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tomhudson's Journal: How many dot-boms do you have under your belt? 17

Journal by tomhudson
They say that you learn more from failures than from successes, and that you need at least 3 failures to "season you" or whatever ... so while I was walking the dogs this morning, I got to thinking of how many dot-bombs I've managed to "survive".

How many dot-bombs have you survived?

The rules:

  1. It only counts if it was a job that you got a pay check, no joint-venture equity stuff;
  2. The bigger the bankruptcy, the more points;
  3. It has to have an Internet component to it or it doesn't count - be creative if you have to be (just like the clowns who mismanaged it were, right?);

My top 7

  1. Network manufacturer (9-figure final losses, and no, it wasn't Nortel);
  2. Point-of-Sale software;
  3. Internet and web services;
  4. Point-of-Sale software redux;
  5. Satellite communications hw/sw;
  6. Finance portal;
  7. Streaming real-time video hardware/software;

What were the causes of failure? Most of the time, it was a combination of one or more of the following:

  • management infighting,
  • a lack of planning (no fixed requirements - we all know how that always works out so well),
  • allocating more resources to marketing and sales than to initial product development ("You sold the demo? They want the final product in 2 weeks? R U insane?"),
  • lack of a target market ("throw enough s**t at the wall and hope some of it sticks"),
  • featherbedding/nepotism,
  • unrealistic deadlines,
  • high turnover (people exposed to unrealistic deadlines mostly using their job as a launch-pad for finding a job elsewhere, where hopefully things will be better),
  • inadequate funding,
  • lack of physical resources (cube farms are the worst places to do the deep thinking required to prevent miss-steps)
  • poor communications.

In these scenarios, it doesn't matter that you actually meet your deliverables - you're doomed.

Top 10 list

  1. When the projector goes on, leave the room. Nothing good will come of it, whether it's a Powerpoint presentation or yet another hopeless demo;
  2. People whose paycheck depends on believing that "this time it's different" or "it will work this way because we're different" are also circulating their resumes because deep down they know they're wrong, and they want to be gone before the big fail;
  3. When they propose to salvage their idea by including user-created, user-rated, user-shared porn to draw more eyeballs to their "new social networking platform", try not to laugh - they get upset easily;
  4. When management buys into the idea and makes it (the previous item) your #1 priority, they obviously have no clue that Internet == free pr0n, or that paid pr0n == huge legal issues;
  5. The more secretive they are about their "great new idea" and the less they want to discuss the actual requirements of the job, the more likely that it's been done before - LOTS of times.
  6. Get any promises or commitments in writing - otherwise they're not worth the paper they're not written on;
  7. Avoid people who spend all their time drawing pretty diagrams. They do *not* know how to normalize a database and will take it to a really ugly extreme. The do *not* understand what a race condition is - their flow chart doesn't permit the concept. They do *not* understand that "just code this" is only the beginning, not the end.
  8. "I want you to copy X". Sorry, they spent millions building that, and you want a clone for how little? And how soon?
  9. Objective-C? Are you willing to post a bond to guarantee 6 months pay in advance? Did you know that more than 99% of all iPhone apps make less than the cost of the dev kit? Oh, you didn't? Did you check to see if someone else is selling the same thing? You did. Why will people pay you when all those other ones are free? Because it's only $20? That's not a reason.
  10. I might not be a lawyer (even though I sometimes play one in court), but trust me on this - your plan to spam millions of cellphone users with multimedia ads is illegal. It violates the terms of use of the computer-to-cell-network gateway.

Afterward

In retrospect, the 80-some-odd percent implosion rate pretty much accords with the anecdotal figure of 83% that we hear all the time. Things are improving, but only because there's less need for new build-out. Companies that are laying off don't need new software to manage new processes - they're going to make do with what they have, or buy the carcase of a competitor for next to nothing. They'll make do with the inefficiencies of running multiple systems because it's in the best interests of the people making the decisions - fixing the problem can make them redundant, and even trying can expose them to the risk of failure.

So yes, in the future fewer software projects will fail, but much of that is because fewer projects will be attempted as most businesses retreat further into "it's good enough - don't touch it" mode. We haven't arrived at the "good enough computing" on the software side yet, but certainly as we approach it, investment and jobs are both dropping dramatically.

Further reading

Those jobs aren't coming back
Unemployment will rise - note: The projected decline in tourism and hospitality showed up in August's stats up here.
A repeat of 1980
IT unemployment, already higher than other white-collar jobs, will rise

That's one of the problems with history - it repeats itself. 1980, 1991, 2001, 2010 ...

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How many dot-boms do you have under your belt?

