Sock Puppet was the well-known marketing mascot for the iconic dot-com bubble company Pets.com. The climax in the company’s two-year boom and bust was its $1.2 million Super Bowl commercial, where Sock Puppet introduced mainstream America to its online pet-supply ordering and home delivery service.
The rock-ribbed libertarians over at Reason.tv have put together an unsubtle video mocking the bailouts happening now in other industries: Sock Puppet goes to Washington, looking for a $25 billion government intervention to, in part, fund more Super Bowl commercials. “Why are you talking about bailing out the auto companies when you let all us tech companies just crash and burn?” the puppet asks. “I mean, I lost everything. I had to sleep on Jerry Yang’s couch for five years.”
Economists and everyone else are busy debating whether bailed-out companies in other industries are actually too big to fail — the crash of another financial institution (Citibank) or major auto company (GM, Ford, Chrysler) could potentially drag down profitable, well-run companies. The risk is that some companies are getting money to continue living when the markets are saying they don’t deserve to. Aside: I saw a commercial for a GM gas-guzzling “luxury truck” last weekend.
In Silicon Valley, on this Thanksgiving weekend, let’s give thanks for all the companies that didn’t get bailed out when the dot-com bubble crashed. The short-term pain led to long-term gain. The over-hyped, under-managed dot-com companies fell, and the ensuing dark age in the tech industry paved the way for companies that actually made things people wanted. Like payment service PayPal, search engine Google — even small-but-profitable pet site Dogster, which may have never had a chance if Sock Puppet had gotten his bailout back when Pets.com tanked in 2000.
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