So I was watching some documentary the other night about the “cola wars,” and was amused by their mention of the whole “New Coke” fiasco (that’s for another entry, of course). So I hit up the old wikipedia and was eventually led to a list of notable “failures” of the dot-com variety. Perpaps none of these was so notable and precipitous as that of kozmo.com.
It turns out that there was a documentary, E-Dreams, being filmed on the fledgling company, starting way back after it’s founding in the heady days of 1999. Appropriately enough, as the documentary was being filmed and put together over the next year or so, the whole thing collapsed spectacularly. This makes for a good story, and an interesting film (we watched the DVD last night). It does a good job of documenting the fall of Kozmo, but also acting as a subtle commentary on the wackiness we like to call the "dot-com bubble" that lasted up until the crash in April of 2000. Remember those times? When any average joe with a somewhat off-beat idea could take a company public while burning through hundreds of millions of dollars of capital with only the vague hope of distant profit? Reality caught up to us in a hurry during the spring and summer of 2000 and into 2001 as the Nasdaq lost more than half of its overpumped phony value.
At any rate, back to this movie in particular. See, these fresh-out-of-college investment banker kids (Joe Park and Yong Kang) had a business idea. The plan was to not only sell things online, but to deliver them to the customer in under an hour. In the course of a year, Kozmo grew from 10 employees to almost 4,000. They raised over 250 million dollars, and filed for an IPO — all while never being solidly in the black. Anyway, it was a good idea. Being in college back then, it was great to have videos, playstation games, etc. delivered to your dorm, and I was a customer.
Around the middle of it, the movie starts to take the form of a greek tragedy. The hubris, excitement and fallacies of those few unique years sticks out like a sore thumb when you realize what’s coming in the summer of 2000. Of course, the money was all wasted (hiring too many people for too little work), they expanded into massively unprofitable markets (bike delivery in Los Angeles?), and put standard business fundamentals (like “profit”) on the back-burner. Eventually, the IPO was pulled, the founders were ousted, and the business completely collapsed, leaving all of us without any online delivery service.
And now for an interesting postscript. In April of 2001, when Kozmo.com ceased operations out of the blue, unexpectedly and suddenly, they apparently fired everyone before they could go out and claim the dropboxes and videos contained therein placed in strategic locations around the city. Thinking quickly, someone called the local “Au Bain Pain” claiming to be from Kozmo.com and notified them that someone would be by to pick up the drop box. Such a pick-up was made, and that’s how an official Kozmo.com drop box ended up in the lounge on 2ndwest for several years. I wonder where it is now?