[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
ARCHIVED  March 1, 1997

SoftPages closes after frustrating start

FORT COLLINS – SoftPages Inc., a Fort Collins-based company marketing advertising software designed to compete with the Yellow Pages, has closed its doors and left several employees and customers feeling angry and cheated.The young company was little more than a year old when failure to find investors and glitches in the company’s CD-ROM product forced a shutdown.
SoftPages is owned by Fort Collins resident Richard Hopkins and his three sons, Adam, David and Wayne. The family team’s plan to create “21st century advertising today” included customized ads and listings for businesses, government agencies and community organizations on CD-ROM and the Internet; a free Internet site; Internet banking services to be introduced at a later date; an online “coupon mine;” and maps and directions to listed businesses.
They claimed customers’ information would be available to service users on Windows 95, Windows 3.1 and Macintosh operating systems, and they would be able to track how many people saw customers’ ads on CD-ROM and the Internet.
The company released one CD last September.
Joe Lewandowski, who contracted with SoftPages to do public-relations work, said Hopkins and his sons had an ambitious plan but didn’t have the expertise, knowledge or money to see it through.
Lewandowski said the company owes him $1,200 for the work he did.
“I don’t think they realized the enormity of the task of selling that volume of advertising,” he said. “Like so many people trying to make a buck in cyberspace, they had grand plans. But they didn’t have what they needed to be in that game.”
A former employee, who was close to the day-to-day operations of the business and asked not to be identified, said the company owes her five weeks’ back wages, and she’s prepared to go to court to get it.
“I’ve been involved in startup companies before.” she said. “I saw SoftPages as a promising opportunity – a chance to help build the company up. It was doing well for awhile, but they spent too much money and opened too many offices at once.”
Hopkins and his sons took loans from the company instead of drawing salaries, the employee said.
The Hopkins opened divisions in Southern California, Illinois, and New York and planned to open in Kansas City, Mo., and Florida. All SoftPages offices have closed.
In addition to dealing with the company’s financial troubles and problems making payroll, the employee said she also had to contend with disgruntled customers.
“The company promised customers the first CD would be out in May 1996, she said. “It came out in September. And when it did come out, there were problems. I was dealing with irate employees and customers.”
One such customer was Gary Kleiner, owner of Mobile Pro Video., a video-production company in Fort Collins.
Kleiner said he saw an article about SoftPages and thought it would be a good way to reach the high-tech audience that might use his service. He paid $250 for preparation of his ad, although he says he designed the ad himself and supplied the graphic. And what followed, he said, was a steady stream of contradictory information and unfulfilled promises.
“I was very dissatisfied,” Kleiner said, “Repeatedly I was told one thing that turned out to be something else. First, I was told there would be no limits on the fonts I could use for my ad, then there were limitations. The main attraction for me was that I would be able to submit a whole list of search words related to my business, Then they told me no, the selection was limited to certain categories. Then I got a call contradicting that information.”
Kleiner said bad information, delays in production and what he describes as unprofessional behavior were frustrating, but the final insult came when he learned that the finished product would run only on Windows 95. It was not available on Windows 3.1 or Macintosh, as promised.
“Most people using PCs are running DOS or older versions of Windows,” he said. “I still haven’t seen my ad because I don’t have Windows ’95.”
When SoftPages sent him a second bill for placement of his ad, Kleiner refused to pay it.
“They didn’t deliver what they promised. As far as I know, I got zero response to my ad,” he said.
According to company president Richard Hopkins, the SoftPages CD directory containing more than 100 major ads, almost 500 smaller ads and a complete listing of area businesses and organizations was mailed to every home and business in Fort Collins, but the company was unable to track how many people saw each ad.
Hopkins said this was one of the problems they would have been able to work out with more time and money.
“We have a way to track results that is part of our patented product, and we have our own in-house programming team, but we weren’t able to pay programmers to discover what the glitch was,” he said. “We were also very close to gaining capability for Windows 3.1, but we couldn’t add Macintosh, as we hoped, because we depend on [Web browser] Microsoft Explorer, which isn’t compatible.”
Hopkins acknowledges that he and his sons tried to do too much too soon, but he insists the company isn’t dead in the water. As soon as investors fall into place, he said, they’ll be back in business.
Hopkins said investors who were ready to go ahead with the company last year pulled out over concerns about management in SoftPages’ New York office. Changes were made to no avail, and last October, the company found itself without capital.
“In 20-20 hindsight, we should have fired all the employees and closed up immediately when the money ran out. But we were hopeful other funding would come through,” Hopkins said.
“We’ve got a neat product with a lot of potential, but the kind of funding we need isn’t something piecemeal – something to just get us through,” he added. “We need about $5 million to get us to the next level where we could make a public offering.”
Hopkins said several investors are looking at the company, and he hopes to hear something soon.
Even if Hopkins and his sons are able to line up funding, they have other hurdles to overcome.
Last December, on at least three occasions, the SoftPages offices at 383 W. Drake Road were burglarized. Computer equipment valued at more than $10,000 was taken, making a large dent in the company’s assets.
Hopkins suspects one of his employees in the thefts, and police reports indicate investigators are following up on his suspicions.
Several SoftPages employees are owed back wages, and Hopkins said that once funding is in place, all who are owed money will be paid. He also said he and his sons will no longer extend loans to themselves as needed but will meet their obligations to the company by drawing “very moderate” salaries.
ÿ

FORT COLLINS – SoftPages Inc., a Fort Collins-based company marketing advertising software designed to compete with the Yellow Pages, has closed its doors and left several employees and customers feeling angry and cheated.The young company was little more than a year old when failure to find investors and glitches in the company’s CD-ROM product forced a shutdown.
SoftPages is owned by Fort Collins resident Richard Hopkins and his three sons, Adam, David and Wayne. The family team’s plan to create “21st century advertising today” included customized ads and listings for businesses, government agencies and community organizations on CD-ROM and the…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]