Webvan is Founded

A core lesson from the dot-com boom is that even if you have a good idea, it's best not to grow too fast too soon.

But online grocer Webvan was the poster child for doing just that, making the celebrated company our number one dot-com flop. In a mere 18 months, it raised $375 million in an IPO, expanded from the San Francisco Bay Area to eight U.S. cities, and built a gigantic infrastructure from the ground up (including a $1 billion order for a group of high-tech warehouses). Webvan came to be worth $1.2 billion (or $30 per share at its peak), and it touted a 26-city expansion plan. But considering that the grocery business has razor-thin margins to begin with, it was never able to attract enough customers to justify its spending spree. The company closed in July 2001, putting 2,000 out of work and leaving San Francisco's new ballpark with a Webvan cup holder at every seat.

Webvan was an online "credit and delivery" grocery business that went bankrupt in 2001. It was headquartered in Foster City, California, USA, near Silicon Valley. It delivered products to customers' homes within a 30-minute window of their choosing. At its peak, it offered service in ten U.S. markets: San Francisco Bay Area, Dallas, San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, Sacramento, and Orange County. The company had originally hoped to expand to 26 cities.

In June 2008, CNET hailed Webvan as one of the greatest dotcom disasters in history.