Sunday, June 24, 2007

Founders at Work - Excite

Excite founder Joe Kraus

  • Excite started as a group of friends from Stanford who wanted to start a company--but didn't know what they wanted to start
  • The idea went through some iterations--CD-ROM search to web search
  • "All of the pivotal things [in the company] were unintentional... The intentional things were rarely pivotal in those early days, but the being persistent, following-your-nose thing made a big difference."
  • Getting the Netscape "search" button was a major tipping point for Excite. They bid $3M for the contract (which they didn't have--that only had $1M--but Vinod Khosla said they could raise the rest). And they lost. But Vinod told the team not to quit.
  • Re Netscape: " We did all this stuff; we called them constantly; we just basically acted like the bidding wasn't over. And made a total pain in the ass of ourselves... Then luck struck: MCI couldn't deliver its service to Netscape on time... I can tell you that, had we given up, we never would have gotten this deal back. And without that deal, I don't think Excite would have had its run at all."
  • "The persistence part is the part I like. It's actually not fun when it's happening, but you know it makes a difference because 99.9 percent of the people give up. And Vinod gave me that lesson in spades. I think I would have given up with Netscape. I wouldn't have known what to do. I wouldn't have had the chutzpah to say, 'No, we haven't lost, we're still negotiating, aren't we?' And treating it as if I didn't hear their 'no.'"
  • Key take-away: Persistence pays.
  • Excite was #17 in a 17-horse race when they launched in oct. '95. But by end of '96, they were #2 in the portal game. They did it because they set that as a goal--and the company rallied around it.

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