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F'd Companies

Philip J. Kaplan

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To purchase F'd Companies

Title: F'd Companies
Author: Philip J. Kaplan
Genre: Internet
Written: 2002
Length: 198 pages
Availability: F'd Companies - US
F'd Companies - UK
F'd Companies - Canada
  • Spectacular Dot-Com Flameouts

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Our Assessment:

B- : grating -- but in some ways perversely entertaining

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe D 23/6/2002 Elizabeth Corcoran
Business Week . 12/4/2002 Heather Green
The NY Observer . 22/4/2002 Karen Angel
Salon D 10/4/2002 Damien Cave

  From the Reviews:
  • "Somehow, it all works on the Web site. But page after page of this stuff just gets dull. Most of the reviews are only a page or two -- just long enough for a couple of sentences describing the company and then the zingy Kaplan put-down." - Elizabeth Corcoran, Boston Globe

  • "F'd Companies is an improvement over Kaplan's site in that it distills a lot of information while maintaining the mocking, satirical tone. In the end, reading F'd Companies is a little like picking a scab that has nearly healed. Kaplan had a moment in time, but that moment was about nine months ago. By now, everyone and his Pets.com puppet has chimed in on how stupid the whole craze was." - Heather Green. Business Week

  • "Heís funny, but his juvenile humor would play better in a bar than in a book. Also, his editors could have fixed his spelling and syntax without compromising his authenticity. (...) Mr. Kaplanís book may not be weighty, but it sure does capture the mood." - Karen Angel, The New York Observer

  • "Let's face it -- the book sucks. (...) I'm not amused by Kaplan's attempted literary antics. It's not just that he's misogynistic and a terrible writer. It's also that Kaplan's jokes are about as flaccid as an old man's penis, while his big insight -- hey, these guys spent too much money, too fast ! -- seems to be, uh, SCREAMINGLY OBVIOUS." - Damien Cave, Salon

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Briefly, there was a spectacular Internet boom. Money -- huge amounts of money -- was invested in every cockamamie idea that anyone came up with, as long as it had to do with the Internet. Ambitious websites were built. Millions were made as brand-new companies went public. Stock valuations jumped to unheard of (and unfathomable) levels. And then, of course, the house of cards famously collapsed. Seems pretty much everyone forgot a basic business rule: at some point you actually have to make money.
       There are a few money-making exceptions, and any number of companies with an Internet-presence that will continue to hang around, but there have been a large number of incredible failures as well. Philip J. Kaplan's infamous website, FuckedCompany.com serves as a still growing archive of many of those dot.coms that turned out to be dot-bombs. F'd Companies offers a survey of the prime examples, along with brief commentaries by Kaplan focussing on where these companies went wrong.
       Kaplan is quite the character. On the Internet he goes by "Pud", but (for sensible reasons explained in the book) he chose the more serious "Philip J. Kaplan" to publish the book under. But make no mistake: it's Pud who wrote it.
       Pud is ... irreverent. Which is probably inevitable, given the large-scale stupidity that he deals with on his website and in this book. The name of his website -- which they still won't print in The New York Times and many other newspapers and magazines -- pretty much sets the tone: Kaplan couldn't care less about offending. His vocabulary is ... creative. He uses words like: "craptacular" and "fucknozzles", etc. And he is prone to over the top asides, noting, for example, parenthetically about the word "prospectuses": "yes that's the plural for 'prospectus' eat me very much".
       (We also learn far too much about Pud himself, in particular his need for lotion. His honesty is almost refreshing but some things might be better left unsaid -- writing about "ex-MTV chick Kennedy", for example, he notes: "call me crazy, she gave me wood". And you probably won't want to know why he is learning yoga .....)
       Kaplan's introduction gives a bit of background about him, The Internet, and his website. Amazingly, FuckedCompany.com is a relatively new site, put together by Kaplan over the Memorial Day weekend, 2000. It was an immediate and extraordinary success -- and continues to enjoy great popularity, both in terms of the number of visitors to the site as well as the number of Internet companies that continue to join the dreaded ranks.
       Most of the book then is devoted to the companies that failed (some do still survive, in some form, but all failed spectacularly at some point or another). There are over a hundred f'd companies in the book. Kaplan groups them in sixteen sections, each devoted to a different misguided principle ("Content was King") or bad idea ("Solutions in Search of a Problem"). Each company's generally ridiculous business plan is briefly described -- followed by some words on its sad but inevitable collapse.
       Each company warrants just a few short paragraphs, barely a page in most cases. Kaplan rails against the most obvious and outlandish missteps (and many are pretty far out there), and has some fun at the companies' expense -- easy pickings, with this material, and Kaplan usually makes the most of it.
       It makes for a lot of mind-numbing, scary stuff. Because of the space limitations, Kaplan really tears through these companies (figuratively and literally). He generally does mention how much money was wasted (incredible amounts) and he does offer some insight into the reasons for the failures. But overall this is just a speed-tour through Internet hell, a catalogue more than a book. Perhaps some of these ideas don't deserve more attention (over and over again one asks oneself: what could these people possibly have been thinking -- or smoking), but more substantial treatment of the material would have been far more interesting than what little is presented here. As is there is more information about these companies (and more entertainment value) at FuckedCompany.com itself. The book reads like little more than a very long magazine article.
       Still, there is some fun here. There are the truly nutty ideas -- CyberRebate.com (which he actually devotes two pages to), Digiscents, SwapIt.com, CashWars.com -- and Kaplan revels in the absurdness of these and many other sites nicely. The all-star collapses are also present -- Webvan and the like. -- each succinctly dealt with. Some of the failures are wonderful -- like Bid.com, a failed online auction site that apparently now hocks its auction software to other companies, leading Kaplan to ask: "Would you throw a wad of money at a software company who failed USING THEIR OWN SOFTWARE ?" But of almost all there is simply too little.
       Kaplan's no B.S. attitude is refreshing. He feels that the great majority of these sites have no excuse for what they perpetrated. His outrage is sincere (and, by and large, dead-on). Fun though these wacko ideas are, a lot of damage was done. Workers, investors, and customers got hurt, while many executives and a small class of investors made out like bandits.

       F'd Companies is a useful catalogue of many of the mistakes of the so-called Internet boom. Greater exposition (and some stylistic restraint) would have been far preferable. As is, it is a fun (if often annoying) little book to leaf through -- and a good lesson in hubris. Okay, but in sum a bit disappointing.

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F'd Companies: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • Michael Wolff's Burn Rate
  • See also the Index of books about the Internet at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Philip J. ("Pud") Kaplan is founder of FuckedCompany.com and president of PK Interactive.

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© 2002-2021 the complete review

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