Up and Dot Gone

Ravi Desai promised $5 million for poetry. He delivered $6,770

Ravi Desai admits he's a lousy poet. But he's pretty good at spinning tales. The 31-year-old Harvard graduate talks like the Robin Hood of Silicon Valley, promising to shower info-tech lucre on cash-strapped creative-writing programs across the land. "We need to support the soul as well as the mind," he croons from a two-man consulting firm in Menlo Park, Calif. What Desai actually delivers, however, is a parable about the perils of falling for a dotcom dreamer.

Back in the days when NASDAQ-made millionaires were multiplying like mold spores, Desai materialized as a boy-wonder benefactor. He went on a pledging spree,...

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