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Netpreneur John Daniels

With tenacity--and a movie--this serial netpreneur is determined to succeed in cyberspace.
3 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

By the enthusiasm in John Daniels' voice, you would never know there was a dotcom bust. The eternal optimist, he's clearly determined to make the Internet work for him. Daniels began his dotcom journey after college with virtually nothing but a dream. He's gone from one dotcom failure to the next, but that hasn't stopped him yet. Documenting his personal experience of the rise and fall of the dotcom industry, Daniels is now in the process of turning his story into Dotbomb: The Movie. Here's a glimpse of his take on the "dotbomb" phenomenon. How did you come up with the idea for your movie?

John Daniels: The movie was written while I was on the road trying to start my own dotcom, The movie is autobiographical as it follows my character on the road, at times being homeless, meeting people and working odd jobs trying to save enough money to start my dream. The movie has been writing itself over the past five years. It's about what happened to the industry, the Silicon Valley and the rise and fall of the dotcom. You should see the look on people's faces here. I see it every day. I look out my window, and people are afraid-they're trying to hold on to their jobs; there are "for lease" and "for sale" signs everywhere. Despite the shakeout, there is still hope here. We will never give up. What was your first experience in the dotcom world?

Daniels: I started making my way out to California in 1997, not knowing anything about html. I taught myself how to build a Web site. It took me about a year to build the site and add a secure shopping cart server, and then another year to advertise. In 1999, it just exploded as word got around. About 100,000 people were coming by daily. It started with just one or two orders per day, then it grew exponentially. That's how it failed. It grew faster than I could manage. When the market tanked and my stock portfolio went down, I didn't have enough capital to reinvest in to bring it back to life and give it the proper infrastructure that it needed. What have been some of the greatest lessons you've learned in your past endeavors?

Daniels: One lesson I learned from is that when you focus on one product or you're too dependent on one manufacturer or niche, you leave yourself vulnerable, and that's one mistake we didn't want to repeat. Currently we have plans to develop more than 300 portals. We have a really big vision, but we're also realistic, and we know that we need to work on it one portal at a time.

Another mistake I made with was that I just didn't have the knowledge of how to turn it into something larger. And I think the fact that I did it alone was a big mistake. At the time, [with] my history with and my attachment to it, I wanted to keep the whole thing to myself without taking in any investors or sharing equity. But I think I learned my lesson. That's why with my new organization,, we've put together a group of 10 entrepreneurs from the Valley. Together we pool our resources and knowledge.

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