Feeds

Believe your own hype - always

Bringing Nothing to the Party: Ben Cohen and the art of the press release

Application security programs and practises

In our third extract from Paul Carr's book Bringing Nothing to the Party, the nascent net-botherer muses on one particularly irksome and precocious flash in the dot com pan...

During the post-bubble years, between 2000 and 2004, the entire dot com industry was in turmoil. No one could agree whether we were seeing an industry in its death throes or whether the downturn was just (as many optimists claimed) 'a correction', a natural response by the market to weed out sky-high valuations and bad businesses.

Generally, those who survived the crash remained firmly in the 'correction' camp, while those who had lost everything loudly declared that they were simply the innocent victims of an overhyped industry, fuelled by the high expectations of the press and the ridiculous overconfidence of investors. No one, they protested, could possibly succeed under those conditions.

It was that latter camp that most riled me, but also most appealed to my sense of Schadenfreude. These smug wankers who had grinned out from the front of business magazines and newspapers across the world, these young entrepreneurs, some not even out of school, who claimed fortunes (on paper at least) in the tens of millions.

God, I hated them.

God, I envied them.

But now they'd lost everything and instead of shrugging and saying 'ah well, it was good while it lasted, and fuck it, I'm still only 22', they blamed the market, the press, the fact that they were ahead of their time. Anything to avoid admitting their complicity in the bullshit instant-fame machine that they thought would make them rich.

My favourite example of this phenomenon was Benjamin Cohen.

Benjamin - Ben - Cohen is one of that rare breed of people: someone I took a passionate dislike to from the very first time I heard his name, without even having met him. Actually, I should clarify that - it wasn't his name that made me dislike him; that would make me sound like an enormous anti-Semite (in fact, some of my best friends control the media and killed Jesus).

No, the reason I took an instant dislike to Ben Cohen is that he was everything I wanted to be: someone who during the dot com bubble had created a virtual media empire out of nothing and in doing so had managed to convince the press that he was not just a genius, but a rich genius. And all before he was 20.

The story goes a little like this.

Once upon a time (1998) there was a 16-year-old boy called Ben. Ben decided that there was a gap in the market for a site offering everything the modern Jew-about-town could need: Jewish news, Jewish advice, a calendar of Jewish holiday dates, Jewish discussion rooms and so on. He called it soJewish, because that's the sort of name someone with no imagination whatsoever would call such a site. (I would call it 'Look! Jews Talking!)

Before long the site had become reasonably popular, with thousands of people visiting every week. SoFar, SoGood. But Cohen didn't just want to be an entrepreneur - he wanted to be a celebrity; and what better way for a slightly dorky kid to become a celebrity on the eve of the dot com boom than by becoming a teenage millionaire?

So that's exactly what he became.

And here's how he did it. He simply phoned up, wrote to and otherwise buttonholed as many journalists as he could find and told them 'my company has been valued at millions of pounds'. Now of course, Fleet Street's finest are no mere hacks - so they went away and fact-checked Ben's claims, demanding proof of his self-confirmed valuation.

Just kidding. They are hacks.

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330
If the person in front reclines their seat, this could get interesting
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.