Transcript of What They Don’t Teach in Business School about Entrepreneurship – Part of 2010 Conference on Entrepreneurship at Stanford GSB…
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: MP3 – What They Don’t Teach in Business School about Entrepreneurship
Chuck Holloway – Professor, Stanford GSB
A session on what they don’t teach in business school about entrepreneurship. Having taught entrepreneurship in Stanford business school for something like 13 years, I can tell you there’s a lot. Some of it we know we don’t teach, and some of it we probably should teach if we knew a little more about the subject. So, I think it’s a very pertinent subject today. So Mike, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you did, and just remember, I’ve got a little bio here. So if you don’t include things, I can include it, and if you do include things that, that aren’t in here, I may question you on it.
Mike Cassidy: Okay. It’s like the Senate Investigation Committee.
Chuck Holloway: Exactly. Except you’re not sitting out there.
Mike Cassidy: I do have lights flashing at me. So I’ve been the CEO and co-founder of four startups. I was very lucky with the first three. One was, the first one was, I started with $500 of myself and each of my two partners putting $500 so we had $1,500. We started in my second year of business school at the Stanford of the East Coast, in Boston.
Chuck Holloway: You’re very kind.
Mike Cassidy: We never raised venture capital. It started as a company called Dial A Fish. It was where you could order groceries from home. It was insane. This was before the internet and everything. We eventually sold it for — we had to change direction because that was not going to work into a computer telephony tool. We sold it for $13 million a few years later, which was tiny for Silicon Valley standards, but, a fair New England return on the $1,500 investment.
The second company was Direct-Hit, which was an internet search engine. Nobody ever heard of Direct Hit, but we were providing search results to Microsoft, AOL, Lycos. We’re kind of a behind-the-scenes provider. And it was the right time we grew to a market value of $500 million. 500 days after we launched it, and we sold it in January of 2000.
And then the third company was Xfire which is an instant messenger for PC video gamers. It spread virally. We got to about three million users, two years after launching. We sold it for a $100 million to MTV and now there’s 15 million users, using it. And I’m now working on my fourth one, which I could end up being, I want to be four now but I could be three and one because we haven’t sort of found the formula for success on Ruba. Ruba is a travel site, so that’s sort of my background.
Chuck Holloway: And when did you graduate from Harvard?
Mike Cassidy: A long, long, time ago.
Female Panelist: We have to get into numbers.
Chuck Holloway: Oh, yeah, well, the reason why is, is sort of interesting to know the timing of your first venture, right, because, that was, you say, prior to the internet.
Mike Cassidy: Yes.
Chuck Holloway: But, so you were actually a leader in that, others came after you, also didn’t do very well. Right? You may have been the biggest winner in that whole space of ordering food from home.
Mike Cassidy: If we’d started a different time.
Chuck Holloway: Well, you sold it for $13 million. Most of the other companies I know lost money, right?
Mike Cassidy: Sure. So I decided I was going to stop aging at age 31. So, I graduated Harvard from 1991. So I must have graduated around age 11. You can figure out.
Chuck Holloway: Good. All right, thank you. Nazila?
Nazila Alasti: So I’m Nazila Alasti and I started life as an engineer. I’m Iranian originally, and in my country if you’re a good student you either become a doctor or an engineer, so there was — that was the choice and I was scared of blood so off I went into engineering school. But it was actually a really great background I thought for Silicon Valley. I didn’t know I would end up here, but I did. And I was thankful for my parents for having pushed me into engineering.
Fast forward, five years of working at a technology company at Mass Microdevices. I became a project designer, project lead, went to business school, and learned that people can actually make money selling pencils. And that it doesn’t have to be semiconductors. That was my big learning from business school. Entrepreneurial activities at the time were not as hot as they are now.
Chuck Holloway: What was it — when did you graduate?
Nazila Alasti: I graduated in ‘88. So, I also stopped aging at 30, a few years earlier than you, yeah. And I have to say that my experience at business school was really eye-opening, broadening, but I wouldn’t say that I was focused on necessarily becoming an entrepreneur. It seemed very risky at the time. However after I got out and experienced the venture capital world for a couple of years and then went on to work at Apple, which I consider really my formative years at Apple, and worked on a big failure of a project called Newton, which was the original hand-held device. I came to understand that I really needed more freedom in my life, and that the corporate structure wasn’t providing that, and I was stupid enough or naive enough to say that I could do things on my own. So I started a long line of all sorts of startups, failures as well as successes. And ended up now running Jooners, which was my first, from Powerpoint to funding, to product startup, where I’m CEO, founder and I’m growing that business. So, that’s a little bit about me.