Kawasaki: How I wasted $12,107 on Truemors

by Mathew on June 4, 2007 · 26 comments

I don’t want to be mean, but I just can’t help myself. I know Guy Kawasaki is a legend for his marketing work with Apple, and a lot of people find his blog to be very useful — despite what appears to be an addiction to the age-old cliche of the “Top 10 Reasons Why…” style of blog post. Whatever. It takes all kinds. But his latest post about the creation of his Digg-style rumour site Truemors just stuck in my craw for a whole bunch of reasons.

moneyburn.jpgIt’s not just the sort of self-satisfied tone of the whole post, as though Guy had somehow invented the wheel, or cured cancer. And it’s not just the rampant over-use of Web jargon like “Long Tail” and “Social Media.” Those are bad enough, mind you. But what really bugs me is that I’m not sure Guy has created anything at all — at least not anything of value — and therefore the entire thrust of his post is completely undermined. What he should really be saying is “How I Wasted $12,107 On a Site That Serves No Purpose.” Seriously — Truemors makes Digg look like a collaborative effort to reproduce the works of Shakespeare.

Setting up a site like Truemors is hardly rocket science. I built one based on the open-source Digg clone Pligg, and it took me about four hours to configure on my server — and it definitely cost me a lot less than $12,107. Did it have any value? No. The only thing that could possibly give Guy’s site some value is if it spontaneously developed a thriving community the way Digg and Slashdot and Metafilter have.

Is Guy’s name and a couple of nasty blog posts at TechCrunch enough to do that? I doubt it. If he had paid me $12,000 in consulting fees, I could have told him that. The only upside is that pre-Web 2.0, Guy would have blown at least $30-million or so building a crap website that no one would ever go to.

  • http://mdoeff.com Mike D

    Amen. I was thinking the same thing: “How I flushed $12K down the toilet.” Truemors will be in the dead pool by year-end.

  • http://blog.mastermaq.ca Mack D. Male

    I wrote about this today too, I completely agree.

  • http://www.webomatica.com/wordpress/ Webomatica

    True, he now has to make at least 12,000 bucks to be profitable. Your site with pligg could do so before Guy’s… :)

  • http://www.centernetworks.com Allen Stern

    Mathew – you and a couple others mention these “two negative posts on tc” – can you point me to them? I don’t see anything negative so I must be missing it.

    thanks

  • http://www.ventureitch.com Venture Itch

    I bet Truemors will turn profitable the very first month. I agree that reading sites like twitter and truemors is exciting as watching drying paint, but if they appeal to some audience they have right to exist. Truemors owes its success to publicity surrounding Guy – I see nothing wrong that Guy exploited that effect.

  • http://www.diggthis.net digg this!

    I disagree with you, I found that article very interesting. Basically, any web2.0 idea that doesn’t include a sophisticated design or back-office, can be done using in about $15,000. But the article was very helping in describing the steps, the basic needs and the steps you’d need to take.

  • http://qikki.com qikki

    What’s really sad is that he can’t just come out and admit that the whole thing is a sad failure. Honestly, the number 1 rumor is a ‘test post’, and this is days (weeks?) after he’s launched it. The other posts are mostly just clever spam. The alexa traffic graph says it all: it’s an ant hill.

  • http://www.geekbot.net niels

    True! The website he spent 12k+ on is pure and utterly crap! The whole consept seems to be spam inviting.

    Also I hate the whole “web 2.0″ claim, when it all seems to boil down to a simple forum?!

  • Ells

    I guess to me, it seems like a lot of people are putting their own expectations for the success of Truemors onto Guy. I mean in the first link alone, he talks about it being mostly an experience rather than the next big thing. I think he probably accomplished what he wanted.

  • Zolar

    Matthew,

    The web jargon was tongue-in-cheek. Laugh a little my man. I think Guy has done well for himself. Truemors is an interesting concept. Execution may have been poor. I admire Guy for his willingness to try something — much like the philosophy he espouses in Art of the Start.

  • http://theedgecase.com Ken Barker

    I read a post like Guy’s and I cringe. It is very easy to waste money building crap. Creating a real site with real business value is still a significant effort. Not nearly the effort of the 1999 era…

    Also, this adds fuel to the fire to all those people who have a small savings and think they can make it big on 20K. I don’t mind building site for these folks. I would rather build sites for people with real vision and resources.

  • http://www.methegeek.com/ MeTheGeek

    Interesting opinion Mathew.

    But I wouldn’t underestimate the value of the enterprise. I bet that “just because it’s Guy’s” will earn well over 12K.

