boo hoo – $135 million, 18 months… a story from concept to catastrophe

boo hoo is a book about the rise and fall of – the short lived fashion and sports clothing retailer that appeared at the height of the .com boom and collapsed when the bubble burst.

The book is written by Ernst Malmsten (who was the CEO and co-creator of boo) along with Erik Portanger and Charles Drazin (whose link to Ernst is never explained). I’m guessing that they helped turn Ernst’s musings into a well written book. Certainly Drazin has plenty of other books under his belt. was formed in the late 90’s by Ernst, Kajsa Leander and Patrik Hedelin. Over the course of less than two years they managed to create a company that at its height employed 400 people in many different countries, raise $135 million and then lose the lot.

They committed millions to various companies for the technology behind the website. Huge amounts went on salary payments. They recruited like mad and gave high salaries to attract the more senior staff. The amount of travel that went on was amazing as well. It seemed from reading the book that every week or two they’d hop on a plane to New York.

Whilst the business was being built up they were entirely funded by money from investors. Many tens of millions of pounds was flowing in even as the date for the website launch went further and further out.

boo tried to build a global business from day one rather than starting small and growing as profits allowed. It was this over-ambition that allowed such a catastrophic failure to occur.

There is not as much information about the technical computing problems that boo faced as I would have liked but I guess this is because Ernst was more involved with the business end of the company rather than the technology end.

The book provides a good account of just how it is possible to spend such a vast amount of money and have it lead to nothing. It was published in 2002 which means you should be able to get a very cheap copy.

Verdict 8/10.

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