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Livingston: What were you focused on doing in the first month Davis: Job number one for the first month was about building a team, getting
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some core people in place. And trying to understand what we were doing for a living and how we were going to go about doing it. Were we a technology company A media company Or some hybrid thereof We were a little late to the game because, by the time we incorporated, other search engines like Infoseek and Yahoo were in the marketplace. So we showed up trying to figure out what we wanted to do. We were somewhat indecisive in the sense that I couldn t make the call between technology and media. They re different, so we coined the phrase Technomedia, which meant that we were licensing our technology at the same time we were building our own branded site, selling advertising. It wasn t a good term. We eventually abandoned the technology piece of it and became a pure-play media company.
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Livingston: Wasn t the technology group located in Pittsburgh Davis: Fuzzy was very committed to being a research scientist and didn t want
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to join the company or be involved with the business side of it. But our agreement with Carnegie Mellon required us to keep a presence in Pittsburgh. So despite the fact that Lycos was headquartered in Boston, we were obligated to have a meaningful presence in Pittsburgh. We were fortunate in the sense that Carnegie Mellon gave us a good draw of students, postgraduates, and alumni in the area, since it s a premier computer science institution. We hired our first few technical engineers out of Carnegie Mellon one that was Fuzzy s student assistant and another that was working in their data labs. I think we probably peaked with 300 employees in Pittsburgh, and certainly substantial pieces of our engineering operation were there.
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Livingston: Was this difficult to manage, especially in a startup environment Davis: Yes, it was very hard to manage. It s only a short plane ride from Boston
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to Pittsburgh, but it was almost the equivalent of oceans between us, because you re not able to walk down the corridor and say, Hello. What can we do next This added a substantial burden for the company.
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Livingston: So what were some of the other big problems that you faced
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Davis: What weren t they Hiring people, firing people, understanding our business model, getting customers, servicing the customers, finding office space, scaling the company, staring down competitors, going public, raising money, satisfying shareholders. That s all in the first 9 months. Livingston: Did you know from the beginning that your goal was to go public Davis: No. When we started, I felt we could make a big business, but I didn t
think it would be quite to the extent that it became. The week after we had started the company, Dan Nova said to me, This will never be a people-intensive business. But when I finally left the company, we had 3,500 employees. We also joke about the fact that we once said, At some point, if we re lucky, maybe we ll get up to a million users of Lycos. I think at the time, we had maybe 50,000 or 100,000. When I left the company, we had about 110 to 120 million, monthly.
Livingston: What were the big turning points Davis: There was no turning point per se. It was a complete evolution and there
was a new opportunity and a new challenge every day. As you mow down one obstacle, there s always another one waiting. We d be fighting six or seven fires at any given point in time on any given day, and you re fighting all these fires at the same time you re trying to construct the blueprint of the house. So you re dealing with emergencies du jour while you re trying to build a business. But that s the nature of the entrepreneur and that s the nature of a young business. We d be hard-pressed to find a company in the history of business that has laid out a blueprint and been able to follow that blueprint chapter and verse throughout its life. It just doesn t happen. It s a changing environment out there. So there were many issues we faced. Staffing was a huge challenge. Lycos became sexy after a few years, but early on, no one had heard of Lycos, and those that had thought it was this crazy idea that wasn t destined to continue. Never mind the company people didn t believe in the medium then, so recruiting employees was a challenge. Getting good people on board was tricky because we had no proof points for employees in the sense that there was no demonstrable success.
Livingston: This was before joining a startup was a popular thing to do Davis: Well, startups have been around forever, but working for a startup didn t have the euphoria that it had a few months later. But there have always been entrepreneurs and people willing to take risks. The Internet wasn t cool, for sure, and Lycos was unheard of when we started the business.
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