Advice for the Web 2.0 Kids
Hey Gang, my name is KooKoo and I have some knowledge to impart to the Startup Billionaire Class of 2011...
In case you don't remember me, in the late 90's I was the mascot for Clocks.com, one of the highest-flying companies of the first internet boom. Things didn't exactly work out so well—but we did get to burn through 400 million bucks trying. Anyway, my purpose in writing this is to save the Facebooks and the Twitters and the LinkedIns and the Groupons from ending up like we did. So if you're a social media entrepreneur or a startup investor poised to cash in on the Web 2.0 explosion, please remember the following as you go after your dream:
1. Name it Last, Not First: So many horrific companies (my alma mater Clocks.com included) were founded on the premise that you get the domain first, then figure out the model. It appears that you guys get this and are doing it the other way around. There's no such thing as a "Zynga" in real life so I'm assuming you're building businesses and just grabbing whatever name is left even if its a gibberish word—this is a good thing.
2. No Sock Puppets: Back in the day, me and that Pets.com sock dog were constantly bumping into each other at photo shoots and interviews. I think we even dated the same chick at one point. He used to look down on what we were doing at Clocks.com as though being a "category killer" in pet food was some kind of aristocratic endeavor. Look at you now, sock dog! No more Regis and Kelly for you!
3. Gorilla Marketing is Fail: Guys, if you have to resort to staging impromptu singalongs in train stations or dressing up employees to run around South Street Seaport wearing fuzzy costumes in the August sun, that means you don't have a product that anyone really wants or needs. Imagine Apple staging a JobsMob with 500 college kids converging on a shopping mall wearing black turtlenecks—would never happen as people actually want the products. The more outrageous your marketing, the dumber your offering.
4. Don't Buy Nothing Stupid: Mark Cuban is the exception, not the rule. His nimble investments, including buying a basketball franchise, should be admirted but not copied. The rule here is Paul Allen, who inconceivably felt compelled to buy and then support a quasi-bankrupt cable company with billions of his own money. Take your billion dollars and give it to someone without your ambitions to manage for you, do your best to lose your own ATM pin number.
5. Avoid Old Media Temptation: Please do not assume that because you've started a big web company that your very presence assures victory at an Old Media turnaround. The AOL gang nearly committed media-cide in attempting to jazz up Time Warner, and don't even get me started with how many billionaires have met their personal Waterloo in the print newspaper world. Starting a successful business and fixing a formerly successful one that's fallen on hard times require two different skill sets. And no amount of entrepreneurial talent can persevere against an industry in permanent secular decline.
6. You are Not Mark Zuckerberg: Mark Zuckerberg isn't even Mark Zuckerberg. As nerdy as Bill Gates was, even he felt more comfortable on camera than this kid! I don't care what your mezzanine valuation says your net worth is, do not come on CNBC in a wetsuit like those kids for TheGlobe.com in 1999. Know what TheGlobe kids are up to these days? One now "writes" for the Huffington Post where they pay him in page views and Jamba Juice gift certificates, the other has a high profile gig at Yahoo where his title is Chief Opportunity Squanderer. Throw on a tie every once in awhile, this isn't a movie and no one wants to see their company's chairman on a pogo stick.
That about does it for your old friend KooKoo...you can read more at my column on HuffPo (yes, I have one too—you might also, go check) or follow me on Twitter @WashedUpWebMascot.
Read more from Joshua Brown at The Reformed Broker.
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