Friendster's Footsteps

The rise and fall of Friendster is a great reminder of why we're entrepreneurs ["How to Kill a Great Idea," June]. When companies focus only on the money, they are destined to fail. And that can be an especially large blow for a founder who had true passion for the idea.

Friendster's founder, Jonathan Abrams, seemed very candid in admitting the company's missteps. But despite what went wrong at Friendster, I think a lot of things also went right--the problem was that they went right for MySpace and Facebook. As an entrepreneur who is walking down the online social networking path forged by Abrams, I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. He should be given credit for the success other sites have achieved, and will achieve, because without Friendster, the VCs would have never been this turned on about what could happen in the space.

Ray Doustdar
President and Co-founder
Los Angeles

Many entrepreneurs believe that a true benchmark of success is the point at which venture capitalists start paying attention to an idea. Jonathan Abrams's experience is an important lesson--part of the lure of being an entrepreneur is being able to work for yourself. When you take venture capital financing, you go back to being a small fish in a big pond.

Marissa Guanio
Ahead of the Curve Bridal

Friendster was not the first online social network. In 1997, five years before Jonathan Abrams founded Friendster, a group of us launched a social networking website, SixDegrees (it's now defunct), which was based on the six degrees of separation theory. Around the same time, another social networking site called PlanetAll was launched. (It too is now defunct.) SixDegrees actually filed for a patent on online social networking, and it was granted in 2001.

The main reason our company is not around will probably sound familiar to Jonathan Abrams: Although we were able to get millions of people to sign up, once they did, our users found little to do on the site. (MySpace and Facebook solved that problem.)

Although your article is a good cautionary tale about what can happen when a great idea gets subverted by money and instant success, I don't believe Friendster was a great idea. It simply raised a lot of money and got a lot of press.

We had attempted the same idea years earlier and failed miserably. Abrams just repeated the follies of his forebears.

Mark Salamon
Pleasantville, New York

Deal Breaker

Norm Brodsky definitely made the right decision to pull out of the deal to sell his business ["The Offer, Part Eight," June]. Frank's "negotiating style" is no style at all. It demonstrates his lack of integrity. But Nova's loss is Norm's and his employees' gain. There would have been problems down the road.

I have loved these columns. Thank you, Norm, for sharing and for teaching me so much.

Emily Huling
Selling Strategies
Terrell, North Carolina

I have thoroughly enjoyed Norm Brodsky's articles about the almost sale of his business. Brodsky's column is now the first thing I turn to when I get my magazine each month. It has been very interesting to learn about the sale process from an insider's perspective. This recent series touched on several key aspects of negotiating, buying, and selling that I hope will help me avoid mistakes in the future.

Greg Richards
Rung Industries

Brilliant! What a completely unexpected twist. Are Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham going to start writing novels?

David Rappaport

I give Norm Brodsky credit both for walking away from the deal and for letting Frank's actions speak for themselves. I would have been tempted to call a spade a spade. Or at least a trowel.

Julia Kline

Norm Brodsky made a good call when he canceled the deal. People who waffle and make last-minute changes are negotiating in an untrustworthy way.

Reading this column has been bittersweet. It has been fascinating to see this process through Norm's eyes, and I have enjoyed every update. But I am sorry for the pain this ordeal has caused him and his wife. Norm, I pray that you will find the right decision for your business and employees.

Butch Sarma
Richmond, Virginia

A huge thanks to Norm Brodsky for sharing the gory details with us about selling (or not selling) his business. Since he started writing about it, I've been contacted by a couple of companies interested in possibly acquiring my company, and the things he has shared have made me much smarter about the conversations I am having with potential buyers.

Ron Welty
Perrysburg, Ohio

The ongoing saga of Norm Brodsky's potential sale should be required reading for anyone who's considering selling a business. The last installment is one of the few business stories that has had a very emotional impact on me.

Norm did the right thing. If he had gone ahead with the deal, his company culture and family of employees would have been screwed the day he walked away.

