One of the most popular posts on this site is “The Strange Story of Liberate Technologies.” It was written on September 28, 2006, and it attracted two cryptic comments. Lots of people have read it.
I am mystified as to why it has enjoyed such enduring appeal. I don’t think the only readers are former employees of the company, though some undoubtedly were, as those enigmatic comments attest.
Perhaps the story of Liberate, though strange, is the story of many technology companies in the post-2000 era of diminished expectations.
Once high-flying startups pumped up on seemingly limitless venture-capital funding eventually met hard times, investor demands for revenue and profit, and an IPO market that melted faster than an ice cube in a hot tub. Carnage resulted. Hopes were dashed, dreams died, jobs were lost, companies were liquidated or sold for a song.
Liberate wasn’t the only technology concern to meet an untimely and ignominious end, though it almost certainly was practically alone in attempting to reanimate itself as a trucking company.
In my personal opinion, I do not agree with how Liberate handled itself or the scope of their prior business practices. Again, my opinion, Liberate was unethical on its face. Being privy to contracts, I saw things that I did NOT agree with and when I questioned the Legal department, I was told not to worry about things. I thought it odd that contracts were being drawn up with no clause protecting the company (we give products to them now and they dont’ pay; what happens if these companies go belly up? – they can file and all debts are forgiven???) no money was paid upfront; although it was put on the books. A company should know better than to operate in this manner. Its no wonder they went belly up along with most of the investors money! (employees and the general public) Sadly it could have been handled differently. They got exactly what they deserved – to be out of business.
Are they out of business? Subsequent to the sale of their technology assets – they were operating as a private fund of sorts – as alluded to in the previous writeup. They were filing with the SEC showing significant stock purchases of various auto related industries – and then poof – it disappeared – without ever relaying to stockholders what happened to the money represented by those positions.