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inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #26 of 102: David S. Greene (dsg) Tue 10 Sep 02 19:14
    

Lori, what stories in the book were your favorites?  Which ones did you say
"this is just too weird--nobody's gonna believe this"?
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #27 of 102: Lori Gottlieb (lgottlieb) Tue 10 Sep 02 23:10
    
Well, all the "favorites" made it into the book :)

But I think the ones I find most entertaining are those that have to
do with how startups came up with their names.  It was all so
ridiculous, and yet there was a "science" to it in a way -- that for
your dot-com to make it on the radar screen, it had to meet certain
criteria (i.e., how could "Yahoo!" differentiate itself from the drink
"Yoohoo")

I also love the story of the Peace Corps spokesman talking about the
ads the non-profit used to recruit dot-commers after the crash. Things
like:

"Dot-com, dot-gone?  Now it's time to network in the real world: Peace
Corps."  Or

"Upgrade your memories, download the world."

The funniest anecdote from the "spin" chapter is about DEN, the
much-hyped (and much-funded) online entertainment site, whose
co-founder was being charged with homosexual pedophilia.  Their slogan?
 "DEN: Spank your mind"!

The famous Time-Warner "O.J.'s Guilty!" Web site debacle gets the
biggest rise out of readers.  I won't describe it here -- it's well
worth reading the first-hand account. 
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #28 of 102: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 12 Sep 02 11:09
    
Jesse, why did you get involved in writing this book with Lori? Did you also
work for a start-up that crashed?
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #29 of 102: Lori Gottlieb (lgottlieb) Thu 12 Sep 02 21:30
    
Actually, Jesse worked at a startup that still exists, IFILM, which
was co-founded Kevin Wendle, who, with Barry Diller, co-founded the Fox
Broadcasting Network.

The book idea came up after Jesse saw my Industry Standard expose
about my surreal experience at Kibu.  His was one of the emails that
came in response to that piece, and, well, I'll let him tell the story
from here...

Jesse?
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #30 of 102: Jesse Jacobs (jessejacobs) Thu 12 Sep 02 22:35
    
Cynthia,

I started thinking about compiling anecdotes for a book in the winter
of 2000 when I was working at IFILM.com, a film internet company based
out of LA.  I had been working for Yahoo! Internet Life, a Ziff-Davis
magazine prior to my stint at IFILM.  Many of my friends (mostly other
20-somethings) had been working at other dotcoms, many of which had
crashed or were on the verge of closing up.  I noticed a general
malaise among the 20-something dotcom generation.  These were smart,
motivated, creative people who felt lost.   They felt that they had
wasted several years in this dotcom "thing" and now they had to start
their careers over.  So, the birth of the idea for the book was an
attempt to get their stories down on paper, to provide them with a
positive outlet for their malaise.  This idea, however, evolved and
really began to take shape when Lori and I partnered up.  

But, I think it's worth noting that IFILM.com, the startup I worked
for, is still around and doing rather well.  It didn't "crash."  This
isn't so much a point of pride as it is a point of importance about the
misconceptions of the "era," of the subculture, if you will.  The
internet industry wasn't and isn't all "crash, burn and learn."  There
were positives.  There were success stories.  
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #31 of 102: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 13 Sep 02 10:07
    
> [It] wasn't and isn't all "crash, burn and learn."  There
>  were positives.  There were success stories.

Oh, absolutely! Many of the companies that have survived have probably
had to revise their ideas on how to generate income, but clearly not
every start-up has had to shut down.

Going into the future, how do you two think dot-coms that aren't selling
tangible products are going to fare? Now that the "excess" of start-ups
have disappeared, are there enough advertiser dollars to go around?  
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #32 of 102: Angus MacDonald (angus) Fri 13 Sep 02 10:07
    
        
        I have a question about the expensive advertising some of the
doomed companies did: Was it a matter of wily ad firms going after big
pockets and talking naifs into exposure far beyond their target markets,
or did the naifs themselves decide, "We wanna commercial on the Super
Bowl!," then go shopping for agencies?
                
