SAN FRANCISCO – The dot-com bust may be a fading memory, but media broker James Martin still sees a bright future for a profane Web site best known for mocking bumbling Internet startups as they sank into a morass of dumb ideas a few years ago.
Convinced that business blunders will never end, Martin is determined to find an owner for F—-edCompany.com, or FC, to recapture some of the buzz that has been lost since the Web site's irreverent founder, Philip J. Kaplan, began focusing on another venture two years ago.
"A bubble is always going to burst somewhere and people are always going to make business decisions that hurt someone. And other people are always going to want to criticize what went wrong," Martin said. "That's why this site is so important. This idea must continue."
Martin, a former community newspaper publisher now based in Madison, Wis., said he has received about two dozen inquiries since FC and three affiliated Web sites went on the sales block last week. He declined to specify an asking price for the package of sites, which also includes InternalMemos.com, PhotoDump.com and MoBog.com.
Kaplan, an inveterate prankster nicknamed "Pud," complicated the effort to sell FC by conspiring in an April Fool's Day joke to make it seem as if the site had already been bought by TechCrunch, a closely watched blog that focuses on promising high-tech startups.
"With the combination of these two companies, we can now effectively cover a startup from the idea stage, through the hype and funding stage, and then cover its inevitable bankruptcy and liquidation as well," TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington wrote in a playful post that many people took seriously.
Both Martin and Kaplan are now trying to clear up the confusion in hopes of finding a buyer for FC, which was drawing as many as 4 million monthly visitors during 2000 and 2001 as the site gleefully skewered dying dot-coms. FC became so popular that Kaplan began charging to see some content, generating monthly revenue of $90,000 back in the site's heyday.
By Kaplan's own admission, FC has been decaying since he moved from New York to Silicon Valley in early 2005 to build an online advertising startup, AdBrite. FC mostly focuses on the follies of companies whose operations aren't entirely dependent on the Internet.
"It sort of breaks my heart because (the site) has been totally neglected," Kaplan, 31, said. "I am hoping there is someone out there that can give it more attention."
This isn't the first time Kaplan has considered selling FC. He listed the site with online auctioneer eBay Inc. in September 2000 and attracted more than 60 bids, including one for $9.4 million.
Although that offer turned out to be bogus, Kaplan wound up selling a 50 percent stake in the site for an undisclosed amount to an investor he won't identify. Kaplan will share any proceeds with his partner.
Martin, 61, doesn't rule out the possibility of attracting a seven-figure bid for FC, despite its recent deterioration.
"We are talking about a brand that involves one of the favorite four-letter words that people use in times of anger, frustration and excitement," Martin said. "The brand will have immense meaning to someone."