The InsiderOne Daily Report
Tuesday, May 8, 2001
Anything, Or Nothing
InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: It's a good time for the Repo Man in Silicon Valley. A lot of dot-com wizards who were livin' large can't make their car payments, and so Porsches, BMWs and the like are being rounded up. Finding oneself face-to-face with a Repo Man is, according to the Wall Street Journal, a "traumatizing" experience. "It's a shocking jolt," personal bankruptcy attorney Ike Shulman told the Journal. It is hard evidence that things have gone very, very wrong. The Repo Man's knock on the door is just more fallout from the bursting of the Internet Bubble. A lot of folks many of them just a few years out of college are trying to make sense of what happened. For some, such as Globe.com founders Stephan Paternot, 27, and Todd Krizelman, also 27, it has meant going from being worth, on paper, over 70 million each to a fraction of that. Others may not have ever been worth millions, but they often felt like a million bucks thanks to employers who treated them like princes and princesses, and glamorous and/or cool work environments that emphasized the excitement of being part of a post-Internet world where they were creating the future. In less than a year, everything has changed. A drive through the South of Market area of San Francisco tells the tale: "for rent" sign after "for rent" sign in former dot-com office windows. There's an upside to all of this, and it was well articulated by Andrew Way. When the bubble burst Way found himself without an Internet job. Reflecting recently on his dot-com bullet-train ride, Way, now 28, told the New York Times: "I'd say, 'Whoa, what just happened? Two years of my life just went by, and I've got shirts with buttons and pants that are ironed and I'm working like an adult. I just sort of stepped away from myself for three and a half years." Now, living in Seattle, he works a $7-an-hour job at a camping store, and plans to spend the summer fishing and hiking, according to the Times. "I'm doing all the things I was doing before," he said. For some, graduating from college used to be a time to travel, to bum around Europe or head for Mexico, a time to work low-paying part-time jobs and experience a bit of the world before focusing in on a career. Dot-com mania exerted a strong pull even as students, many young men and women were sucked into the vortex; post-graduation, they didn't even take a breather before taking a job at one of many companies offering seemingly limitless opportunities. Now some, like Way, are having second thoughts; they're making use of their unemployed status to look inside themselves to figure out what they might want to do with their lives. One young man I know, who moved to a major city right out of college and was hired at an entertainment company with a strong Internet presence as the assistant to the head of marketing, found himself promoted within nine months to project manager in the marketing department. Like Way, he was handed responsibilities that, in the old days, would go to someone with years of marketing experience. He recently quit because he discovered that marketing things he doesn't believe in didn't sit well with him. Now he may take a drive across the U. S. of A., perhaps put a band together and relocate in a more low-key (and low-rent) part of the country. Globe.com's Krizelman has applied to Harvard Business School to attempt to analyze what happened at the dot-com he co-founded, among other reasons. While the media tend to focus these days on dramatic rags-to-riches-to-rags tales, the stories of personal enlightenment, or the search for it, are perhaps more meaningful. Along with those who now find themselves looking within because they're out of a job and have time on their hands, there are others in their mid-to-late-twenties who emerged from the wreckage with millions in the bank, and most of their life still ahead of them. While it is easy to make fun of millionaire twentysomethings trying to find themselves, some aspects of the years ahead will be as difficult for them as they may be for Mr. Way. I know one young man with tech wealth who is constantly traveling, as if to escape from the difficult task of figuring out what to do next. He can do anything he wants or nothing. Sorting that out may be as traumatic as a visit from the Repo Man.
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Michael Goldberg is the president of insiderone.net. He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.