For that reason, I'm always the last to know about hot new Web 2.0 dot-com startups. I usually don't find out about them until I start seeing their names in Russian pill spam, or run across them when someone posts a link to a virus downloader promising hot free young Latvian girls in one of my blogs. I look at the spam link, Google the name of the company hosting the spam, and invariably discover that it's the trendiest new dot-com property this side of the Great Firewall of China, with $42 million in venture capital in the bank and table tennis on the roof.
Some of these companies are more over-the-top than others. There's a brand-new startup called Hipster.com which is--I swear I'm not making this up--offering new hires a years' supply of beer to go with their $10,000 signing bonus.
What these companies never advertise for, it seems, are folks with a background in security.
And so, they get pwn3d, like the has-been startup founded by Marc Andreessen of Netscape fame called "Ning." Ning was supposed to revolutionize social networking. After burning through all its capital with virtually nothing left to show for it, Andreessen bailed, and it is now little more than a shell for Russian virus downloaders, as I've mentioned before. The virus droppers I talked about a year and two months ago? Most of them are still active. Lights are on, but nobody's home.
So it is with companies like Flavors.me and Box.net, started with equal parts naïveté and hope. I didn't know about either company until I started getting pharmacy spam advertising URLs on their servers, and discovered with a quick Google search that they're overrun with it.
Right now, as I type this, Box.net has about 40,000 Russian pharmacy redirectors living on its servers. I have a bit of a soft spot for Flavors.me, because I wrote them an email to let them know they have about 3,800 spam pharmacy redirectors on their site, and actually got an email back from a person who, according to her company profile, went to the same little liberal arts college I went to in Florida...but they still haven't got a handle on the situation. I've been checking over the past few days, and the number of spam redirectors on their servers is, according to Google, increasing at the rate of about ten an hour, which probably means there's a whole lot more that Google isn't finding.
So in the efforts of public service, I've created this handy-dandy flowchart detailing the life cycle of a hot new Web 2.0 startup. This seems to be about the way that nearly all of them go--at least the ones that create a lot of buzz by spending a ton of investment capital and getting written up in TechCrunch before they even go live.
You can click on the picture for a much bigger version. Enjoy!