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*kedCompany.com
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.
Dot.com Crash, Enough Already (RexBlog – 12/27/2000): One of the earliest posts on this blog concerned the 2000 year-end recap of the dot.com 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.