PRODUCT Speeches by humbled Internet wizards about their mistakes--and how to avoid them
HOW IT STARTED The NASDAQ nosedived, and FORTUNE 500 execs were looking for some answers
JUDGMENT CALL Demand should go up as long as the stock market keeps going down
They may have lost millions of dollars for investors and helped foment the market downturn, but dotcom dropouts are in demand on the speakers' circuit. The phones are ringing for executives from Internet losers such as Yahoo and Priceline.com--if they dump their success stories and share their woes. "In the past we didn't bring up failure. Now we make it a highlight of speeches," says Michelle Lemmons-Poscente, head of the International Speakers Bureau, based in Dallas. "The best way to learn is by someone else's failures, and if there's drama involved, all the better."
Lemmons-Poscente says she noticed the speakers market shifting about five months ago, when FORTUNE 500 execs started calling to see if Jeffrey Hoffman, CEO of Priceline.com's Perfect YardSale website, would talk about why his company's stock had tanked. His speech, "Riding the Dot Com Roller Coaster: The Priceline.com Story," has become a lecture-circuit mainstay. Gary E. Hoover, above, founder of Bookstop superstores and Hoovers.com the Web's largest provider of business information, gives talks about his failed TravelFest superstores. "Now people want to know how to deal with layoffs," he says. Hoover insists he's not just a gloomy Gus; he focuses on how to bounce back too. But at $10,000 to $15,000 a speech, sharing the pain isn't bad business.
--By Cathy Booth Thomas