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #33 of 102: Angus MacDonald (angus) Fri 13 Sep 02 10:08
    

[Cdb slipped; sorry to blather.]
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #34 of 102: Gerry Feeney (gerry) Fri 13 Sep 02 10:29
    
Hi.  Sorry to come late to this fascinating discussion.  My interest
in the book is greatly piqued.  

I can relate to much of this because I'm a veteran programmer who was
heavily involved with the mother of all dot-bombs  ** WebVan **  at the
flagship distribution center in Oakland in the months prior to its
grand opening.  I'm curious to know if WebVan was discussed in the
book.  
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #35 of 102: Angus MacDonald (angus) Fri 13 Sep 02 10:43
    

        It was.
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #36 of 102: Gerry Feeney (gerry) Fri 13 Sep 02 10:52
    
And what was said about it?  
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #37 of 102: Lori Gottlieb (lgottlieb) Fri 13 Sep 02 14:22
    
Ah...a WebVan refugee!  It's mentioned several times in the book. 
Let's see, there's some discussion of it in the IPO chapter
(accompanied by a graphic of a WebVan stock certificate that was sold
on eBay).  And, of course, several contributors mention WebVan in their
own stories -- usually to make a point about WebVan's business
decisions, and why, naturally, they didn't work.

Having been in the trenches there, you'll probably find these comments
witty or insightful or some combination of both.

 
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #38 of 102: Lori Gottlieb (lgottlieb) Fri 13 Sep 02 14:31
    
Angus asked about advertising -- this was the most difficult chapter
to keep at a manageable length because there were so many fascinating
stories and insights here.  And because, of course, every day there was
some news item in the NYT or Wall Street Journal about The Next Big
Thing in online advertising.

But in answer to Angus' question, the following quote from the book's
"Spin" chapter (Chapter 6) might shed some light:

"One thing that does stick in my mind is how the [advertising]agencies
always made their clients pay upfront," says Ziff-Davis ad executive
Jennifer Musillo.  "That says a lot about what they thought of their
clients --and how much faith they put in the success of their
campaigns."

Hmm...
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #39 of 102: David S. Greene (dsg) Fri 13 Sep 02 14:32
    

Lori or Jesse-
As the alums of various places you interviewed started to get word that you
were soliciting opinions, did you find people vying to get differing
viewpoints heard?  Was there a concern about some companies being portrayed
negatively?
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #40 of 102: Jesse Jacobs (jessejacobs) Fri 13 Sep 02 21:23
    
Naturally, public perception is an issue that is of great concern to
most companies and execs, especially at startups where public
perception can have great impact.  The most salient example of this is
with DEN.net, the much-ballyhooed online entertainment site.  We
include anecdotes from David Neuman, the company president, Matthew
Klauische, a Den tech guy, and Matt Welch, the (in?)famous webzine-er,
who worked at Den for several weeks and wrote about his experience
there in a much celebrated column on Online Journalism Review's website
(www.ojr.org).  Since DEN was such a sensitive subject and such an
incorrectly-portrayed company, our goal here was to provide several
perspectives so as not to limit our sources and opinions.

Our goal was to cut a wide swath across all New Economy industries and
positions.  So, we spoke to CEOs, VCs, lawyers, programmers, SF real
estate agents, party planners, journalists, senior execs, linguists, et
al.  The intent was not to single out any company or profile any one
person.  So, if and when people did vie to get their company's
perspective into the book, we listened to their requests, stories and
anecdotes with critical ears.  Our goal was to create a collective
memoir.  To gather anecdotes.  To provide people with a glimpse of what
the industry and era were like.  To the extent that anecdotes
satisfied these goals, we included the anecdotes.  To the extent that
the anecdotes and quotes merely covered one's ass, we were, well, more
skeptical.  These anecdotes required more diligent corroboration.

