Editor’s note: This article, by Inman News Publisher Bradley Inman, was originally published at BradInman.com. Click here to view the original item.
The 10-year anniversary of the dot-com crash is next month, a good time to write about the fine line between leadership and hubris.
In early 2000, HomeGain, an online real estate company that I started the year before, was chasing leader Realtor.com. We were quickly building awareness and sign-ups around our home-valuation tool and our venture-backed radio spend. In those days, we were second or third in online real estate traffic and the premium was on visitor count and user engagement, not revenue. (In just a few months, the math and mood changed for all dot-com entrepreneurs and their investors). Hubris was creeping in.
Get stars in your eyes and your head will blow up.
That spring, we were re-architecting the entire HomeGain site with a new technology team who built the new site on Linux and was breaking new ground in software development. We were also putting the site on a new platform, created by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen. He started LoudCloud, which supplied server infrastructure, software support and other services for startup technology companies.
Marc was an early investor in HomeGain and we were one of LoudCloud’s first customers.
Imagine the scene: new company, new platform and new system architecture. Add to the mix a founder pushing everyone to move faster, faster, faster.
We launched in February of 2000, and like the dot-com bubble a month later, the site crashed. Fingers pointed every which way before we joined hands to fix the problems.
I blew it — trying to do too much too quickly, feeling invincible. Letting my technology team put so much faith in evolving software was a mistake. Putting our site on a new platform was risky. Pushing everyone to launch faster than humanly possible was my biggest lapse in judgment. …CONTINUED
The company recovered but the experience was bad for morale. An upside, I was brought down a notch and humbled.
Nothing is more important than understanding the technology recommendations of your tech team. I am not an engineer, but that is no excuse for not grasping the technical dimensions and business risks of what is being built. Listening is critical.
Another lesson was how to think about using teams and partners. The new tech team was wicked smart, and I still work with many of them today. But they were dropped into HomeGain with unrealistic expectations, their own novel software coding plans, a new platform and an unreasonable deadline.
Marc’s team went out of its way to fix problems it was responsible for, but they too were just launching, and being one of their first customers came with some risk. LoudCloud later morphed into Opsware and sold to HP for $1.6 billion in 2007 — proof it was another solid Andreessen venture.
HomeGain survived and thrived, but we lost ground.
All sorts of considerations go into picking partners, vendors and employees and making judgments about deadlines, but in the end, doing too much too fast can have consequences you pay for many times over.
In the era of agile software development, the risks are reduced but the dynamics and consequences can be the same.
Have I reformed? Not entirely — pushing hard and fast remains one of my character defects.
Other sources and facts:
1. The Story of Arachne and of hubris
2. Marc Andreesen on Charlie Rose
3. Name the Greatest Business Partnerships
4. Five Steps to Successful Technology Partnerships
Click here to view the original post at Brad’s Blog.
Brad Inman is the founder and publisher of Inman News; he created and later sold online real estate lead-generation and marketing site HomeGain.com; and is the founder of TurnHere.com and Vook.com.
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