is life, says Lycos founder
By JACK PERRY
STAFF WRITER CAPE COD TIMES
WEST DENNIS - Lycos founder Bob Davis knows
all about success. He sold his Internet portal company for $5.4 billion
last year to Terra Networks.
Davis, who owns a home in Yarmouth, also
knows all about setbacks and failures. He lost his mother when he was 13;
his father at 20.
At 22, he was rejected for his dream job
as a salesman with IBM.
And, later, Lycos was three weeks away
from running out of cash when the company made its initial public
Perseverance does pay off, Davis said
yesterday during a fund-raiser for the Masonic Angel Foundation Inc. at
"The life of an entrepreneur is a
life of failures, setbacks and challenges," he said.
Davis, who grew up in Dorchester and
worked his way through Northeastern University after his father's death,
believes persistence determines the difference between success and
failure, between winners and losers.
"In a competitive world, you and you
alone make the decision to let up," he said.
Lycos suffered other setbacks. Days
before the company's IPO, the Internet browser, Netscape, told Lycos it
would bill the company $5 million annually for a link that it had been
providing for free.
Since 50 percent of Lycos's traffic came
through Netscape, the company could not ignore the request. The
development delayed the Lycos IPO for several days. The company had to
develop a new financial model, and Davis had to tell potential investors
of the company's new financial picture.
Nevertheless, the IPO was a success,
raising more than $40 million.
More recently, when the deal with Terra
Networks was pending, the CEO of Terra's parent company, Telefonica, was
forced to step down. That nearly killed the merger.
Davis's working theme at Lycos: "If
you let up, you lose."
Davis, 44, expands on that and other
business topics in his book, "Speed is Life: Street Smart Lessons
from the Front Lines of Business" (Doubleday, $24.95). Davis, who
sold and signed copies after the talk, is contributing his profits from
the book to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The desire to help children brought Davis
and the Masons together, said Jim St. Pierre, past master of the Mount
Horeb Lodge in South Dennis. The foundation purchases coats, sneakers,
school supplies and other items for children in need. After the idea
started on Cape Cod three years ago, 25 Masonic chapters across the
country now have angel funds.
Davis is a parent himself. "I have a
13-year-old who knows more about his computer and more about the Internet
than I do," he said.
Davis now serves as vice chairman for
Terra Lycos and is not active in the day-to-day operation of the company.
He is a partner in the Boston venture capital firm Highland Capital
Partners, which manages $1.5 billion in venture capital.
Davis doesn't expect to do that for long,
though. He wants to start another company, although he declined to provide
details after the talk.
When he does start his next venture,
expect the company to move fast and provide good customer service, two
themes Davis emphasized yesterday.
In technology, the first product on the
market usually wins the customers as companies such as E-Bay, Amazon.com
and Yahoo! have proven. Speed is life, especially in the technology
business, he said.
"By being first, before you know it,
you own the marketplace."