Podcast Review: Go For Broke

An interesting podcast about the history of Silicon Valley is Go For Broke. This podcast was created through the Vox Media Podcast Network and hosted by New School professor Julia Furlan.  Furlan talks about websites that were born out of Silicon Valley, such as Netscape.com and Pets.com. She also describes the dot-com bubble and the reason that it burst. In its eight episodes, you will learn about the creation of both successful and unsuccessful websites.  There are enlightening facts and stories about the technology industry that will draw your attention. It is interesting to learn about the rise of the Internet, which is something that we take for granted today. Go For Broke is a podcast that keeps you entertained with the fascinating information that is discussed.

The first podcast episode of this series is about the founding of Pets.com. Through their website, a person could buy pet food and other pet necessitates from a convenient online platform. The company was founded by entrepreneur Greg McLemore. Amazon was one of the companies that invested in it early on. In Go For Broke, you learn about the rise and fall of Pets.com. Advertising with funny commercials that featured comedian Michael Ian Michael gave it notoriety. The sock puppet featured in them was made into a float and included in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Millions of dollars were spent on advertising, which helped make Pets.com well know. The problem, however, was that high shipping costs made it expensive and most people still went to pet stores  to purchase materials they needed. The company was never able to solve the problem and went out of business. I was interested in hearing how a well know company collapsed. Furlan does an expert job of describing the history of Pets.com.

Netscape was a company that has a similar history to Pets.com. It was one of the original web browsers. Furlan describes the creation of it by Marc Andressen. The company was successful for a while and drew a lot of investments. Andressen was even featured on the cover of Time magazine on a throne with his shoes off. The large amount of money invested in Netscape made its employees rich and they purchased real estate in San Francisco, which is the reason real estate prices are so high there to this day. Netscape could not outmatch Microsoft when it created Internet Explorer and it eventually collapsed. I found it fascinating to learn about this company and the rise of wealth in Silicon Valley.

Go For Broke takes a step back from individual companies in certain episodes and focuses on the overall era in the late 1990s when numerous companies in Silicon Valley emerged. Massive amounts of money were invested in these companies from Wall Street in speculation that many would be prosperous. Furlan talks about the optimism average joes had in technology companies and how ordinary people besides bankers invested in them. She describes the reason the bubble grew, which included corruption by banking analysts. Certain analysts encouraged clients to invest in companies that they did business with and other companies that they knew to be generating little revenue. The bubble burst when companies such as Pets.com and Netscape where unsuccessful. Through descriptions of the dot-com bubble by Furlan and those that she interviews, you are able to begin to understand an important era of economic history in the U.S.

Go For Broke is an insightful podcast into the origins of Silicon Valley. You will learn about the creation of several website companies and what led to their collapse. Furlan is enjoyable to listen to and has a sense of humor about what she is talking about. Interesting stories from employees that in the technology industry provide additional entertainment. Obviously, certain website were enormously successful or there would be no Silicon Valley, which is why there is a spin off series of Go For Broke called Land of Giants: The Google Empire. I recommend starting with Go For Broke to learn the origins of these website companies.

Go For Broke can be listened to on apps such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and numerous other podcast apps. It can also be heard on the Vox Media website.

To learn more about Silicon Valley, take a look about our curated book list. These books can be placed on hold and picked up at any branch of the Yonkers Public Library.

Mike Walsh

Adult Services-Will Branch

Mike is currently reading The Green Mile by Stephen King.