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dot.bomb: My Days and Nights at an Internet Goliath [Kindle Edition]

J. David Kuo
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)

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Book Description

J. David Kuo had a ringside seat at one of the biggest busts of the Internet age. Value America (NASDAQ: VUSA) was supposed to revolutionize retailing by using the Internet -- no more retailers or distributors needed. Fred Smith, legendary founder of Federal Express, called it the best business model he'd ever seen and invested millions of dollars. In a few short years, the company raised and spent hundreds of millions of dollars before a spectacular crash.

As Senior Vice President of Communications, Kuo saw the stupefying insanity of it all: the machinations, delusions, good efforts, and wild miscalculations that led to the company's demise. Writing with a liveliness and flair seldom seen in business narratives, Kuo brings us tales of wretched excess, inspired salesmanship, online dreams, and unmitigated moneygrabbing. This is an unforgettable story of Internet mania that everyone who ever invested in a tech stock will be dying to read.

Editorial Reviews Review

Anyone who stumbled through the Web's earliest days--as either a starry-eyed entrepreneur, investor, or employee--will find plenty to recognize in J. David Kuo's insightful and entertaining dot.bomb. Wrapped in the tale of Value America, Craig Winn's wildly unsuccessful bid to hop aboard the Internet revolution in 1997 and totally remake retailing, the book paints a clear picture of the way optimism and wishful thinking became fatally intermingled in the rush to mine the gold supposedly buried deep within this glowing, new electronic medium. And Kuo, formerly the company's senior vice president of communications, knows the story intimately and shows here that he also knows how to tell it.

"The single goal was to build scale, build the brand, and become the Internet behemoth... overnight," he writes in describing how Winn, a traditional businessman with traditional ideas about building a traditional company, was sucked into the day's unbridled cyber-fervor as he tried to assemble his vision of a one-stop electronic shop that took advantage of all the Net's imagined bells and whistles. "[But] Winn had more competitors than he imagined," Kuo continues. "In Silicon Valleys, alleys, and corridors, retailers, technologists, and bankers were creating companies that would sell pet food, lingerie, books, electronics, discount items, luxury items, home-improvement items, furniture, and everything else imaginable. All those companies were already operating on new Internet math. Winn had to catch up."

In the pages that follow, Kuo vividly chronicles the heady years that came just after Michael Wolff's pioneering Burn Rate era, and he does so with just as juicy an insider's perspective (although without the rancor and animosity that such an experience often engenders). There also are plenty of practical lessons here. One strongly suspects, however, that much like those brought back from gold rushes to Sutter's Mill, these also will go largely unheeded when the fever spreads again. --Howard Rothman

