Satire: Once Upon a Dot-com
by David Bunnell
July 05, 2000
Remember Jason Silverspoon, who, in the fall of 1998, was on the cover of Fortune magazine with the cover line, "Could this 19-year-old be the next Bill Gates?"

At age 17, Silverspoon wrote a business plan for

His brilliant concept was to build a website that offered instant gratification to anyone who had any selfish, wacky desires they wished to fulfill. The only limitations: It had to be legal, and you had to be capable and willing to pay for it. "fun facilitators" would arrange almost any trip or exotic experience that anyone could imagine, including taking a ride in a Russian spacecraft.

Silverspoon's business teacher was very impressed with the plan and even more impressed by Silverspoon's passion and charisma. He was a natural salesman and had the ability to focus on things until they were accomplished. The teacher sent the plan to a former college roommate who was now a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. The rest is digital folklore.

The VC invited Jason in for a meeting with the partners that resulted in $25 million in seed capital. Silverspoon hired 200 people, launched his website with a Super Bowl ad, and virtually overnight had 9 million subscribers.

It's good to be king raised more than $100 million in the second round from blue-chip investors like Goldman, Kleiner, Morgan and even Paul Allen.

The IPO came less than a year later. Silverspoon, who had just celebrated his 19th birthday, was now worth $2.6 billion. He liked to say it didn't go to his head, but suddenly he was dating supermodels and trying to buy the Oakland Raiders. His picture was on magazine covers worldwide and a movie deal was in the works.

Unfortunately for Jason, his wealth was tied into his founder's stock, which was locked in for 18 months after the IPO. To fund his new lifestyle he borrowed millions from various banks, using his stock as collateral. blew through $324 million in venture and IPO money in 15 months. Silverspoon desperately tried to raise more, but the stories of's excesses turned investors off. The stock slipped to $2 a share from its peak of $168, so Silverspoon's collateral was insufficient to back up the loans. He and his company declared bankruptcy on the same day.

Silverspoon was suddenly confronted with the choice of either getting a regular paying job or moving back in with his parents. He couldn't bring himself to do either, so he started "couch surfing" with his old dotcom friends and plotted his comeback.

Next time, Silverspoon said to himself, there will be no skybox at the Raiders games, no corporate ski trips. We didn't really need those offices in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Could he learn from his mistakes?

Next time, he would borrow the seed money from his Uncle Bob and start the business in his friend's garage. He still had the infectious enthusiasm that had led Goldman Sachs to invest $25 million in his last deal.

Happily ever after
Last time I checked, Silverspoon had indeed borrowed money from his uncle, and he and his team of 12 are burning the midnight oil. I contacted him to find out what exactly they were doing. "We're in stealth mode," he explained, "but I can tell you it is based on something I learned from the experience. We'll invite you to the launch party."

Silverspoon went from high-school entrepreneur to celebrity dotcom billionaire in two years and then sank into bankruptcy in six months. He also went from being a pig-headed jerk to a still wildly ambitious but reflective and respectful young man. Maybe I'll put a few bucks in myself.

Editor's disclaimer: David Bunnell has an uncanny ability to write the news before it happens. Nothing in the above piece is true, except in his mind.

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