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F'd Companies: Spectacular Dot-com Flameouts [Hardcover]

Philip J. Kaplan
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 2 2002

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.

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Product Description

From Amazon

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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Front Row Seat to the Dot.Com Implosion Jan. 27 2004
Philip J. Kaplan didn't set out to chronicle the disappointment and wrath of so many dot-commers burned by the internet bubble. But one Memorial Day weekend in 2000, trying to kill some time, Kaplan ( a web designer at the time) set up a site, F**kedcompany.com. The site offered the latest gossip about sinking dot-coms and even included an online betting pool on when companies would go under. Kaplan suddenly found himself thrust into the spotlight as a kind of overseer of the dot-com collapse.
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dot.funny Aug. 3 2003
F'd is a catalogue of all the dot.com flameouts and foibles. It is also laced with Philip Kaplan's cutting, biting, ascerbic, scalding, acidic, vitriolic commentary that tends to sum up the disgust that so many people have at the lavish and stupid business practices of the dot.coms.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fool and his money are soon parted..... Dec 27 2002
A sardonic overview of the dot-com bust of 2000-2002, the book has short blurbs on over 100 internet companies that are no longer with us including such classics as Pets.com, Kozmo.com and MVP.com.
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.
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I like the website based on the book and therefore decided the book would be even better. I was expecting 2 or 3 pages on each dot.com flameout, but instead I got only 2 o3 VERY brief paragraphs. Kaplan should stick to his day job, as the writing here is overly crude. I am only 25 years old and some crude language/humor here and there would of been okay with me, but Kaplan uses it excessively which takes a few point off how much better this book could of been. Another major detracting point is the font is rather large and there are large gaps of blank space in the pages. If this had been a standard size book, instead of 180 pages of material, and Kaplan had a standard text on pages without major gaps, the number of pages might go down to about 100 or below that. I would of liked to see a bit more info. on the causes and reasons why these companies went down in flames; more than a sentence or two. And in the tradition of some stupid Dot.Com failures, I guess I got something for nothing by checking this book out at the Library instead of forking over ...[undisclosed dollar amount].
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars PUD is as F*(^%ED As the Dot Coms
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
Published on Jan. 7 2004 by Leeza Ryan
1.0 out of 5 stars Cut, Paste, Get Million Dollar Check
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
1.0 out of 5 stars Too glossy, no meat
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 more
Published on Aug. 19 2003 by Dariushd
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Resource for Investors
Kaplan should be commended for both his book and FC website. Investing in companies can be dangerous, especially small tech startups. Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars If you were a victim of the dot com crash, just read it!
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 more
Published on Jan. 18 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars Not journalism, mostly inuendo
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 more
Published on Jan. 15 2003 by C. Ruth
5.0 out of 5 stars A great and hilarious read...
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 more
Published on Jan. 10 2003 by Kate N.
4.0 out of 5 stars Well, I thought it was good.
This was definitely worth the money. I saw an exerpt in PC Magazine or someplace and decided to go ahead and get it. Read more
Published on Dec 26 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy Reading
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 more
Published on Dec 18 2002 by Christopher
5.0 out of 5 stars YUO don't get it...YAF,R?
Look people - this book is not meant to be used for class discussion @ wharton. This is basically a book for those of us that would rather laugh than continue the charade that the... Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2002 by knoa webster
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