Primary Knowledge Ends Business With a Bang … of a Gavel

Founders of online data analysis firm Primary Knowledge Inc. finished closing the company this week by auctioning off its physical remains — about $10,000 worth of furniture, appliances and computers.

The company is still looking for buyers for its intellectual property.

Company executives chose to auction the few items that had not been leased because having buyers pick them up was cheaper than having them hauled away.

“It's the economics of disposal. This is a lesson I didn't want to have to learn,” said company founder/CEO Peter Adams. “Most [defunct] companies walk away and stiff someone with the bill to dispose of it. The world is too small for that, and it's silly to add pain on top of disappointment.”

Among the items on the block were about 20 stainless-steel barstools that had retailed for $385 each, heavy-duty metal patio tables with umbrellas, sleek lounge chairs, a microwave, a pool table and an industrial refrigerator with glass doors. A small but steady stream of auction goers bought the items for a fraction of their worth. Bids also were accepted via e-mail.

Auction goers also were invited to walk away with all the free desk accessories — garbage cans, staplers, file organizers, tape dispensers, etc. — they could carry.

“You have to leave with something,” Adams said to a pair of visitors. “That's the rule.”

The room with the free stuff was pretty much picked clean within the first hour of the two-hour affair.

Primary Knowledge unexpectedly shut its doors in early June and laid just about everyone off after failing to close a third round of funding. The firm warehoused and mined data from log files, registration and transaction databases, ad servers, and outbound and inbound e-mail servers for $10,000 to $30,000 per month.

For the past three weeks, five people have stayed to wrap up details with clients. The downtown offices took up 22,000 square feet on the top two floors of a 24-story building on Broadway across the street from Trinity Church.

“It's been spooky,” said Sherry Szydlik, co-founder and vice president of marketing. “You could hear your footsteps echo.”

Just last August, executives held a party in the space celebrating Primary Knowledge's expansion and resulting move from a smaller location. During the bash, about 300 people packed the company's 23rd-floor wraparound balcony, taking in a view that includes the Trinity Church steeple, Manhattan's financial district, the New York Harbor, the Hudson River and New Jersey.

Primary Knowledge's office space was typical of a New York Internet firm — a sleek steel-walled entryway, cement floors, open spaces, bright colors and high industrial ceilings lined with pipes and wires. Employees sat at long workbenches with white boards as backstops.

“It's a slightly inefficient use of space,” Adams said, referring to its typical dot-com setup. “The only things we don't have are the $1,000 Herman Miller chairs.”

At its peak, Primary Knowledge's clients included Reebok International, teen site Bolt Inc. and Rockport Co. LLC.

It was unknown at deadline how much the auction netted.

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