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October 13, 2004

Moons Over My Hammy

I've been absent for a while. Sorry. My new company just launched and it took all my time away.

Now, like Chucky in Child's Play 2, I'm back...

When Vinod Khosla stepped up to the plate to fund Excite (born Architext), a funny thing happened. Suddenly, there was a lot of interest by a lot of people in the company. Nothing creates interest like interest.

One of those people was a guy named Phillipe Courtout. Phillipe ran a search technology company called Verity. What I remember most about Philippe was his French accent and this bad-ass Mercedes he drove.

Phillipe didn't want to fund Architext, he wanted to buy it. Price? $3 million bucks plus some nice cubes at Verity and perhaps an Aeron chair to boot.

So there it was. Phillipe's offer of cash now vs. Vinod's offer of investment and potential.

Those were some high-class problems.

In those days, the tried-and-true way to solve complicated issues was to take the two couches we had "liberated" from the trash bin at our local self-storage locker and drag them together, face to face, in the middle of the living room. Then, with three of us on one side, and three of us on another, we hashed things out.

At midnight, this meeting started with a roll-call vote.

3 to 3.

Three people wanted to take the Verity deal. Three of us wanted to take the risk with Vinod.

Everybody spoke for a while, making their plea. By 1am, we broke the huddle and split up.

A few of us walked the neighborhood, others chucked the nerf football in the street. We re-congregated at 1:45.

We looked at one another and I remember this big pause. Then someone, I don't remember who, said "we've thought about it more and we're willing to take the KP deal." It was done.

After the initial "are we sure about this?" wore off, it was time for celebration. I had a mission: Las Vegas. Now. Martin Reinfried remembered that his dad had one of those books that listed all scheduled flights from all airlines (yes, it was a book in 1994) so we called him and woke him up.

No flights to Vegas at 2:30am? You have no idea what a shock this is to the 22 year old mind.

"How about Denny's?"

That's right, Denny's. Someone floated Denny's as a viable alternative to Las Vegas and the funny thing was we couldn't think of anything else. So, you know where we celebrated the financing decision for Architext?

Denny's.

Can I get a shout out for "Moons Over My Hammy"! It never tasted so good.

For me, this story always reminds me about the nature of startups and about the value of celebrating your successes. Someone once told me that startups are like qualifying for the olympics. Every time you cross the finish line in first place, it represents a milestone and a victory. But, really all it does is qualify you to compete with companies at a higher level. You may think every milestone is a finsh line -- funding, first product ship, more funding, public offering, etc -- but the truth is that the competition never ends. Every finish line merely qualifies you to walk across the track, get back in the starting blocks and compete against even better competitors.

How's that for a VC sports-analogy?

The point for me is this: don't forget to celebrate your successes. It's way too easy to burn out by immediately focusing on the new race right after crossing a finish line. Don't. Take a moment and revel in it.

I never did this enough at Excite. I wish I had. We crossed a lot of finish lines in first and we never took enough time to celebrate.

So now that this new company is launched, it's time to celebrate. It's 10pm, and in my 20s perhaps I'd be in my Jeep on the way to Denny's. Now in my 30s, married, with a new baby, I can think of no greater luxury than going to bed...

Whatever happened to Las Vegas?

October 13, 2004 | Permalink

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» Lessons from the trench from Occam's Razor
Joe Kraus just posted a new instalment of his Excite Memories: For me, this story always reminds me about the nature of startups and about the value of celebrating your successes. Someone once told me that startups are like qualifying [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 14, 2004 4:47:54 AM

» Sunday, October 17, 2004 11:14 PM from Critical Section
@Hey, I've got a new blog for you: Joe Kraus' Bnoopy. Joe was a founder of Excite and has some great stories about "the old days" of the 'net. See especially Persistence Pays, Part 1, Persistence Pays, Part 2, and Moons Over My Hammy. Great stuff.... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 26, 2004 10:40:06 AM

Comments

I have my own startup and it definitely does help with morale to celebrate the wins. But its also important not to revel in the losses.

Posted by: adam lee | Oct 14, 2004 1:09:50 AM

I'm trying to start my own company with two good friends, but it's hard to make our thoughts converge. The good thing is that we are in three, so we can't stuck on a decision for too long because we're always 2 vs 1 at worst...

Posted by: Michele | Oct 14, 2004 9:18:04 AM

So, what's the new company? Or is it still too early to say?

Thanks,
Ronnie

Posted by: Ronnie Frantom | Oct 14, 2004 10:41:53 AM

Thanks for keeping the thoughts, lessons, notes coming.

The decision point mentioned here is a good one. Reminds me of all those roads not taken.

Amit

Posted by: Amit C | Oct 14, 2004 12:20:54 PM

Joe Kraus' startup is JotSpot, http://www.jot.com/, making a Wiki solution for people who want a cheaper, more effective collaborative intranet. It has more of a WYSIWYG interface (not sure if that's through a plugin or DHTML or something else)

Posted by: Charles Y | Oct 14, 2004 2:26:24 PM

Thank you! Seems interesting and like something I might be able to use.

Posted by: Ronnie Frantom | Oct 15, 2004 9:58:53 AM

Interesting to see that most comments are from guys who are interesed in a start-up of their own. Maybe this comment column will turn into a network of potential possibilities. Anyway Joe, good to read what you share, keep it up.

Posted by: Frank G | Oct 16, 2004 6:22:55 AM

Good post, its always fun to celebrate - and its important to do so.

One problem I have found with larger companies is, as a company gets bigger, it can often forget who made it a success. Its fine when a company is small, but if it gets hundreds of employees, then it tends to happen that management celebrate successes, and drive nice cars - whilst the staff who did all the work, drive old bangers, and get a christmas lunch if they are lucky.

Posted by: ken | Oct 17, 2004 8:55:28 PM

Joe,
Congrats on JotSpot... just saw the BusinessWeek article... you're looking sharp.

Also, great blog and thank you for all the insights ... keep 'em coming!

TNK

Posted by: Tanai K. | Oct 18, 2004 9:11:59 PM

sieben, acht, neun ,zehn

Posted by: Graf Zahl | Dec 14, 2004 8:08:45 AM

The first thing I do when I get to a town is find the one day dry cleaner, a competent barber, and the all night cafe, not a Denny's.

If you create a culture of celebration, particularly one where the rest of the family is welcome, changing it later will be a bear.

If you move your company to a new building, move everybody. If you leave half and move them later, that schism won't heal, particularly if the new digs are way better than the former.

Posted by: David Locke | Jan 16, 2005 7:47:09 PM

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