Dot.Bomb: My Days and Nights at an Internet Goliath Optmism, Lunacy, Panic, Crash, I Survive to Tell the Tale (Anglais) Cassette – octobre 2001
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I thoroughly enjoyed David Kuo's writing style and think he has done a terrific job of capturing what truly was a ".Bomb". While a couple things might not be exactly correct, I don't recall a single material inaccuracy. Particularly accurate are his portrayals of Craig Winn and Glenda Dorchak. ".Bomb" is both entertaining and insightful. I highly recommend it.
Strangely, some of this reads like ancient history. Value America came and went so fast, determined to be the marketplace for the new millenium, the web site for everybody, satisfying shoppers' seven 'needs', doing four important functions perfectly, and never holding any inventory. First hints of the real mess they did have in inventory postponed their original IPO in 1998, only to see Value America rush right back into the IPO market in April 1999, with visions of billions of dollars in stock value at a time when $30 million in quarterly sales (along with millions more in losses) constituted their entire revenue stream. And most of that business was over the phone!
Winn comes across as a man easily impressed by himself. Within months of initial signs of success, he has his gubernatorial campaign laid out and his plans to be president by 2008 are going full steam ahead. From brief conversations with Henry Kissinger and Bill Bennett, Winn thinks he has a campaign advisory team. And all the time Winn ignores the fact that his business model is not working, his basic assumptions are incorrect, and his disbelief as to his naysayers is misplaced.
The concept was simple, elegant and very marketable to the venture capitalists convinced that they only had to be right one in twenty times and they'd still come out rich. Only the seductive pitch lacked details, specifics, and good-old-fashioned business sense. Welcome to "due diligence".
A must read for those who are all-too-quickly forgetting the hard e-commerce lessons learned from 1998 to 2000.
Though the drama that unfolds in Kuo's book may seem unreal, I assure you it wasn't. Kuo captured the eccentricities of senior management, as well as the electricity of the staff--everyone was family there--everyone was excited to work for VA.com and was dedicated to the vision, which makes its failure even more heartbreaking.
Kuo does a great job of explaining the traps that senior management fell into... the supposed "new rules" for dotcoms on reporting financials to the investor community... the risks posed to a company run by an egomaniac with no common sense... and the battles and alliances among senior staff that changed on a daily basis.
Kuo's book is a fun, wild ride--better than fiction. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the "new" economy... as well as any MBA students and profs, who may themselves have big ideas about starting a "new new thing." There are many lessons to be learned here. Enjoy.
First and foremost, this is a case study of a fast-moving dot.com with a "flexible" business plan. Value America was heralded for its inventory-less business plan, but eventually the major flaws in the model were revealed, especially on the B2C side. This book provides mostly cautionary tales. It describes the infighting and power struggles among the executives. It details the inability of the CEO to rein in the founder Craig Winn, the "visionary" promise-now/deliver-later salesman. And it touches on the operational failures that led to thousands of delayed orders and a general technology break down. Because Kuo was in PR and bus dev, we don't get an in-depth look at the information technology infrastructure, supposedly the crown-jewel of this company's assets. Instead we see the excessive and sometimes irresponsible deal-making that occured with little executive knowledge of the technological requirements.
It is an entertaining book that depicts how a company can blow through hundreds of millions of dollars that result in little salvageable value. Like the "startup.com" movie, dot.bomb also shows the emotional fallout at the executive level.