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Dutch NV
(Disestablished in 2000)
Industry retail
Founded 17 March 1999; 18 years ago (1999-03-17)[1]
Defunct 2000 (2000)
Headquarters London, England, U.K.
Key people
Ernst Malmsten
Kajsa Leander
Patrik Hedelin
Products clothing, cosmetics
Website (Domain Now owned by Hostelworld) was a British Internet company, founded by Swedes Ernst Malmsten, Kajsa Leander and Patrik Hedelin, which went out of business following the dot-com boom of the late 1990s.

After several highly publicized delays, launched in the autumn of 1999 selling branded fashion apparel over the Internet. The company spent $135 million of venture capital in just 18 months,[2] and it was placed into receivership on 18 May 2000 and liquidated.

In June 2008, CNET hailed as one of the greatest dot-com busts in history.[3]

Ernst Malmsten wrote about the experience in a book called Boo Hoo: A Story from Concept to Catastrophe, published in 2001.[2]

Headquarters and relaunch[edit]

The company had its headquarters along Carnaby Street in London in a building which it initially shared with the Erotic Review Magazine.[4] The company initially had 40 employees.[5] In October 1999, it had a total of eight offices and 400 employees[4] in Amsterdam, Munich, New York City, Paris, and Stockholm.[5] It relaunched in the autumn of 2000 with Kate Buggeln, an ex-Bloomingdale's salesperson and Internet consultant, appointed as president. She told Women's Wear Daily that they were working to "expand beyond the portal business model into Boo products and Boo licensing."[6]

Reasons for failure[edit]


Although there were several months of delays prior to launch and problems with the user experience when first launched, these had been largely fixed by the time the company entered receivership. Sales had grown rapidly and were around $500,000 for the fortnight prior to the site being shut down.

The fundamental problem was that the company was following an extremely aggressive growth plan, launching simultaneously in multiple European countries. This plan was founded on the assumption of the ready availability of venture capital money to see the company through the first few years of trading until sales caught up with operating expenses. Such capital ceased to be available for all practical purposes in the second quarter of 2000 following dramatic falls in the NASDAQ presaging the "dot crash" following the Dot-com bubble. Boo was one of numerous similar Dot-com company failures over the subsequent two years.

Problems with the user experience[edit]

The Homepage as it appeared in May 2000.

The website was widely criticized as poorly designed for its target audience, going against many usability conventions.[7] The site relied heavily on JavaScript and Flash technology to display pseudo-3D views of wares as well as Miss Boo, a sales-assistant-style avatar. The first publicly released version of the site included many large pages; the home page, for example, was several hundred kilobytes which meant that many users had to wait minutes for the site to load, as broadband technologies were not widely available at the time. The site's front page contained the warning, "this site is designed for 56K modems and above".

The complicated design required the site to be displayed in a fixed-size window, which limited the space available to display product information to the customer. Navigation techniques changed as the customer moved around the site.

The site's interface was complex and included a hierarchical system that required the user to answer four or five different questions before sometimes revealing that there were no products in stock in a particular sub-section. The same basic questions then had to be answered again until results were found.

Burn rate[edit] spent £125 million in just six months.[8]'s sales did not match expectations, due partly to a higher-than-expected rate of product returns (a service that was offered for free, but charged for by their logistics supplier Deutsche Post). Poor management and a lack of communication between departments resulted in rapid growth in costs. The effectiveness of an expensive ad campaign was limited because the website was not ready in time, resulting in curious visitors being greeted with a holding page.

Staff and contractors were recruited in large numbers, with a lack of direction and executive decision about how many people were required, resulting in high payroll costs.


The biggest loser among's investors was Omnia, a fund backed by members of Lebanon's wealthy Hariri family, which put nearly £20 million into the company.

Creditors, most of whom were advertising agencies, were owed around £12 million. Over 400 staff and contractors were made redundant in London and around the world, and many had not been paid for several months.

In a widely circulated article,[9] former Interim CTO Tristan Louis broke down the problems that plagued the company, in one of the first post-mortems of a technology company posted online., which had been operating since 1994, bought the remains of, which included brand, Web address and advertising materials but did not include any physical assets, software or distribution channels.[8] The deal also included the Miss Boo character. Boo's main assets, its software and technology, were sold to Bright Station, a British company run by Internet entrepreneur Dan Wagner, for $250,000 and served as the basis for Venda Inc.[10] Less than $2 million was earned by selling all Boo's remaining assets.[11]

As late as 2003, stickers from their guerrilla marketing campaigns could still be seen in London, with the slogan "Fashion never dies!".[citation needed]

In 2005 CNET called the sixth greatest dot-com flop.[12]

Current state of the domain[edit]

In May 2007 Web Reservations International (WRI) turned into a travel site with reviews and listings. When the new site launched, it already had more than one million user reviews which had been collected from existing WRI travel sites.[13]

In October 2010, the new site announced that it was closing down with effect from 1 November 2010.

As of November 2017 redirects to


  1. ^ " WHOIS, DNS, & Domain Info - DomainTools". WHOIS. Retrieved 2016-08-05. 
  2. ^ a b Malmsten, Ernst (2001). Boo Hoo: A Story from Concept to Catastrophe. Random House Business Books. ISBN 978-0-7126-7239-9. 
  3. ^ "The greatest defunct Web sites and dotcom disasters". CNET. 5 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  4. ^ a b Wray, Richard. " spent fast and died young but its legacy shaped internet retailing." The Guardian. 16 May 2005. Retrieved on 12 March 2012.
  5. ^ a b Sorkin, Andrew Ross. "INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS;, Online Fashion Retailer, Goes Out of Business." The New York Times. 19 May 2000. Retrieved on 12 March 2012.
  6. ^ Seckler, Valerie, "Boo Names New Boss: Kate Buggelin," WWD, Mon. 17 July 2000, p.14
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b "INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS; Swoops In for the Fire Sale". The New York Times. 2 June 2000. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  9. ^ "Tristan Louis (". Tristan Louis ( 
  10. ^ Sorkin, Andrew Ross (2 June 2000). "INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS; Swoops In for the Fire Sale" – via 
  11. ^ " - Boo! And the 100 Other Dumbest Moments in e-Business History". 
  12. ^ "Top 10 dot-com flops". Archived from the original on 10 February 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-10. 
  13. ^ " in new travel guise". 2 May 2007. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 

External links[edit]