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Dot Coms and Garage Bands

Same song, different verse


I wrote this piece two years ago in August of 2000, but never got around to doing anything with it. Looking back on it now, it seems that my analysis was right on target.


I have been in the IT business for over 20 years. However, a fact known to only a few of my close friends and associates is that prior to that I had a brief career as a Rock & Roll musician. Over the last year or two in my EC consulting practice I've been approached by a few dot com startups and re-launches who have tried to lure me into working for them with promises of future riches. Although most have not amounted to much more than some free consulting, they have caused me to reflect about the nature of these enterprises. For some perverse reason this led me to start thinking about the garage bands I played with during my school years. As I thought more about it I was struck by a number of amusing parallels between dot com startups now and garage bands then.

In the Beginning

Now: Hey! I've got a great idea for a new Web-based business. You have the technical talent and Mary has the financial and legal background. Let's start up our own dot com!


Then: Hey!  I play keyboards and sing, you play guitar, Joe plays bass, and Bob plays drums. Let's start a band!

The Dream

Now: Launch an IPO, cash out, and retire at 30.


Then: Get a record contract, make gobs of money, meet chicks, and retire at 25.


Now: There's always at least one person with a VISION for a radically new service that they could offer on the Net that will change the face of business. The rest of the gang mostly just likes the work, and making some extra bucks on the IPO would be nice.


Then: There's always at least one guy with a VISION for a unique, new musical statement that will change the face of Rock & Roll, and maybe even popular culture. The rest of the gang just wants the chance to play music and impress the chicks.

Financing Options

Now: Angela's former boss knows a guy who can help us get some first round funding. However, we'll probably have to give up a good bit of equity.


Then: Jake's uncle knows a guy who owns a club where we can play for half of the door. But, we have to pay for our own drinks.


Now: Meeting at cocktail parties and professional associations, exchanging business cards, signing NDAs


Then: Meeting at parties and bars, passing joints, jamming

That Unique Lifestyle

Now: Frequent Filer miles, jet lag, overtime


Then: Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll

The GearHeads

Now: PDAs, Webphones, the skinniest laptop


Then: Synthesizers, effects pedals, the biggest honking amplifier

The Crucial Moment

Now: The presentation to the venture capitalists went OK, but there were some technical glitches with the demo.


Then: They said we looked pretty good at the audition, but the performance was kind of flat, the guitars drowned out the vocals, and the drummer was hung over.

The Finish

Now: Most dot com startups never turn a profit, and fade into obscurity.


Then: Most garage bands never got a record contract, and faded into obscurity.

The Moral

So, is there a moral in this? Despite all the talk of the new economy, things have changed less than the hypesters would have you believe. The faces have changed, it's a new arrangement and the tune sounds a bit different, but the lyrics and the story pretty much remain the same.


August 1, 2002

© Michael C. Rawlins