“These companies usually are driven by a leader who has a real vision of where the market is going,” says Deloitte & Touche’s Evans. He notes that in this way, eBay “created a whole new market segment.”
Naveen Jain, founder and CEO of InfoSpace Inc., would agree. “Almost all successful companies start with somebody that believes they have something really different, and can convince others of this,” Jain says, calling this person a sort of “evangelist.”
Under Jain’s leadership, InfoSpace revenues grew 107,704 percent in five years, placing his company No. 2 on the Fast 500. Not that it was easy, he stresses: “People forget that behind every overnight success there are years of hard work.”
A provider of Internet infrastructure services to Web concerns such as AOL and wireless companies including AT&T, InfoSpace has not been immune to the technology downturn. Its 2001 revenues were down from the previous year’s $214 million in sales that got it its high berth on the Fast 500.
Even so, the company continues to renew lucrative contracts, and Jain maintains “we are much stronger today than we were a year ago.”
How can that be? Jain explains that the current economy has allowed the company to “really focus” on its strengths. “The recession has been a blessing for companies that started in the boom times,” he says. “We forget that the business of business is making money. The companies that survive this will thrive.” Jain explains that his goals for InfoSpace are to build a “great enterprise” with long-term profitability.
Of course, fast growth is no guarantee of future success. That is one lesson to draw from the experience of Excite@Home Corp., No. 3 on the Fast 500. Despite five-year revenue growth of 91,080 percent, its losses far outpaced its revenues and the company filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
Ironically, perhaps, InfoSpace in November announced it would purchase about $10 million worth of the bankrupt company’s assets, including domain names and trademarks.