[Previous] [Next] - [Index] [Thread Index] - [Previous in Thread] [Next in Thread]

Subject: Re: UKNM: So, any techys from BOO like a job?
From: Danny O'Brien
Date: Fri, 19 May 2000 16:42:37 +0100

On Thu, May 18, 2000 at 05:35:26PM +0100, Leigh Blue Caldwell wrote:
> I wonder how avoidable Boo's problems were. Something like 2/3 of
> businesses fail in their first two years (this widely quoted statistic
> varies as widely as it is quoted, so don't, er, quote me on it). Boo
> just happened to have $135m spent on it before it failed.
> Someone had to try doing it this way - not being in the first wave of
> Internet businesses, Boo felt it had to spend a fortune to build a
> market presence in time to be in the second wave. If they hadn't
> failed - or hadn't tried at all - someone else would have tried it.
> So I am not too critical of them - in technical, or marketing, or
> operational terms. It turned out to be a bad strategy - but they might
> just as easily have got lucky.

Couldn't agree more. What really intrigued me all the way through the boo
story was that they were trying very hard - and very smartly - to pursue a
model that no-one else was trying. I actually found it really hard to
boo out of hand (even when everyone else was gearing up to, and when as
professional curmudgeon, I was practically honour bound to), because
whenever I'd spoken to them, it was clear that they'd plotted out the whole
thing as carefully as anyone else I'd seen.

Except, in their smartness, they'd applied a whole set of novel principles
that I had no way of testing as right or wrong. They seemed to be
rejecting the previous mode of prior successful Net startups: that of
small, and desperately scaling up as fast as your audience grew. Instead,
attempted to create all the instruments of an international brand, ex nihil,
from the first day they launched. Within the logic of that intent, they
*needed* an utterly perfect fulfillment system; they *needed* a presence in
every major market; they *needed* a gigantic media push; they *needed* a
spectacularly innovative Website. With smart enough people, and a hundred
million dollars, that seemed at least attemptable, just this once.

I couldn't decide about boo, because I could see no-one else who was had
anything like it. I knew that boo was nothing like Dell or Fedex, for
instance, who achieved their online success by re-engineering their existing
business practices: bolting on a sophisticated fulfillment and inventory
system onto a Web front-end. And while people would talk about boo being the
Amazon of sports gear (or whatever), it seemed obvious that their plans were
*nothing* like Amazons. Amazon spent months barely turning over when it
and then suddenly popped one Christmas, when - as corporate legend has it -
even Bezos had to help out with filling the orders. After that, it was a
to match expectations with infrastructure. Boo seemed, instead, to be
attempting something along the level of becoming as complex a corporation as
Fed-Ex overnight.

In the end, I had to try and compare them to Microsoft, who are the only
company I've seen try and do this from scratch with MSN. That didn't bode
well, admittedly, but then, you can never quite reject Microsoft, even when
their current set-up sucked big time.

Microsoft can afford to get these things wrong. It's practically a
given with Microsoft that they burn off money until their third attempt at
anything, when they apply all the lessons of their previous failings in
getting it all, finally and terrifyingly right.

I was curious to see whether boo would do the same. I don't really have an
answer to that: the backers (understandably, maybe) baulked at the burn rate
long before boo had undergone the three or four re-inventions we'd expect

Joel Spolsky's excellent piece on corporate cultures at
http://joel.editthispage.com/stories/storyReader$113 has something to say
about this too, I think. I don't quite know quite how to incorporate it yet.
But one thing I do know: the boo board weren't dumb fashion victims, and one
of the things they did spent their money on was world class, smart people.
rather than keep clear of them, I reckon anyone ex-boo will turn out to have
more experience and a better understanding of how e-commerce works than I

So I'll shut up now.

on the other hand, woooo that UI sucked donkey cocks

the UK's totally managed affiliate marketing solution.
ukaffiliates.com >> the net.working
http://www.ukaffiliates.com / salesatukaffiliates [dot] com (mailto:salesatukaffiliates [dot] com)
telephone: 020 7691 1880 / fax: 020 7691 1881
To unsubscribe or change your list settings go to
http://www.chinwag.com/uk-netmarketing or helpatchinwag [dot] com

  UKNM: Did Boo have real management?, Sean Phelan

  Re: UKNM: So, any techys from BOO like a, Leigh Blue Caldwell

[Previous] [Next] - [Index] [Thread Index] - [Next in Thread] [Previous in Thread]