From Fab to F*cked
The Fabulous Rise and Inevitable Fall of fab.com
You know Fab, that e-commerce start-up that endlessly spams your inbox with promos after you’ve made the mistake of signing up or buying something. Its gone from a billion dollar valuation and glowing press predicting it as the next Amazon, to recently firing hundreds of employees and scathingly critical write-ups of the recent goings on and of the man in charge- CEO Jason Goldberg:
All these ‘rise and fall’ articles may seem like schadenfreude, but they are actually the cutting of a very tall, very boastful poppy. Jason Goldberg had become the Yeezus of the startup world. He has earned a reputation for his out of control ego and his poor treatment of staff. It was time to bring him down a peg or two. If you don’t believe me- search some of the lofty statements he has made about himself and his company. And to understand his complete boastful knobdom, see him (and his now ex ‘Secret Weapon’ co-founder Bradford Shellhammer) acting like a pair of status-obsessed-nouveau-riche twats here: Here’s How You Can Live When Your Startup Is “Worth” a Billion
Goldberg and his Napoleonic ambitions will be the downfall of Fab.
You see, nothing is ever good enough for Jason Goldberg. He is pivot obsessed. Fab was once Fabulis, a moderately successful gay-oriented social network, it was then pivoted to become the wildly successful design centric e-commerce site fab.com, doing exceptional business in its first year. But not content with exceptional, Goldberg wanted bigger than exceptional, he wanted Amazon. But, even the web wasn’t big enough or good enough for Goldberg, he wanted bricks and mortar as well, he wanted IKEA.
Maybe he should have taken his own advice and stayed ‘focused’ on the ‘one thing’ that fab.com was doing so well, ‘do that one thing better than anybody and only that one thing’: You Can’t Iterate Yourself to A Business Model —that ‘one thing’ was being the best in the world at ‘delivering a platform for design’ and it was working (even if yet unprofitable). However, this year he pivoted yet again away from the crazily successful flash sales structure into inventory and massive retail ambitions, causing a loss of page views, eventually customers and even further away from that profit dream. This is a man who’s obviously never encountered the expression, ’if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Shame it looks like Goldberg’s now pivoting himself and his company into caviar scoffing, helicopter flying oblivion.
Clearly Goldberg knows how to start a successful company, but the question remains, does he know to run one? His co-founder certainly didn’t, and by his own admission too: Fab.com in 2010: “I Know Absolutely Nothing About Running a Company” Certainly, the amount of inside information from disgruntled employees and droves of execs jumping the sinking ship can attest to his lack of managerial skill. From the unbelievably tactless, nazi-esque office rules ‘no jackets on the back of chairs’, to threatening emails ‘do you like getting paid?’, to sticking bike locks on fired employee’s office doors, he and his co-founder were no Richard Branson in the how-to-boost-office-morale stakes. Never has the start-up world seen so many leaked memos from unhappy employees in the press, or indeed so many ‘I don’t care about this article’ rebuttals from its stroppy CEO. Things really aren’t happy over there at Fab.
So what is Jason Goldberg then if he’s no manager? I believe he is quite simply a very charismatic, nay, mesmerising salesman. It appears all the VC’s and valuers and journalists writing early glowing editorials about fab.com had all been drinking his kool-aid.
If I was a VC who’d put my faith into this man, I’d now be questioning how blindly I’d followed it. He has become the poster boy for how to start and then implode a successful company in a few short f*cked up pivots (and hemorrhage a sh*tload of cash in the process.)
In April I responded to Sam Biddle’s revelations of the CEO’s extravagance and overspending on Valley Wag. Reflecting on this, and his endless pivots and acquisitions, I made this prediction in the comments box:
This site will go the way of boo.com. Just watch this space……
For the sake of the remaining employee’s jobs and all that VC cash, I really hope I’m not right.
P.S. As I suspected…it only took an hour or so for ‘stroppy CEO’ Jason Goldberg to respond to this blog on Twitter:
Hmmn….sounds like I touched a raw nerve.