Back in 1999, you couldn’t turn your head without running into a confident (sometimes cocky) Internet entrepreneur with an incredible idea to change the world. In those days, it seems that the nom-de-jour for Internet companies was anything that started with an ‘e’: eTour, eHarmony, eBay, eBags, ePinions, eHow, eVite, eGroups, eBates, eTC, eTC.
Some of these companies did quite well. Most did not. Indeed, I could only seem to remember the names of the ones that were moderately successful; I’m sure that someone at that time got money for eDate, eStore, eMoney, and eNews, only to see their dream of riches get sucked into the blackhole of the eBubble in 2001.
The 2001 bubble was pretty drastic. Some estimate that more than 50,000 people left the Bay Area in just a few years and over 180,000 jobs were lost. Unable to find a job and unable to pay rent, a mass exodus occurred. My favorite metric from this period was the “U Haul statistic.” As noted by The San Francisco Chronicle in 2002:
During the Memorial Day to Labor Day peak moving season this year, 4.1 percent
more U-Haul vehicles and trailers left the Silicon Valley region than arrived,
the company calculates. That compares with 1.8 percent more households taking
moving equipment out of the region than during the same period in 2001.
As we all know, the dark days of 2002 have now mostly faded from our collective memory. Of course, those of us who made it through that period are perhaps a little more gun shy than we were when we first came out here, but the rise of Google and Web 2.0 has given a lot of people a lot of confidence about Silicon Valley’s future success.
For the most part, I agree with the vote of confidence. But I also see history repeating itself. This was most evident to me last week when I perused photos from the TechCrunch meet-up in Menlo Park. It’s hard not to look at these photos of hip nerd girls and just plain nerds and not see both youthful excitement and eventual disappointment for most.