The thrill of the dotcom boom and bust

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 1, 2005, 2:23 AM | comments: 0

I finally picked up Startup.com and watched it today. I had seen the last 30 minutes or so on cable last year, and it was fascinating to me, because I really got the Internet portion of my career started during the Internet boom and bust.

In all fairness, the company the subjects tried to build, govWorks.com, a company that was to facilitate transactions between municipalities and their constituents, was a really outstanding idea that was executed poorly. At least in the parts documented in the film, they didn't go nuts with the typical excess known for dotcom startups in Silicon Valley. I do think though that burning through more than $50 million in cash in a year was the sign of true mismanagement and really stupid VC's. So much of what they developed could be produced by a small team for a tiny fraction of the amount of cash they spent.

Those were really exciting times for me as well, when I was working at Penton Media. The company was run by morons, chief among them CEO Tom Kemp. That idiot was ready to buy anything with ".com" in the name. Yet when us Internet people started pushing the idea of a Web-based CRM package around the company, a goldmine for the company's many B2B clients, everyone poo-poo'd it. That's why Salesforce.com is now worth $2 billion and Penton was delisted and is worthless.

Despite the catastrophic failure, it seemed like there was limitless potential for the Web. I still think that potential exists, it's just that now you have to use a little common sense and not go pissing away millions of dollars without a real business plan. As wireless broadband becomes a reality in particular, the idea of hosted apps is really appealing.

I started an Internet business in 1999 on credit cards. It's not quite enough to live off of, and there's still too much credit card debt, but I do have something to show for years of work. If I were more focused on money, I'm sure I'd have the real business plan that could help me reach my million-dollar retirement goal.

Anyway, there's a lot of opportunity out there. I need to spend more time looking for it instead of waiting for it to fall in my lap.


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