Bill Palmer
Commercial Casework
Fremont, California

I have a ton of respect for someone who can turn down close to $100 million because he wants the best for his employees. I think that says a lot about Norm, and I can see why his employees weren't upset to hear that he will be sticking around.

Douglas Hanna
CEO and co-founder
West Palm Beach, Florida

Amazing. Surely the monthly cliffhangers leading up to the sale of CitiStorage would come to a logical conclusion, right? Nope. This could be an ABC miniseries. It seems Nova will miss out on a great acquisition because one board member couldn't cheat Norm.

Patrick Fitzpatrick
Livonia, Michigan

I have bought and sold a few companies and can attest that this kind of thing happens sometimes. Once, I was buying a company and the seller decided three days before closing to ask for $500,000 more.

I told my attorney to shred the documents and return them to the seller. I was happy I told the seller where he could go, but I understand what Norm, his employees, and his family must have gone through.

Dan Para
Concert Group Logistics
Downers Grove, Illinois

I often disagree with the contents of Norm Brodsky's columns. Sometimes I even blog about it. But now I feel his pain. I thought it was a done deal. I'm sure many other readers did too. Norm, thanks for letting us learn at your expense.

Luis Maimoni
Creative director
Long Beach, California

I would have walked away from the deal immediately. Frank is an ass. I hope the board fires him.

Keith A. Murrey
CEO and president
Data Voice Solutions
Canton, Ohio

Driving Perfection

Leigh Buchanan's article about Dawson Rutter and his limousine company, Commonwealth Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation, was truly inspirational ["What's Wrong With This Picture? Nothing!" June]. The importance of customer service should not be underestimated, and perfection in that realm is always in the details.

Ada Polla Tray
Alchimie Forever
Washington, D.C.

There are many things to admire about Dawson Rutter's company, but equal opportunity isn't among them. Why, in the pictured lineup of polished, professional chauffeurs, are there no women? Surely a woman can drive and dress as well as these men. What's wrong with this picture, you ask? I'd say plenty!

Raleigh Mayer
MK Coaching
New York City

Leigh Buchanan Responds:
You're right: Only five or so of Commonwealth's 190 drivers are female. The company says that very few women apply for those jobs, possibly because of unpredictable hours and safety issues. A third of Commonwealth's 12-person management team and more than 50 percent of its administrative staff are women, however.

Flinging Fertilizer

I'm very unhappy about the trade dress lawsuit Scotts Miracle-Gro has filed against TerraCycle ["Legal Lemons, PR Lemonade," June]. I see no similarity in the product design. I have been following TerraCycle since its inception. I buy its fertilizer and recommend it to family, friends, and anyone else I come in contact with. I do that not just because the product works, but because I like the company's business model and interest in the environment. What Scotts is doing is unfair and shows that it fears competition.

Darrin Brillhart
Lee's Summit, Missouri

Baby Shower Blues

I just read your article about pregnancy waves in the office, and I wanted to say thank you so much for noting that baby showers and birth announcements in the office are often painful for women and men coping with infertility problems ["What to Expect When They're Expecting," June].

I hope the gentle nudge in your article prompts some offices to tone down the pregnancy mania for the sake of people who can never be biological parents.

Anna Van Mantgem
Assistant program manager
REI Systems
Brunswick, Maryland

Thanks for saying what so many of us think but don't dare say, lest we offend someone. For 20 years, I worked for a large company, and all the showers and get-togethers made me cringe. They're just out of place in the office. Since I didn't like to cook and often barely knew the mother-to-be, I just made a rule of never going to showers. When I finally got around to getting married, they were all smart enough to know I didn't want one.

Dusty Perin
Acton, Maine

Cue the Mediator

As you pointed out in your article, George Steinbrenner's partnership crisis with his former son-in-law could have been avoided with a little planning ["Breakup Blues," June]. But for many people it's not easy to sit down and have the conversations that are necessary for drafting a prenup or an ownership agreement. Business owners should consider using the services of a mediator for touchy subjects like these.

Elinor Robin, Ph.D.
Boca Raton, Florida

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