As for the issue that some companies were being portrayed negatively,
I'd have to say that we were aware that some companies may have been
perceived negatively by some of our interviewees.  But, a concern?  No.
 Furthermore, compared to the articles written about some of these
companies in the past, I think the negative portrayal that we included
was rather benign.  You be the judge......
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #41 of 102: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 14 Sep 02 06:35
    
It would be hard for some companies to escape negative portrayal, no?

I spoke to a reporter about the demise of WholePeople.com, but I didn't 
much want to talk about our mistakes. For one thing, we did a lot that 
was right, especially in our earlier incarnation at WholeFoods.com, and 
the perception of the good stuff we did was vanishing in the meltdown.

As enlightening and amusing as _Cult of Kibu_ has been, I find myself 
wondering if it wouldn't be cool and useful to assemble a flip-side kind 
of book: something about the innovations that emerged from dotcommunism, 
and a bit about the companies that were clueful, got the logistics as 
well as the interface right, succeeded and survived...?

No criticism implied... believe me, I too considered writing something
about the wretched excesses and buzzword-driven derangement of the times.  
*8-)
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #42 of 102: Jesse Jacobs (jessejacobs) Sat 14 Sep 02 07:25
    
Jon,

I think that's an excellent point.  Excluding Lori's Kibu story, our
intention was not to emphasize on the mistakes made by companies, but
rather to offer a collective memoir of "dotcommunism" (to use your
phrase).   Naturally, plenty of the mistakes and failures are brought
up by our interviewees.  Although I haven't tallied up the positives
dotcom stories or quotes and the negative dotcom stories or quotes in
the book, I would imagine that your assumption is right.  There are
more negatives than positives.  BUT, I would imagine that there are
more positives than a reader would guess there would be (again, taking
Kibu out of the equation).  Is this due to the expectations that one
has when reading ANYTHING about the industry?   Perhaps.

That all being said, I think you're right, Jon. I think the industry
has gotten too much of a bad rap.  Were there screwups?  You bet.  But,
did the industry produce unprecedented innovation and genuine
enthusiasm for new products and ideas?  Absolutely.   And, while I do
think that many of these positives come across in our book (especially
in the Idea Chapter and Culture Chapter), I regret that the focus (or
at least the perception of the focus) of the book seems to be on the
mayhem and mishaps. 
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #43 of 102: David S. Greene (dsg) Sat 14 Sep 02 09:37
    

Jesse and Lori-  What are you seeing from the book's buzz?   How are the
stories being received, and are you getting a "theme" developing from the
pattern of commentary?

As a followup, is any of this unexpected?  Are you surprised that folks are
concentrating on (insert anecdote or theme here) as opposed to (insert
alternate story or theme here)?
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #44 of 102: Gerry Feeney (gerry) Sat 14 Sep 02 09:40
    
Lori & Jesse, do you include any analysis or speculation on the "What
went wrong?" aspects?  Is your book likely to be included alongside
case studies in business schools?
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #45 of 102: Lori Gottlieb (lgottlieb) Sat 14 Sep 02 11:33
    
Good question, David, because YES, there have been some themes to the
buzz/feedback.

Critics who praise the book evaluate it based on whether it works as a
fresh look into this world and era; whether we present new
perspectives via our contributors' voices and our own editorial
choices; and whether it was a page-turner, whether they found the
writing and the book's sensibility both entertaining and enlightening.

The one negative review to date came from a critic who spent most of
his essay discussing how idiotic dot-coms were (and are), then went on
to say that the book was interesting and enjoyable but who cares about
dot-coms?  (He/she, who apparently used to be a Time staffer, began the
review by making fun of his former colleagues for running so many
stories about the era, citing one Time cover story in particular.  So,
we never really had a chance...) 

For people who want to see a behind-the-scenes, intimate, and very
human portrayal of this time, the feedback's been great.

