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Our case study holds on, part IV

A going concern - or two-thirds of the way to going, going ... gone?

During the last few months of the 1990s, the decade of dotcom, workplace writer Shelley Donald Coolidge began casting around for a small start-up to profile.

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The idea: to open a window on a workplace culture that's faster and looser - and riskier - than what most workers experience.

Shelley found a small outfit in Fullerton, Calif., that fit the bill: Handshake.com, just six months old and run by four pizza-fueled, 20-something founders.

In intervals of roughly six months, she has since reported on the company's move to more upscale offices, its effort to bring aboard seasoned executives from Old Economy firms, and its shift to a business-to-business model. That last step appeared somewhat safer than its original plan, which was to match consumers with local providers of services.

It changed its name, and dumped the "dotcom."

But it never let up on what fast became, for many startups like it, an all-consuming quest: the search for venture capital.

In visit No. 4, Shelley reveals a firm that in some ways has come full circle. The staff is down to 16. Clients are few. When employees talk about new funding, their words have a now-or-never tone.

Along the way, this series became more than an examination of what it's like to toil at a young company that stakes its success to consumers' reliance on the Web.

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To a fair degree, the triumphs and travails of SimplyDone, as it's now known, mirror those of a galaxy of young firms vying for a permanent place in the constellation of businesses out there.

It's a pretty brutal universe. Watch for more falling stars.

Reach us at work@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor