dot.bomb: My Days and Nights at an Internet Goliath

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9780316507493: dot.bomb: My Days and Nights at an Internet Goliath

J. David Kuo had a ringside seat at one of the biggest busts of the Internet age. Value America (NASDAQ:VUSA) was supposed to revolutionize retailing by using the Internetno more retailers or distributors needed. Fred Smith, legendary founder of Federal Express, called it the best business model hed ever seen and invested millions of dollars. In a few short years, the company raised and spent hundreds of millions of dollars before a spectacular crash.

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Review:

Anyone who stumbled through the Web's earliest days--as either a starry-eyed entrepreneur, investor, or employee--will find plenty to recognize in J. David Kuo's insightful and entertaining dot.bomb. Wrapped in the tale of Value America, Craig Winn's wildly unsuccessful bid to hop aboard the Internet revolution in 1997 and totally remake retailing, the book paints a clear picture of the way optimism and wishful thinking became fatally intermingled in the rush to mine the gold supposedly buried deep within this glowing, new electronic medium. And Kuo, formerly the company's senior vice president of communications, knows the story intimately and shows here that he also knows how to tell it.

"The single goal was to build scale, build the brand, and become the Internet behemoth... overnight," he writes in describing how Winn, a traditional businessman with traditional ideas about building a traditional company, was sucked into the day's unbridled cyber-fervor as he tried to assemble his vision of a one-stop electronic shop that took advantage of all the Net's imagined bells and whistles. "[But] Winn had more competitors than he imagined," Kuo continues. "In Silicon Valleys, alleys, and corridors, retailers, technologists, and bankers were creating dot.com companies that would sell pet food, lingerie, books, electronics, discount items, luxury items, home-improvement items, furniture, and everything else imaginable. All those companies were already operating on new Internet math. Winn had to catch up."

In the pages that follow, Kuo vividly chronicles the heady years that came just after Michael Wolff's pioneering Burn Rate era, and he does so with just as juicy an insider's perspective (although without the rancor and animosity that such an experience often engenders). There also are plenty of practical lessons here. One strongly suspects, however, that much like those brought back from gold rushes to Sutter's Mill, these also will go largely unheeded when the fever spreads again. --Howard Rothman

About the Author:

J. David Kuo was senior vice president of communications at ValueAmerica.com. He has worked for the CIA and a US Senator and as a journalist and speechwriter. He lives in Virginia with his wife, Kim.

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