The Fall Of Baan

How ineffective management and bad luck brought down the Dutch software superstar

Barneveld is an out-of-the-way stop, a Dutch country town of 48,000 known for its chicken farms, egg auctions, and the brothers Baan. It's here that Jan and Paul Baan created their own rare bird: software maker Baan Co., one of the great success stories of the 1990s. Baan, a maker of software for running corporations' internal operations, was among the first European tech companies to be backed by U.S. venture capital. It offered hope that Old World companies could operate as nimbly--and soar as high--as their Silicon Valley brethren. Sure enough, sales sextupled between 1994 and 1997, and the Baan brothers, both members of the conservative Dutch Reformed Church, flew in their jet between Barneveld, Silicon Valley, and a host of charities they sponsored around the world. Jan boasted to reporters that it was easier to make money than to give it away.

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