Final Appearance One dot.com that is doing well these days is fuckedcompany.com, which has taken off so fast that it has had to move to more robust servers.
The site is a black-humoured spoof of Fast Company, but instead of breathless profiles of the cool start-up du jour, you get rumours about their imminent demise. Silicon Valley veterans say they have seen such gloom before: in 1997, when the search engines sank below their IPO issue price, or back in the 1980s, when the semiconductor industry went through its usual cycles. And internet companies in Silicon Valley often have core technology, which is always worth something - to customers, venture capitalists and, ultimately, the public markets. But the list of companies that make it onto fuckedcompany.com will get a lot longer before the tech world rights itself. And the downturn is going to be particularly bad in the UK, where so many companies were built on online retail markets that are questionable in the US, let alone in a country with only a tenth as much online spending.
Last time I was in London, I bumped into an entrepreneur acquaintance called Mark, a management consultant who launched an internet retailer not through passion for the idea but because everyone he knew was jumping into the new economy. He was a poster boy of the internet revolution, profiled so often in supplements that one wondered how he had time to run a business.
His second-round funding has fallen through and he will subsist on a drip-feed of bridge loans for as long as his early backers have patience.
The measure of the internet downturn is this: he would be happy to sell the company and escape with his dignity. Better a trade sale than every entrepreneur's worst nightmare: a final press appearance on fuckedcompany.com.
ADVANCE WARNING Until recently, many landlords in Silicon Valley tacked a demand for equity rights onto their terms for a commercial lease. Some made more money that way than from the rents themselves. No longer. At Moreover.com, we have been on the search for real estate in New York's Silicon Alley, and now it is cash that counts. One landlord is asking us for 12 months' rent up-front, in cash, without interest.
REVERSION THERAPY But there is a silver lining. At least the fuckedcompany.com victims are releasing their staff into the labour market. And interviews, in which candidates typically flaunt the number of other start-ups they are evaluating, may return to the customary format: conversations in which the company is interviewing the candidate, not the other way round.