Ding! Time's up for the illusion that dotcom guarantees success. If you're still in the game, lucky you. If you're not, take solace in knowing the rest of us are learning from your mistakes.
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Gail Klein Bentley was on top of the world-actually, wayhigher than that. The 30-year-old Charlottesville, Virginia,entrepreneur had zoomed out of nowhere to land $1.2 million inangel funding in the fall of 1999, and her Web site,WorkingWeekly.com, was the subject of heavy buzz. It had quicklygrown to 60 employees and had a potentially huge customer basebecause its focus was on the changing workplace-on helpingpeople find meaning and fullfillment in their working lives. Howcould it fail?
Then one day the bottom fell out. "I had a commitment for$2 million in additional funding. The day they were supposed to putin the money, they withdrew the offer," recalls Bentley. Notgood-and the ride became stomach-turning bumpy. "Ofcourse I went to other funders, but nobody else would invest,"says Bentley, who served as chair, president and publisher. "Ihad to lay off all 60 employees. I had never failed in my life.That was just a terrible time."
As we've all seen in the news, Bentley's pain isn'tall that unique. Last year, the talk was about the mushroomingnumber of dotcom millionaires. These days you hear more about allthe dotcom disasters. Even big names are among the casualties:Living.com, Boo.com (although Fashionmall.com did buy and reopenit), Pets.com and even ToySmart.com, a onetime Disney subsidiary.But countless lesser-known companies went under, too. Entire Websites have sprouted to do nothing but maintain death watches onsputtering dotcoms. The upshot is that what had seemed a no-brainerroute to riches suddenly looks more like a dead end. But is it? Isdotcomming only for kamikazes determined to flame out? Is therestill money to be made online?