Looking back 10 dog years later: March 10-13, 2000

It is interesting what you retain in email, 10 years later. In early 2000, I had a spreadsheet I’d been maintaining with the “Word of the Day”. Here are the words for Friday, March 10, 2000 and the following Monday, March 13, 2000:

3/10/2000: warp speed – the highest possible speed

3/13/2000: Efflorescence – the period or state of flowering | a : the action or process of developing and unfolding as if coming into flower : blossoming b : an instance of such development c : fullness of manifestation : culmination

It truly did feel like we were moving at warp speed during those times. And only later I think did we realize that we had reached the blossoming or culmination of the manifestation of a kind of technological innocence at the same time the Nasdaq peaking at a value it has never ever even remotely approached again. If there truly was a time of “yes we can”, this seemed to be it.

I could write all kinds of reflections, but I figured I would just share two different news stories (one with a bit of PR lead-in about “group buying”) that came across my email those days that I think say a lot about the technology (much more expensive to do these things, now they might be 5-person $100k projects vs. $35mm VC investments), the mindset and importantly, the media coverage of the time. Also, crucially, a lot of these things were actually pretty cool, just 7-10 years too early perhaps…

> —–Original Message—–

> From: xxxxxxx, xxxxxxx [mailto:xxxxxx@accompany.com]

> Sent: Thursday, March 09, 2000 6:48 PM

> To: ‘xxxxx@jup.com’

> Subject: Sold! Accompany First Online Group Buy of Cars

>

>

> Hi xxxxxx,

>

> First and foremost, I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts with

> the Seattle P-I reporter who covered Mercata’s additional funding

> announcement on Tuesday. I felt as though you shared both the

> benefits and downfalls of group buying very clearly. Despite the fact

> that we are a competitor of Mercata I’m sure everyone in this space

> agrees that it’s most important for the public to have a clear

> understanding of what our companies do.

>

> Secondly, I wanted to be sure that you had the latest news about

> Accompany’s success in group buying. Accompany launched a promotional

> Buy-Cycle around cars just a little over a week ago, and we sold out

> of all of them in under a week! This was the first time cars were

> sold in the US in an online group buying environment and it was an

> amazing success. This proves that Accompany’s group buying model can

> work for big ticket items along with our everyday technology and

> sports and fitness lines across our network. We are going to continue

> spicing up the product categories with promotional Buy-Cycles in the

> coming months.

> We’ll be in touch soon to schedule an all-encompassing briefing.

> Please be in touch if you need any more information or want to give me

> feedback about our news.

>

> > Best to you!

> > xxxxxx

> >

> >

> > ACCOMPANY SUCCESSFULLY CLOSES WORLD’S FIRST GROUP BUY-CYCLESM FOR

> > CARS Toyota Camry Group Buy a Hit with Consumers and Dealers Alike–

> > Customers Team Together to Drive Down Price within First Week of

> > Promotion

> >

> >

> > SAN FRANCISCO, CA – MARCH 9, 2000 – Accompany, Inc.,

> > (<http://www.accompany.com>) the pioneer in group buying –

> on the Web,

> > announced today that it has successfully sold out its promotional

> > offering of Toyota Camry 2000 LEs. With its network of over

> 20 partner

> > sites, Accompany tested the waters of the automotive space last week

> > by offering a special promotion for ten new Camrys, in conjunction

> > with Torrance Toyota in Torrance, CA and Piercey Toyota in San Jose,

> > CA. By empowering customers to work together to achieve value

> > through volume, Accompany proved a natural fit between the group

> > buying model and online automobile sales.

> >

> > Every buyer in the Toyota Camry Buy-Cycle was able to

> purchase the car

> > at approximately $500 below listed dealer cost, because of

> Accompany’s

> > unique group buying value proposition. In addition to the

> ten buyers,

> > hundreds of interested car shoppers across the US contacted

> Accompany

> > in response to this offering, attracted by both the prospect of

> > unmatchable savings and the freedom from haggling over the purchase

> > price at a dealership.

> >

> > Accompany’s Toyota purchasers have responded

> enthusiastically to their

> > savings, as well as the ease of their online buying

> experience. “Group

> > Buying for cars was a natural fit,” noted Accompany customer Diane

> > DeMartini. “No hassle, no haggle, and great upfront pricing that I

> > could never have gotten on my own. Thanks to Accompany, now I have

> > a new Toyota Camry!”

> >

> > Accompany launched this promotional Buy-Cycle to gauge customer

> > interest in participating in group buying for cars. With its

> > overwhelming response, the Buy-Cycle, slated to stay open for two

> > weeks, closed out in under a week.

> >

> > “We are just blown away by the success of the promotional

> Buy-Cycle we

> > launched for Toyota Camrys,” said Jim Rose, CEO and co-founder of

> > Accompany. “We now have the learning to look seriously

> into expanding

> > our product base to include higher ticket items like automobiles,

> > where customers stand to derive the greatest value from buying

> > together.”

> >

> > About Accompany, Inc.

