F'd Companies: Spectacular Dot-com Flameouts Hardcover – Apr 2 2002
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The graveyard of dot-com disasters is overflowing with grandiose ideas gone spectacularly bad, and Philip J. Kaplan's F'd Companies offers an unapologetically acerbic opinion on dozens of the most outrageous. Kaplan, a programmer turned consultant whose own online dreams began when he launched a bulletin board system for pirated game software back in 1989, pulls no punches as he bluntly dissects Web failures that remain dazzling for their pretentious plans and audacious executions. There are big names like Webvan ("a classic example of PAYING more for products than they were SELLING them for") and Go.com (a "portal to nowhere"), but most here are less well known despite similarly burning through cash like a cyber-brushfire. In language far more explicit than his softened-for-the-bookstore title, Kaplan skewers the likes of Iam.com (which lost $48 million trying to convince models and actors to post their portfolios on the Net), OnlineChoice.com (which spent $20 million to learn consumers weren't interested in group buys of electricity and other utilities), HeavenlyDoor.com (which sunk $26 million into a site peddling caskets and burial plots), and Eppraisals.com (which dropped $15 million on an effort to sell online evaluations of antiques). The result is consistently profane, frequently hilarious, and usually right on target. --Howard Rothman
From Publishers Weekly
"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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
And while Kaplan often refers to himself as an "idiot" throughout the book, he nonetheless clearly loves the hype generated by his website. He has been profiled by "The New York Times," "Salon.com," and ABC News's "20/20." among others. In this book, Kaplan offers capsule descriptions of about 150 of the looniest ideas and largest implosions. Kaplan reveals how many millions the companies burned through and gives, in sometimes clever but crude language, his sarcastic explanation for the failure of the many companies he skewers.
He garnered much of his information from the website. His website's betting pool assigned high scores to those submitting the best information about coming dot-com catastrophes. There was no actual monetary payout, winning is its own reward.) he was inundated with e-mails from employees, who were often angry, bitter, or just out to stick a knife in an occasional back, reporting rumors of pending layoffs, shutdowns, and bankruptcies.
As more companies failed, an almost sick fascination with the site grew, its notoriety spread, and disgruntled employees continued to send thousands of e-mails regarding various internet companies.Read more ›
While this isn't necessarily a history of the crash, the book is organized into theme sections. These sections point out broad trends in the dot.com industry and help create a picture of why so many failed. Kaplan's expertise as a guide in this murky, sometimes corrupt world of dot.coms is helpful, and is done in a way in which the lay reader can actually understand how these dot.coms actually worked.
This book doesn't take the internet or the digital world too seriously, and, above all, Kaplan has a self-deprecating manner of story telling that is charming. For awhile. At times, the reader is left to wonder whether or not he is telling you about these ridiculous companies to make a point, or just to make fun. He is a bright guy, and very, very funny. However, sometimes his R-rated commentary detracted from his really commendable insight into why these companies flamed and why such high hopes were pinned on them. It seems to me that the editor (or publisher) could have shown a little more restraint and had a much cleaner, tighter book.
However, even at its worst, this book is still highly enjoyable and entertaining. No one interested in the dot.com bust of the late 1990s should be without this book. Besides, maybe this review is just the vitriolic rambling of some ... (a Kaplan original) that still is bitter because I have some Flooz that I could never use.
My particular favorite was the description of CyberRebate.com.
Here was CyberRebate's business plan:
1. Send us money
2. We will send you great products (Nintendo, DVD Players)
3. Fourteen weeks later we will refund your purchase and you get to keep the stuff!
How were they going to make a profit? VOLUME! No, actually the plan was that a certain percentage of their customers would <i>forget</i> to fill out the rebate form!
Kaplan also speculates that the company took money from its customers up front, then invested the money in the high-flying stock market. Basically, a modern day Ponzi scheme.
One more thing - why did they promise your money back after fourteen weeks? Well, one reason could be that you can only dispute a credit card charge within the first nine weeks of purchase.
When the company finally went into Bankrupcy, one of their customers was reportedly owed $115 in rebates. Apparetnly the person was paying for his stuff upfront, getting the goods, selling them on Ebay and then was planning on making his profit when the "rebate" came in. Oops!
A real reminder as to how dumb some of the business plans were, how bad or useless the technology was and how much money was thrown away on these "dot-com flameouts" that once seemd so promising.
Still, I do enjoy the book cause there was some really stupid dot.com ideas out there. But the book could of been a lot more. Well I also checked out the book 'Dot Con' and this one has a lot more meat on the bones and goes in depth to the whole 'New Economy' disaster. Yet F'd Company is a pleasant, quick read.
Thanks, hope this helps.
Most recent customer reviews
This book is a very sad rant by Pud (Kapaln), himself a washed out dot.commer.
Here is a guy who rips into many companies from which he ran banners on his site. Read more
Classic Pud here. I'm guessing he did this on purpose, just to flaunt something, not sure what. Literally Cut, Paste, Spell Check, Get 1,000,000 check. End of story.Published on Dec 11 2003 by Ccole
I was expecting a little more substance from the book, perhaps some deeper examples and some better analysis and dirt and gossip from the wackoes that ran these dot coms, but the... Read morePublished on Aug. 19 2003 by Dariushd
Kaplan should be commended for both his book and FC website. Investing in companies can be dangerous, especially small tech startups. Read morePublished on Feb. 18 2003
I was in fact one of those who didn't quite enjoy those times... there was this company who used to sponsor my site, had hundreds of dollars debt with me, then one day I received... Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2003
I enjoyed f'dcompany.com during the big flame-out of 2000-2001. It was nice to see which other companies were going under while mine (ubo.com) was in the process of being f'd. Read morePublished on Jan. 15 2003 by C. Ruth
I had read the ... website pretty regularly, and when I heard about the release of this book, I knew it was something I had to have. Read morePublished on Jan. 10 2003 by Kate N.
This was definitely worth the money. I saw an exerpt in PC Magazine or someplace and decided to go ahead and get it. Read morePublished on Dec 26 2002
Some might complain about the writing style, however I find it entertaining. It's a very easy read and I like the fact that the summaries on the businesses are short and to the... Read morePublished on Dec 18 2002 by Rodney
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