I was in the midst of a much-needed Spring cleaning of my home office when I stumbled across a true relic: a book called, “F’d Companies: Spectacular dot-com flameouts.” The book was published in 2002 by someone named Philip J. Kaplan.
I wouldn’t waste your time (or mine) except the handbook included a particularly nasty review of a one-time Peppercomm client called Quepasa.com. It also triggered an of-the-moment cautionary tale I thought might be educational (stay tuned). In his magnus opus, Kaplan skewered QuePasa.com, which he described as “…a portal and community site for Spanish speakers.” And that it was.
And, as was the case with about 45 or so other dotcoms we represented, Que Pasa paid us northwards of $40k per month to issue a press release a day to incite market interest. And it worked.
Que Pasa raised a staggering $68 million in their IPO.
But as Kaplan pointed out, Que Pasa offered “…free e-mail, news feeds, even chat rooms!” and, as he added: “….just about everything you needed $15 and a free Geocities website to accomplish.”
Ouch! Needless to say, when the technology bubble burst in April of 2000, Que Pasa said adios amigos to the business world.
Fast forward to today: start-ups are back in a big way and popping up more often than yet another laughably absurd Qanon conspiracy theory.
And truth be told, I fell prey to the very same circa 1999 dot-com double talk that a travel insurance start-up recently laid upon me.
The 2021 “version” put us on a microscopic retainer, but “promised” they’d raise massive amounts of money in their second round of funding and immediately increase the fee to $20k per month.
They never raised the money.
Instead they sent one of those classic “Dear Agency” e-mails in which the CMO stated in an impassive, impersonal note that “…..moving forward, we’ll be handling social, media and influencer relations in-house.”
I was tempted to respond by asking, “Que Pasa?”
Alas they would ‘t understand the inside joke and I was too busy kicking myself for believing the same faux hype I’d heard 20 years ago.
So, caveat PR agency owner: Many of today’s start-ups aren’t very different than their dotcom predecessors.
Kick the tires. Be sure they do indeed have funding and, whatever you do, don’t buy into the lie that “…once second-round funding comes in, we’ll dramatically increase your fee.”
Trust me, you will NOT enjoy reading a Philip Kaplan follow-up. The inaugural was chock full of truly offensive, misogynistic and F-bomb laced prose.
And if there’s anything I despise, it’s an individual (or a firm) using the F bomb for pure shock value.