From Publishers Weekly

The publishing industry's newest genre the dot-com memoir sees its latest offering in Kuo's account of his tenure at "e-tailer" Value America. Kuo joined the company as senior v-p of communications in the spring of 2001, shortly after the company's IPO made prospective millionaires of its shareholders. But the company couldn't live up to its hype: despite claims of an "inventoryless" retail revolution (shipping directly from manufacturers to consumers), Value America was chronically unable to track orders, slow in delivering shipments and wracked by internal dissent. Still, this was the dot-manic golden moment, when the prospect of making "gold simply by peddling sand" was too alluring (even "somehow erotic"). Eventually, of course, Value America declared bankruptcy, in August 2000. Kuo expertly grafts a dramatic sensibility onto this familiar boom-and-bust story, drafting exchanges between Value America's major players like scenes in a novel. Craig Winn, the company's charismatic, ambitious, fatally flawed hero-founder, seems worthy of a Greek tragedy. This entertaining, novelistic approach does much to hide the book's single disappointment: Kuo apparently wasn't very important to Value America's fortunes. He worked there for less than a year; aside from a brief prologue, he doesn't personally appear for almost 90 pages, three years after the company's founding. His imaginative reconstruction (quotations, eyewitness accounts, near-omniscient observations) may bother readers concerned with historical accuracy. But those vicariously seeking the thrill of the 20th century's most dynamic business period will find Kuo a good storyteller and an engaging guide.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 503 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0316089702
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (October 15, 2001)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000Q9EO5C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #501,966 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Employees Perspective November 17, 2001
I signed on as an executive with Value America at the IPO and stayed until I was laid off on the day the company declared bankruptcy. After more than a year, the memories of that experience are still quite vivid.
I thoroughly enjoyed David Kuo's writing style and think he has done a terrific job of capturing what truly was a ".Bomb". While a couple things might not be exactly correct, I don't recall a single material inaccuracy. Particularly accurate are his portrayals of Craig Winn and Glenda Dorchak. ".Bomb" is both entertaining and insightful. I highly recommend it.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent first-person lesson of Value America October 29, 2001
A wonderful book, written with humor and sadness. Humor stems from the author's style and the now-apparent, foolish ambition of Craig Winn and his Value America colleagues. Winn wasn't alone, and maybe 'ambition' is too kind. "Arrogance" might be a better term, shared by a lot of egomaniacs posing as entrepreneurs, launching dot.coms in the late 1990s. Sadness, because it would have been such a nice story if the tulip mania bubble didn't burst, and all of us were today equally drunk with wealth from these new economy firms.
Strangely, some of this reads like ancient history. Value America came and went so fast, determined to be the marketplace for the new millenium, the web site for everybody, satisfying shoppers' seven 'needs', doing four important functions perfectly, and never holding any inventory. First hints of the real mess they did have in inventory postponed their original IPO in 1998, only to see Value America rush right back into the IPO market in April 1999, with visions of billions of dollars in stock value at a time when $30 million in quarterly sales (along with millions more in losses) constituted their entire revenue stream. And most of that business was over the phone!
Winn comes across as a man easily impressed by himself. Within months of initial signs of success, he has his gubernatorial campaign laid out and his plans to be president by 2008 are going full steam ahead. From brief conversations with Henry Kissinger and Bill Bennett, Winn thinks he has a campaign advisory team. And all the time Winn ignores the fact that his business model is not working, his basic assumptions are incorrect, and his disbelief as to his naysayers is misplaced.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frighteningly Accurate Tale of a Dot-com Gone Bad November 14, 2001
By A Customer
I was a "Value American" and thoroughly enjoyed this book (though I had a few panicked flashbacks while reading it!). Kuo accurately depicts the personalities involved in this company--especially Craig Winn's (Upon my second meeting with Winn, I knew something was wrong with him--that he was not to be trusted--I probably should have listened to my instincts, but I stayed, inspired by many other people--such as CEO Tom Morgan. Kuo's depiction of Morgan as a smart, stand-up guy is right on.)
Though the drama that unfolds in Kuo's book may seem unreal, I assure you it wasn't. Kuo captured the eccentricities of senior management, as well as the electricity of the staff--everyone was family there--everyone was excited to work for and was dedicated to the vision, which makes its failure even more heartbreaking.
Kuo does a great job of explaining the traps that senior management fell into... the supposed "new rules" for dotcoms on reporting financials to the investor community... the risks posed to a company run by an egomaniac with no common sense... and the battles and alliances among senior staff that changed on a daily basis.
Kuo's book is a fun, wild ride--better than fiction. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the "new" economy... as well as any MBA students and profs, who may themselves have big ideas about starting a "new new thing." There are many lessons to be learned here. Enjoy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific read October 17, 2001
Although it seems the Internet craze is a world away, this is a terrific page-turner, and great story to escape into. It does give great business insight and background, very cool behind the scenes workings of the Internet (for all those of us who weren't inside, but just played the stock market). It's extremely well written, fast-paced, funny, with great characters that leave you eager to see what crazy things they'll do next!!! Given the market today, and stock/economy decisions we still face, there's enough education in here to make it a must read. enjoy!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Look at Net Mania at its worst November 22, 2001
As a former long-time resident of Charlottesville, I'm all too familiar with the rise & fall of the area's only billion+ $ net venture. So it was very interesting to get an insider's look at Value America through David Kuo's eyes.
First and foremost, this is a case study of a fast-moving with a "flexible" business plan. Value America was heralded for its inventory-less business plan, but eventually the major flaws in the model were revealed, especially on the B2C side. This book provides mostly cautionary tales. It describes the infighting and power struggles among the executives. It details the inability of the CEO to rein in the founder Craig Winn, the "visionary" promise-now/deliver-later salesman. And it touches on the operational failures that led to thousands of delayed orders and a general technology break down. Because Kuo was in PR and bus dev, we don't get an in-depth look at the information technology infrastructure, supposedly the crown-jewel of this company's assets. Instead we see the excessive and sometimes irresponsible deal-making that occured with little executive knowledge of the technological requirements.
It is an entertaining book that depicts how a company can blow through hundreds of millions of dollars that result in little salvageable value. Like the "" movie, dot.bomb also shows the emotional fallout at the executive level.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A polite but accurate look at the industry
I've been involved with technology, distribution, technology services and investment banking for over 35 years. Read more
Published 11 months ago by R. E. Statham
5.0 out of 5 stars Anatomy of a death spiral
I am VERY late (like 12 years late) to the party on this book, but had to write a recommendation because I really enjoyed it, and think there are good lessons for entrepreneurs and... Read more
Published on January 22, 2013 by GadgetChick
4.0 out of 5 stars The Creator Syndrome
I found this book because I have started a small business and wanted more insight into the dotcom failures. I must say that it was a very enjoyable read. Read more
Published on July 11, 2007 by D. Holland
3.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read
I enjoyed reading this immensely. The story is fascinating and a real page-turner. However, after deliberating the situation, reading additional material etc. Read more
Published on September 30, 2006 by Dr Noodle
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly educationaly
I found the book very useful for any budding entrepeneur. One can learn a lot from mistakes from Mr. Winn . Read more
Published on August 5, 2006 by F. Hussain
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite books!
If you're in business development....

If you've ever been in pitch meetings where you're inventing the company of the future, but selling it as if it's already... Read more
Published on April 25, 2005 by A. Podell
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
I think some of the criticisms of Mr. Kuo are too harsh. Like others, I noticed that in this book Kuo alternates between praising Craig Winn and describing the horrible actions of... Read more
Published on January 31, 2005 by Rais3dByWolv3s
3.0 out of 5 stars where's the panache?
Commendable read of the Internet debacle from a self-proclaimed insider. The problem of Value America was the same of most dot. Read more
Published on September 27, 2004 by DJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Fall of a
Though much has been written about successes (Google, EBay, Amazon), few books have been devoted to the failures which I believe provide the more interesting stories. Read more
Published on September 9, 2004 by Leo Lim
2.0 out of 5 stars No suspense
The problem with this book is that it didn't climax. The company didn't spectacularly go up in flames. Instead, Kuo lays out its problems page by page. Read more
Published on August 17, 2004 by JDo
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