Burning Bridges

What kept the employees working 60-to-80-hour weeks, pumping out a new book every 20 days, sans salary? Wolff New Media was perhaps the ideal start-up workplace, remembers designer Steve Gullo (owed $3500), where you could come in in "shaggy cutoffs with the tattoos showing." "I hadn't had any real experience in an office," adds Gan. "It was about going in late and surfing the Net--what could be better?" It was also a tempting shot at the big time. "We were working on what would be a competitor to Excite and Yahoo!," says Bellack. "We wanted to joust with the big boys."

Most of all, Wolff New Media offered credibility. One observation that nearly all the ex-employees make is that those who sank with the ship have rebounded into higher-level jobs. Many of them have secured prestigious spots at Microsoft, Wired, Condé Nast, and Disney (even Wolff is back in the publishing business with another new company). "It was a breeding ground for major Internet talent," says Jay Sears, 31, who was the vice president of marketing. "Many people have been able to leverage the experience . . . into awesome jobs." Everywhere except back at a start-up.

Michael Wolff will be moderating a panel with Kurt Andersen of The New Yorkerand Steven Johnson of Feed (feedmag.com) about his book (burnrate.com) and the online industry at the Union Square Barnes & Noble, Tuesday, June 16, at 7:30 p.m.


Signal and Noise

  • Organ Harvesting: Multiple Dwelling, a live performance piece­installation coupled with a slightly obscure online component (fakeshop.com), was inspired by the dangling bodies in the flick Coma. The show's program lists a "body suspension" guy and a "vrml architect." But the crawling site could use some serious dopamine. The four-hour show (in Williamsburg) runs on Saturdays through June 20. Ring 718-486-7009 for details. . . .

  • Our Own Netscapes: Last week, New York online advertising giant Agency.com merged with the Boston-based Interactive Solutions, yielding a stunning 375-person behemoth (225 locally)--but even that doesn't make it the biggest kid on the block. Online "communications" company Think New Ideas counts 380 nationally, with 100 in the city. For comparison, here's a breakdown of the biggest in the Alley: ad network DoubleClick with 300 (250 local), online music retail outlet N2K with 250, women's content company iVillage with 189. Razorfish, having recently acquired Avalanche, CHBI, and Plastic, is just a baby at 150.

    E-mail: abunn@villagevoice.com

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