Tales From the Dotcom Darkside

Another One Bites the Dust

Compared to the relative sensibility of Webvan's model, Kibu.com was the classic case of a highfalutin dotcom that disintegrated as the industry entered its revaluation phase in mid-2000. Hired as director of technology, Arcadia Kim liked the concept of marketing exclusively to teenaged girls. Among Kibu.com's oeuvre of marketing strategies were chat rooms, Web site personalities that gave advice on everything from school to makeup, and an accompanying retail and entertainment venture designed to capture and convert teenage girls into loyal users.

"My job was probably the most interesting one I ever had," Kim says. "Once a month I would get dressed up and do a photo shoot and write a column. There was a lot of high energy and shifting goals. Almost immediately upon being hired, I started questioning the business model. My responsibilities were to implement core technologies on the site to connect to teens, with content, community and commerce attached to it."

Kim's sense of alarm, which started "almost immediately" upon being hired after graduation, was compounded by the fact that virtually everything at Kibu.com flew in the face of what she'd learned at HBS and in the business world: "When you're on the outside looking in, all you see is the hype. The whole Internet bubble was about dreamers being about to dream, and when you want to believe something, you will take everything in your heart to believe it." Kim was laid off in September 2000 along with most of Kibu's staff, and the company returned nearly half of the $22 million in venture capital the following month, a rare act of probity in an industry where Other People's Money was burned through as fecklessly as it was ventured.

BRAIN FOOD
Who else bit the big one? Find out in Philip J. Kaplan's F'd Companies: Spectacular Dot-Com Flameouts.

Now happily ensconced in Silicon Valley, of all places, Kim, 29, landed her dream job 18 months ago as a director of development with Electronic Arts. A longtime video game junkie, she's doing what she's always wanted to do, and she's working on a Lord of The Rings video game for Playstation 2. "My whole dotcom experience has turned into the cornerstone of my experience. Managing risks and learning how organizations work is just sort of ingrained in me now," she says. "I talked about it a lot while I was interviewing with EA. I took an entry-level position with them on the production side, where there aren't too many MBAs. Ultimately I learned what was really important was setting expectations about what can happen in one's career."

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This article was originally published in the July 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Tales From the Dotcom Darkside.

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