, run that by me again; since when did a dot.com company have of those??? The ones where I worked used the tried and tested Wing+prayer+blind optimism business model...
  • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @04:18PM (#5129000) Homepage
    For a more entertaining take on the same topic (or at the very least, one you can probably enjoy more times), check out Burn Rate [burnrategame.com], the card game. Basically, each player has a company, you try to stick other players with "bad ideas", which they have to spend money trying to implement; everyone is guaranteed to run out of money eventually, and the goal of the game is to be the last one to do so. All of the "bad idea" cards are based on real dotcoms except one: "create dotcom card game". :)

    Disclaimer: I am not in any way associated with the guys that make this game, except as a happy customer. Heck, I can't even remember the name of the company (though if I clicked through my link it would probably tell me:).
  • When the book came out, the "customers also shopped for" links on Amazon included a 10' Concrete Vibrator [amazon.com]. Looks like [amazon.com] they fixed that process because I've recommended this book [amazon.com] as a companion to F'ed Companies several times.
  • by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2003 @05:19PM (#5129522) Homepage Journal
    You can't put fuck in a book title? That licks monkey choad. When is society going to grow up and stop being a bunch uptight cunts?
  • Every few weeks I check out Fucked Company for a laugh (and when I was working at such a company, I kept hoping it would appear on the site--I didn't have the guts to submit it myself.) But I'm never amused for long, because the site seems overrun with people who, frankly, seem like good candidates for psychological counselling. There's something a little disquieting about an anonymous geek posting to a public forum on how he'd like to "fuck [CEO of company] in the ass" or how some company's workers must be "bending over for the bosses" or how some woman executive makes the geek want to "blow his load". It is cliche to say this, I know, but These Guys Have Issues.


It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's