[Techweb] CMGI's David Wetherell wandering among the library stacks.

I Find Karma (adam@cs.caltech.edu)
Sun, 13 Dec 1998 04:51:13 -0800 (PST)

Okay, after reading the interview with him on TechWeb


I now know what I want to do with my life after Caltech. I want to go
and work for David Wetherell, in any capacity. Seriously, he's my
hero... Rohit, do you know anyone at CMGI with whom I can set up an
interview, or do I have to do this myself?

> David Wetherall -- Wetherell Has Positioned Himself As The Largest
> Shareholder In Many Of The Most Visited Web Sites.
> by Tim Long, November 16, 1998, Issue: 817
> If the typical CEO is like the conductor of a vast organizational
> orchestra, then David Wetherell is more the leader of a small jazz band.
> The 44-year-old chairman and chief executive of the wildly successful
> venture-capital firm CMG Information Services Inc. is short on formality
> and long on improvisation.
> For the past four years, from his offices in a renovated textile mill in
> Andover, Mass., Wetherell has used CMG venture funds to position himself
> as the largest shareholder in many of the most visited sites on the Web.
> CMG's combined investments now rank third in Web traffic, behind only
> the sites of Microsoft Corp. and America Online Inc. At the same time,
> Wetherell has been directing CMG's wholly owned companies to build
> technology that can measure Web traffic more accurately than anyone
> else.
> This makes Wetherell and his little-known CMG a major player on the
> Internet, not only as a stakeholder in prime real estate such as the Web
> portal Lycos and the virtual community GeoCities, but as a major force
> in enabling the development of electronic commerce, which is rapidly
> becoming a source of many opportunities for resellers.
> To those who have watched CMG's meteoric rise, Wetherell's deft moves
> are no accident; they are the product of the vision and hard work of a
> man whose approach to investing is uniquely suited to the high-stakes
> world of Internet start-ups.
> "David and the Web were made for each other," says Margaret Hefferman,
> chief executive of one of CMG's companies, The Password. She attributes
> Wetherell's success at picking Internet winners to his affinity for, and
> keen understanding of, the medium. "He has the best visceral
> understanding of the Web of anyone I've ever met," she says.
> Wetherell demurs at the notion that he has any prescience when it comes
> to matters of the Web. He tends to credit his wide-ranging interests for
> his success.
> "Really, I'm interested in a lot of different things," he says. "I'm
> very eclectic in that regard. So that lends itself to venture
> investing."
> While still in college, Wetherell would wander among the library stacks
> picking out books, stopping only when he could not carry any more. "Then
> I'd sit down and start going through them all, and if there were 30
> books, there'd be 30 diverse subjects," he recalls.
> This approach appears appropriate not only to venture-capital research
> but also to the surf-and-drill-down method of inquiry peculiar to the
> Web.
> "I probably know more about the Internet than any one single topic I've
> ever known about," he says. "But that's probably because it's about more
> different things. It lends itself to the style of learning I became
> accustomed to."
> He jokes that this interest may be the result of his having a short
> attention span. And he also admits to having a "fairly
> obsessive-compulsive personality." He finds the Internet "incredibly
> compelling" and says, "I find I don't like being away from it for very
> long."
> Wetherell "lives on the Web," says David Andonian, CMG president of
> business development and operations. "It's hard to pull him away from
> his screen," says Bill White, CMG's president of marketing and strategic
> operations. "That's the truth. You're often talking to his back."
> Although friends and colleagues describe Wetherell as a driven man, he
> says he does find time for other pursuits-playing jazz on his
> 19th-century Steinway concert grand piano, for one. He has also spent
> enough time away from his computer to turn himself into a power golfer
> with a 4 handicap.
> Wetherell's intense and freewheeling style sets the tone for his
> approach to organization and management. An entrepreneur at heart,
> Wetherell runs a nimble and aggressive organization-both investment firm
> and holding company-that takes part or whole ownership in its
> investments. Insiders describe this loose arrangement of companies
> variously as a "kiretsu," "network" or "family."
> Andonian, whom Wetherell hired less than a year ago, says, "When I first
> arrived I didn't see any process or standard filters or criteria" for
> setting goals and making decisions. But soon Andonian's concern turned
> to respect when he saw that Wetherell's innovative style was, in large
> part, the secret of CMG's success.
> White agrees. "I've worked at companies where you spend half your time
> working the system," he says. At CMG, there is "no impediment to
> creativity."
> Wetherell says the philosophy behind his lack of formality is to hire
> good people and provide them with a sense of ownership and mission.
> "Rarely do I ever say, 'Do this,' " he explains.
> His successes have attracted big-name investors to CMG, including Intel
> Corp., Microsoft and Sumitomo Corp. Why would such high-tech
> heavyweights bank on Wetherell's knack for finding the gold in them thar
> Web hills? "David's background was direct marketing," says Avram Miller,
> Intel's corporate vice president and director of business development,
> "and I think the thing he has focused on and understood is marketing
> commerce, and that's what the Web became."
> Wetherell has been "very aggressive," says Jennifer Fonstad, an
> associate at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a Redwood City, Calif.,
> venture-capital firm. She says he has been able to marshal a
> "combination of vision, persuasiveness and execution" that bodes well
> for CMG's future, if he can keep up the "deal flow."
> Wetherell is constantly on the lookout for new investments, reviewing
> 300 to 400 business plans per month. And, always, he searches the Web.
> This past summer, he says, a few weeks of prospecting yielded a way to
> make money with message boards. Message boards? That's right. But,
> remember, this is the same guy who bought 80 percent of Lycos Inc. for
> only $2 million, back when few people could have imagined that the lowly
> search engine would become the portal of the future.
> ---
> Executive Snapshot
> Title: Chairman And CEO, CMG Information Services Inc.
> Location: Andover, Mass.
> 1997 Salary And Bonus: $355,250
> Years With Company: 12
> Age: 44
> Education: B.A., Mathematics And Education, Ohio Wesleyan University
> Favorite Drink: Varies
> Favorite Movie Director: Martin Scorsese
> Favorite Web Site: Too Many To Mention
> Favorite Reading Spot: Octagonal Sunroom In Home
> What's Always In The Refrigerator: Orange Juice
> Most Valuable Investment: Nineteenth-Century Steinway Piano
> Most Advanced Home Technology Gadget: Sony VAIO Laptop Computer


The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than
the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure,
than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more
important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a
company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice
every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot
change our past, we cannot change the fact that people will act in a
certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do
is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am
convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
And as it is with you. We are in charge of our attitude.
-- Charles Swindoll