The funny thing is, on every radio interview I've done for this book,
the host has said, "You know, I almost joined a dot-com" or "My best
friend worked at whateveritwas.com," etc.  It's sort of like someone
sayng, "You know, my friend was alcholic" or "I also struggled with a
drinking problem."  It becomes almost confessional because even those
who stayed far away from it all couldn't help but be touched by it on
some level during those years.
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #46 of 102: Lori Gottlieb (lgottlieb) Sat 14 Sep 02 11:35
    
Re: Jon's post earlier -- There are a number of companies mentioned in
the book that did things right and are still around. Maybe our book
simply reflects the real-world ratio of those that made it to those
that didn't.  So there's an imbalance, but it's definitely not
one-sided. (At least, we hope not!)
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #47 of 102: Lori Gottlieb (lgottlieb) Sat 14 Sep 02 11:42
    
Gerry - Yup. Our contributors talk a lot about what went wrong and
what they've learned and what they'd do differently and what WAS done
right.  Most interesting to me was hearing not just from CEOs of these
companies but from the attorneys and VCs and other outside folks who
could offer a different perspective from those in-house.

A lot of biz grads from Harvard, Stanford, other top schools appear in
the book, and yes, the feedback from them (and their professors, I
hear) is that this should be read by every MBA student today,
especially because they witnessed this and for many, it's all they
really know about the business world, given their ages and work
experience.  So it's like, Here's what happened, and here's what anyone
going into business can learn from it.

Jesse, as you all know, has just begun business school at Wharton. 
Jesse - I saw the nice review in the Wharton magazine, but what have
your colleagues said about the book?  Your professors?  

Have you been using your experience at IFILM to inform what you're
learning about now?
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #48 of 102: David S. Greene (dsg) Sat 14 Sep 02 13:50
    

(Heaven for an interviewer is when the guests start asking *each other*
questions!)

Yeah, Jesse.  What are they saying at Wharton about The Cult of Kibu?  How
has IFILM informed your current experiences?



(excellent questions, Lori!)
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #49 of 102: Lori Gottlieb (lgottlieb) Sun 15 Sep 02 11:53
    
The funniest feedback I heard from a Stanford biz school student who
dropped out to become CEO (ahem!)of a dot-com and has now returned,
tail between his legs, to get his degree was:

"It's like looking in the mirror.  No wait, it's like looking at two
photos of oneself: the 'before' and the 'after.' And s--t, the 'before'
picture's hard to look at, but if you don't look, you can't see how
far you've come since then."
  
inkwell.vue.158 : Lori Gottlieb & Jesse Jacobs: "Inside the Cult of Kibu"
permalink #50 of 102: Jesse Jacobs (jessejacobs) Sun 15 Sep 02 14:48
    
The response at Wharton has been overwhelmingly positive.  As you can
probably imagine, the professors seem to especially revel in the
failure of many dotcom companies.  The financial projections, marketing
strategies and economics of many New Economy firms were so out of
whack with business standards to-date.  So, in the late 90's you had
b-school students learning one thing about finance, marketing, econ,
etc... and witnessing the exact opposite in the market place.  The
market was not valuing net income, effective management of assets,
etc...  The market was valuing hype and growth at the expense of value.
 So, now, in 2002, MBA professors can look back at the last five
years, and say "See!  Our methods work!  That is why you need to learn
X, Y and Z."  Their jobs are saved!

As far as lessons from IFILM and using them to inform my learning
experience at Wharton, I think it boils down to something very
fundamental.  Working at a start-up gives you the opportunity to jump
head-first into the operations of a business, the growth strategy, and
many of the implications involved in each aspect of the business.  But,
what it does not do is teach you the fundamentals or provide you with
the benchmark by which you should measure success.  B-School does. 
It's funny, because even though I've only been here at Wharton for a
couple months, I've already picked up so many tools that I wish I had
when I was out in the workplace.  
  

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