> > Founded in 1998, Accompany, Inc. created the Get It

> Together Network,

> > the Web’s first group buying network that aggregates demand for

> > products and services in real-time. Using its unique patent-pending

> > Demand CoordinationSM technology to empower communities and

> suppliers

> > with private-branded group buying, the Get It Together Network pools

> > buyers from across the Web into real-time Buy-Cycles, in

> which prices

> > drop as more people join. The Get It Together Network revolutionizes

> > dynamic trade by affording consumers and small businesses alike the

> > purchasing advantage traditionally reserved for large organizations

> > that buy in volume. Accompany, Inc. is headquartered in San

> Francisco,

> > with its development center in Toronto, Canada.

> >

> > #-#-#

> >

> > ACCOMPANY, GET IT TOGETHER NETWORK, DEMAND COORDINATION,

> and BUY-CYCLE

> > are service marks of Accompany Inc. Other names mentioned may be

> > trademarks or service marks of their respective owners.

> >

> >

> > xxxxxxxxxxx

> > Public Relations Manager

> > xxxx xxxx xxxxx

> > xxxxxxx@accompany.com

> > http://www.accompany.com

> >

>

FireDrop Mounts Ambitious Effort
To Radically Alter E-Mail System

By DON CLARK
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

FireDrop, a secretive start-up with high-profile backing, is mounting an ambitious effort to change the way people communicate online.

The Redwood City, Calif., company has developed a technology called Zaplets that combines attributes of e-mail and the Web. A user sends one Zaplet to several recipients, who can view them with most current e-mail programs. But while most electronic collaboration requires a string of e-mails, each Zaplet is automatically updated with recipients’ responses.

Office workers selecting the best time for a meeting, for example, might send out a calendar Zaplet that adds notations as each employee indicates preferred times. A brokerage firm might mail out a client’s stock portfolio each morning, but graphs would reflect later trading when the customer opened the message in the afternoon. A newspaper could send out one set of headlines in the morning and revise them completely by dinner, though only one Zaplet arrived at the user’s mailbox.

FireDrop, which is closely held, is one of several companies announcing radical business plans this week at the PC Forum conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. But Zaplets have unusually broad potential, some people familiar with the technology say, because the company plans to let users and companies customize them for any business or recreational purpose.

Each Zaplet is akin to a Web page that is generated on FireDrop’s servers each time a user activates it. For that reason, they can be slower to call up than conventional e-mail. With an estimated 150 million e-mail boxes in existence, the company acknowledges that managing a huge number of Zaplets with acceptable performance will require massive investments in computer infrastructure.

“We are building one of the largest systems on the Internet” to accommodate such traffic, said David Roberts, FireDrop’s president and co-founder.

The company is the latest project of venture capitalist Vinod Khosla of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a Palo Alto, Calif., firm that has backed such Web stars as Netscape Communications Corp., Amazon.com Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. Company directors include Joe Kraus, cofounder of Excite At Home Corp.


What is a Zaplet?

  • A new technology from FireDrop that combines e-mail and the Web.

Why is it different?

  • Instead of getting multiple messages, a single Zaplet in a user’s mailbox is constantly updated with feedback from other recipients.

What’s it good for?

  • Users and companies can design their own Zaplets to hold discussions, make decisions, plan events, take polls, manage projects, write stories, share pictures and other information.


Though Kleiner Perkins has put only $5 million into the company so far, Mr. Khosla makes clear that money isn’t likely to be a problem as FireDrop attempts to build a new communications platform.

“E-mail is obsolete and dead when you read it,” Mr. Khosla said. “This is e-mail that is current when read, not current when sent.”

Zaplets were first conceived by FireDrop co-founder Brian Axe with help from Mr. Roberts, a 10-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency who has gone to unusual lengths to keep the company’s plans secret. To throw snoops off the track, one test Web site associated the technology with a fictitious company called Zaplet Inc. FireDrop required employees and partners to sign nondisclosure agreements with liabilities of $100,000 for leaks.

The company is releasing a test version of the service Monday, offering a dozen ready-made templates to allow people to start using Zaplets, including forms for scheduling activities, taking polls, holding discussions, sharing pictures and writing interactive stories. FireDrop plans to let consumers use the service free, but charge companies for building large-scale applications for internal collaboration or customer services.

Another company coming out at PC Forum with a star-studded investor list is Propel Software Corp. (www.propel.com), a venture by Infoseek Corp. founder Steve Kirsch that is offering technology and services to help companies set up good Web sites faster. It has raised $6 million from backers that include Andrew Grove, chairman of Intel Corp., Netscape Communications Corp. co-founder Marc Andreessen, Dell Computer Corp.’s chief executive officer, Michael Dell, eBay Inc.’s chief executive, Meg Whitman, and retired Gen. Colin Powell.

Also at PC Forum, OnePage.com Inc. (www.onepage.com) is announcing a technology to allow people to pull pieces of content from other Web sites and place them in individualized pages. A user, for example, might open up a browser each day to a page that includes headlines from a local newspaper’s site, the latest quotes of favorite stocks, the local weather and a homework schedule from an elementary school.

The company, also based in Redwood City, was inspired by the fact that most users only visit nine or fewer Web sites a month, despite the millions now available.

OnePage.com’s investors include N.J. Nicholas Jr., former co-chief executive officer of Time Warner Inc., James Dimon, former chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc. and Strauss Zelnick, chief executive officer of Bertelsmann AG’s BMG Entertainment unit.

— Kara Swisher contributed to this article.