Damn Dotcoms!

Dotcom Failures

Don't sweat it, you're not alone.

"Oh sure, there's some resentment," says Greg Walker, the 31-year-old president and co-founder, with wife Gina, of Supercali Snacks, an Oakland, California-based distributor of snack foods that had $10.5 million in sales last year. "The dotcom money came too fast, and you have to question whether they deserve it. The only Web companies I've heard of making money are Yahoo! and America Online. The rest of them may look good to the market [at times], but it's phony money."

Walker may have a point. Some say that the dotcoms are sucking up all the venture capital while their market capitalizations hold the stock market hostage for the rest of the business world. Walker's one of them. "The distribution business is tough enough on its own, without the challenge of fighting Web companies for money," he says. "I'd like a piece of the action, but I'd have to wait in line behind the dotcom guys."

Lots of others see things Walker's way, adding that Wall Street's infatuation with Web companies is in a way akin to Alice when she stepped through the looking glass. "You've got to leave reality at the door when you look at a lot of these Internet companies," says 34-year-old Joel Osterloh, president of Suwanee, Georgia-based Timber Valley Forest Products, which saw sales of $14 million in 1999. "Our operating costs are a small percentage of our revenue, and we have to fight to make a profit. I don't understand how a dotcom company can be more efficient than we are, but everybody seems to love them."

Osterloh doesn't buy the investment analysts' spin that Web companies will make money "sooner or later." "How do they know that?" he asks. "I keep hearing the analysts say these things, but let's look at reality. It's easier to walk down the street and go into a store, and buy a lawnmower or a suit. What happens if you want to return something? What happens if a dotcom's site crashes, as most of them do? I think the dotcom craze will come back to haunt investors who can't answer these questions. I think investors are being sold down the river."

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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Damn Dotcoms!.

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