At least Sequoia’s portfolio startups won’t be listed on F’d Company

I just read Om Malik’s report that the VC firm Sequoia Capital organized a meeting for its portfolio companies in which they were greeted with an image of a Grave Stone with the message: RIP: Good Times. Then, four speakers informed the startup execs that “things can get lots worse than people think” and they were warned to batten down the hatches.


I wonder if Philip Kaplan was in the meeting. Kaplan is the founder of the Sequoia portfolio company, AdBrite. The company has raised lots of money and is the #3 ad-serving company in the entire universe, so, no doubt, they’ll probably skip through the whole nuclear winter thing without missing a beat.

However, when it comes to grave stones and technology startups, all I can picture is Philip Kaplan spending a couple of years dancing on the graves of hundreds of startups that had to shut down during 2000-01. See, Kaplan back then was better known by his nickname, “Pud,” and he was the founder and editor and hipster-in-chief of the website, Fu*

F’d Company didn’t merely report on the closures of those startups — it mocked and taunted the startups’ founders, funders and anyone who worked at the companies. It was filled with some of the most caustic, mean-spirited venom ever spewed.

Back then, I wondered how the people F’d Company taunted would react if a company Kaplan started ever had to lay-off employees or faced even more difficult decisions.

Maybe some of them are wondering if they’ll get their chance.

Not me, however.

I’m a rose-colored glasses sorta guy.

Bonus reading: The deja-vu-ness of this post caused me to remember a couple of links, including to an 8-year-old post on this blog. Crash, Enough Already (RexBlog – 12/27/2000): One of the earliest posts on this blog concerned the 2000 year-end recap of the crash/meltdown/depression, which I called in the post, the F’d Company era.

Lessons of the Last Bubble (strategy+business, Spring, 2007): Quote – Quiz time: What percentage of dot-com startups have failed? If you are like most people we have informally surveyed, you probably estimated around 90 percent…Virtually no one assumes that the numbers of dot-com failures and successes have been roughly equal, but that’s what our research found.

A Later Sidenote: What Sequoia should be telling its portfolio companies:

Early-stage investor Brad Feld is a voice of sanity:

“My recommendation to all of you entrepreneurs out there is to get off the negative sentiment treadmill, step up, and lead. The people working for your company are likely confused, concerned, and overwhelmed with all the noise in the system. In the near term, building your business will likely be more challenging on a number of dimensions. So what – that’s the normal cycle of business. You don’t need to be a blind optimist and spout happy talk, but you do need to have a clear sense of purpose and goals for your company….Get some exercise, take a shower, eat a good breakfast, and get out there and build a great business.”

Even later: Slides from the Sequoia presentation. They’re actually quite helpful in providing context for the current economic situation.

What the candidates should have said

[Welcome Instapunditeers.]

I think both candidates failed miserably at the debate. They tried to ignore the elephant in the room — the crashing economy — and deflect the questions with standard bullet points gleaned from months of focus groups.

When 60% of Americans believe we’re about to enter a depression; when they’ve seen the value of their self-directed 401-Ks and IRAs drop by one-third or more in the past couple of weeks — it’s time to throw out the the 3×5 cards and talking points. It’s time to look into the camera and say:

The economic crises we’re experiencing changes everything about this election.

Over the past year, I’ve laid out many great ideas related to healthcare and energy and other critical issues. They all are of great importance to the long range well-being of the citizens of this country.

But there are a lot of you out there tonight who are afraid that you’re about to lose everything you own: that the country is about to enter another Great Depression.

I can promise you this. No matter which one of us you elect, that’s not going to happen.

I’d like to tell you that voting for me will be the answer to the concern you have tonight.

My opponent would like to tell you that voting for him will be the answer to the concern you have tonight.

But the fact is, neither one of us is the answer. The fact is, we’re both the answer.

Because we’ve got to work together to overcome the lack of confidence you have in government, in the financial system, in big business, in the news media.

We and our parties and business leaders and those who work for government institutions and those who are supposed to be the ones who keep us informed — we’ve all got to work together to help restore your confidence in all the institutions that have failed you because of their greed and sloppiness and mis-judgement and mis-management and fear and ineptitude and complacency.

Most importantly: You are the answer. All of you. Those who play by the rules. Who work and study and serve.

Those of you who work on an assembly line or at a small business or who manage large corporations.

This is up to you. You can do something about it by continuing to believe in yourselves and in the fundamental goodness of other people like you here in America and throughout the world.

It’s time to get over your fear.

It’s time to start believing again.

It’s time to start believing in yourself and in your friends and in your communities.

It’s time to support each other like you do after a flood or tornado or big blizzard.

It will take a long time for you to start believing again in government or Wall Street or corporate CEOs.

They — we — have let you down.

But you’ve got to start believing in yourself.

I believe in you. My opponent believes in you.

You are what makes me believe in a future that is filled with hope, not fear.

And no matter which one of us is elected President, that fact will remain.

Recommended reading: The first provides historical context related to the Great Depression vs. today and the second, an explanation of how panic (negative feedback loop) works in financial markets:

As Dire as the Times May Seem, History Isn’t About to Repeat Itself (Wall Street Journal)

Forget Logic; Fear Appears to Have Edge (The New York Times)

In Praise of Bernanke (The New York Times)