    The level of traffic he generated is enough to sell the domain for at least that money.

    Nice blog.

  • http://www.methegeek.com/ MeTheGeek

    Oh, another thing; this reminds me of a sure way to become famous on the Internet (taken from a tv ad from Argentina):

    “Get a last name that spells like a dog’s breed”

    Me thinks motorcycle brands also apply.

  • http://www.walkenonweb20.com Christopher Walken

    Totally… agree… I put my own take on… my new… blog.

  • http://www.ryansholin.com Ryan

    I thought all that was part of the joke – that here was this relatively dumb idea that he could get people to make a big deal out of for the low low price of…

  • http://blog.bigboxofnothing.com Justin

    You read Guy’s post and took away what you saw in it, something to write a post about yourself. I took away something else, I saw a guy who just did something, is currently sitting back and looking at what he got together, how little it cost him and how easy it was to get traffic. It’s pretty obvious he’s not into back slapping himself on a great idea that will change the world. It’s satisfactory in it’s execution and will show up the underlying idea, $12,000 is an easy number to flush down the toilet if it doesn’t work out. Compare that to some of the dumb stuff that has and is still going on in Guy’s, valley, VC marketing chatter filled world. Some folks are taking seven figure 1st rounds and only just make closed beta before the burn rate bites them, with a big number on the board already nobody wants to flush it, so they come through with a second and third big round and burn some more before folks figure it’s a sucky product and do the flushing themselves… $12k sucky ideas get flushed, $1.2m sucky ideas get bought.. I think Guy made that point, or rather had all you guys make it for him.

  • Aaron Farnham

    There is one positive thing I can see coming out of this for Guy. He now has a realistic perspective of what it takes to start a “web 2.0″ company and can be a better adviser to the companies his VC firm funds. I think that kind of experience is worth $12,000 if you are in the same financial position as I assume Guy is in. Even if it is not a brilliant service (it is not), I bet the value for Guy is very different than what we think it is.

  • TK

    I don’t see anything wrong with launching a fun time-wasting site. Half the Internet falls into that category. Twitter, MySpace etc.

    Half of Guy’s $12k went for legal fees. Given his profile and the type of content on his site (unsubstantiated rumors) that was a prudent move. To compare how much you spent building on a SITE vs. how much Guy spent on his BUSINESS is not a valid comparison.

    Lastly, it’s Guy’s money. He can spend it any way he chooses. It’s no skin off my nose.

  • Jeff

    Good post, but I think you missed the point. The point is to give others hope that, hey, you don’t have to get VC backing to get an idea out of your head on onto the web, you can do it with a credit card or savings account. I think it gives hope to many people out there. BTW, I am having more complex site than truemors (not hard to do) built right now, and it’s only going to cost me approximately $15,000. So it can be done.

  • Mathew

    Just for the record, I think it’s great that you can get your ideas onto the Web cheaply — and if that’s all Guy meant to say, then I agree.

    But it seems to me he was saying something more — i.e., that he was able to create a *business* for only $12,107. The only problem is that I don’t see any sign of Truemors being a business (which I guess you could say about lots of other Web 2.0 sites too).

    In that context, it’s hardly surprising there’s no business plan — there’s no business. A fun experiment? Fine. But that’s not what I took from Guy’s post.

  • http://www.palmit.com Cale Bruckner

    From the source “The plan is simple: Get a site launched in a few months, see if people like it, and sell ads and sponsorships (or not).” — Guy

    Guy does a pretty good job of describing his intentions.

  • Sam_Odio

    Guy’s “rich dad, poor dad” books changed my life. If he is as successful with Truemors as he is with his publishing career all the nay-sayers will be crying in their beer.

  • http://www.centernetworks.com allen stern

    Sam – that’s Robert NOT Guy!

    I wonder how many people make that mistake to Guy’s favor.

  • http://onwebapps.com/ shanti braford

    While I generally agree with your sentiments, $12k is not much to blow on a site in the grand scheme of things.

    While $30-million Web 1.0 launches are a thing of the past, there are still companies in the valley burning through $1-3 million on totally unproven ideas.

    I love seeing some startup raised $300-500k and their Alexa ranking still hovering at 100,000 six months later, while stuff I knock out for fun on the side sits pretty at Alexa 20k or higher.

  • http://nntr.us socialtalker

    wow, i hope the author and several of the folks that dismissed truemours enjoyed that crow dish they must have eaten when the site was sold for millions….lol.

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