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  • Well, I'm not going to score as I have kept another job going whilst trying to start things that have not worked. I think my primary failing would be not communicating what I really want or in my own mind thinking that I have communicated my wishes needs or desires to others. Working my best at changing that. Why did I comment, well I love your history repeats itself comment, I shall store away the fat of 2018 and get ready for 2020 ;-) I do believe in failing forward faster though. You have to try try a
    • by tomhudson (43916)
      Thanks :-) Fail fast is good, until you run out of capital (human and financial) to afford to fail. Then you just fail ...

      We're heading for that in many industries right now, where the small businesses that support larger businesses are finding themselves increasingly on the edge. The same goes for individuals. Education has now been shown, in many cases, not to make enough difference in income over a lifetime to pay for itself. In fact, it has once again become a liability, where you have to lie so that

  • It started out as a great company, full of incredibly talented people, doing innovative things in the credit card world. Then, as we grew, we started hiring mediocrity. Management infighting resulted in one of the two co-founders leaving (not voluntarily), and although we were bought out before bankruptcy, they had us over a barrel by then, so my options were worthless and the only people to make money from the company were the two co-founders. The remaining one made money from the sale. The one that left m
  • by gmhowell (26755)

    Never had the misfortune of working for a dot-bomb. No loss.

    Percentages:

    99% of app store apps are shit. No wonder that same percent don't recoup devkit costs. Duh.

    80% of businesses fail, why should IT shops be different?

  • 1) A public Internet access kiosk mfr, which got bought out while I was there by a DSL installer/provider.

    Dot-com credentials: The name of the original company I joined began with a single lower-case 'i'. 'Nuff said. (And the name of our eventual parent company included a term connoting "intelligent growth". <chokes on the irony>)

    Causes of failure:
    * At the parent company, accelerating and out-of-control rates of hiring and spending after a few (allegedly) strategic acquisitions.
    * For our division, Int

    • by tomhudson (43916)
      The vb shop thing - the horrors. There's still one company that has a job offer looking for someone to code in vb. The only reason I bought vb was for the manual so I could translate an app to another language for a client. Ended up just grabbing the database files, cleaning them up, and writing my own design from scratch.

      That same client spent $4 million on a failed internal vb project. I could have done it in 3 to 6 months alone, but there was no way that was going to happen - it was too political. Even

  • As I've mentioned before, I used to work for none other than CompUSA. They are in some ways almost the mother of all bombs as they were making money hand-over-fist for a while and then they let an army of craptacular upper management lead them to near total oblivion. Of course, that was before they were bought out by none other than the richest man in Mexico (and his financial team - they should have renamed it "CompMexico" at that point but I guess the name wasn't as catchy). Unfortunately Carlos Slim a
    • by tomhudson (43916)
      For CompUSA, they were changing the names of a bunch of tigerdirect stores to CompUSA [pcworld.com], so your guess about which brand was worse was accurate :-)

      Of course, they were also looking at past big-screen tv sales and figuring "we can sell even MORE" just as the price competition got hot and the market started going yuck.

      Then again, who knows - they were dumb enough to buy Circuit City as well - wow!

      A quick comparison - I clicked on a cheap laptop at circuit city. 2 gig ram, 160 gig he, $419.00. The exact s

      • I actually didn't know beforehand that there were TigerDirect stores. However, considering the fact that for the past few years of their existence CompUSA was the store you went to in order to not buy what you wanted - because they never had whatever you wanted in stock (because the corporate purchasing bots were a bunch of acid-tripping tsetse flies). So with that kind of stellar reputation one has to wonder just how terrible TigerDirect was as a store - I have never lived anywhere that had a TigerDirect
  • I started off when the 2000-bot-bomb hadn't gone off and you could get IT jobs without a degree. I had a degree and decided to go "old-style", first acquiring experience a few years. That was at a consulting company which had different names because of buyoff/fusions etc... I order: E&Y Consulting, DMR Consulting, Fujitsu Consulting. It was always the same company though. I ended up staying there for 6 years.

    Then I had my brief excursion in eduation and as such I was a public servant. When fleeing,

    • by tomhudson (43916)
      If it pays the bills ... as far as I'm concerned, if men are stupid enough to pay to watch it, they're being exploited just as much as the women.
      • Yes, in the world of cam-girls (which is what we do), it is definitely the men being exploited. It pays the bills, and frankly, it's the best job I ever had. No, we don't watch pr0n all day, but it's the first job where I actually could use Linux professionally. This country is in the firm grip of Redmond. Odds are, I'll never ever have a job again where I get that much exposure to Linux.

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          . This country is in the firm grip of Redmond

          So is Quebec. Even after a judge scolded the government publicly (and found they had violated the law), nothing has changed. As I've mentioned elsewhere, a large part of the problem is the post-secondary education system, which geared up to mass produce "Information Workers for the Knowledge Economy" - but of course, they took the easiest route to "making the numbers" - mass-producing Windows-only workers at all levels.

          It's one of the reasons that all the re

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