Pets.com is an easy target when the topic of discussion turns to infamous online business disasters. It's a classic example of so many of the disasters that could and did happen in those early days. Massive overspending on advertising, unsustainable business model, shockingly rapid descent (only nine months from IPO to closure in 2000). But it should also be included in the "ahead of its time" category. Pet owners back then were resistant to buying supplies online, and in fact the whole online pet-supply market did seem to implode around that same time.
It came back, though — witness the dozens of successful pet-supply businesses online today. The audience needed time to change its habits, but perhaps Pets.com needed to die so that future CEOs could learn from its mistakes. The example of Pets.com, we hope, will serve as a warning not to sink millions into Super Bowl ads when your business has serious difficulty fulfilling orders in a timely fashion.
And although Pets.com crashed and burned, many of us still remember its dog sock-puppet mascot more than a decade later. The one with the microphone? That's worth something, right?