Still rotting

A long time ago I ran a company called Webmedia. It was a web design firm and we earned the special distinction of ‘going bust before the boom’ (as one journalist pithily put it). Anyway, I’ve been thinking about it lately since I spent the weekend talking about business ethics in Switzerland. One incident in particular has been making me laugh. One of my managers (she ran the production department) came to me one day and asked if I’d mind if she gave me a business book she’d just read. She thought I might like it. “Sure. I said. Please do”. A bit later on, and without comment, she left the book on my desk – it was called ‘The Fish Rots From The Head‘…


  1. Hehe, funny post…

    Steve, you and Ivan were the first real company I worked for, and since then I have worked in everything from multi-billion dollar publically listed to just a couple of employees to working for myself.

    Overall, you were great ethical people to work for, but a bit naive and inexperienced, and it appears both you and Ivan have grown a lot since then.

    My own feeling is that the deaths of webmedia and netnames came about because you didnt take enough of a risk, both were incredible opportunities at the right time that didnt go far enough or grow fast enough because of an unwillingness to make a loss or give up some control in order to grow.

    Hey, but what do I know, and hindsight is a dangerous thing 🙂

  2. Mark,
    Well, I wondered when you would resurface. Well, we did our best. Can’t say more than that. We were struggling with a lot of issues that were much bigger than we were, especially that we didn’t set out to start a big company and we didn’t have the experience to deal with what happened. That said, I think we made a good fist of it. Remember, we invented a lot of stuff that the world happily took and ran with.
    You say we didn’t take enough risk. Personally, I think we always took too much risk and that is what caused problems. People were forever telling me to focus, focus, focus. But focus is another word for ‘play safe’. Sure, there were probably lots of things we should have done different, but as you say, hindsight is a wonderful tool.
    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘make a loss’, we certainly did plenty of that. And I personally gave up all control, first to a CEO and then to the company that bought me out. I’d also point out that NetNames didn’t die, it is still very alive and leading its chosen field of corporate registration.
    It would, of course, be interesting to know what you did learn from the experience and what successes you’ve had applying your hindsight?

  3. Ivan, you took me out to an expensive lunch, and lo and behold, had no money, so I paid. You still owe me. I haven’t forgotten. What sort of ethic is that?

    I was pleased I folded Netmare when I did. It meant all my staff got jobs, and by the time the bust came, I was free from the crap that came with it.

  4. Personally, if I had no money, I had no money. That’s not unethical – that’s life. Don’t listen to a word that Mark H-T says, he knows nothing. All my staff got jobs and they now run the industry.

  5. The last time I felt this angry was …yesterday actually, anyway, that’s not the point, you Mr No-Mark Rosemary and Thyme, have NO IDEA AT ALL, what it was like to run that firm, and no doubt never will. And as for you Mr Wonderloaf, next time you’re down my way I’ll treat you to a sandwich seeing as it seems to bug you so much that you never got a free lunch, and didn’t you know? Talent never pays.

  6. Mark, I don’t understand…. Webmedia and NetNames should have been renamed ‘Loss’ and ‘Risk’ – where you not there??? I was there from the beginning, learnt a huge amount and have a lot to thank both Steve, but particularly Ivan for…. the internet industry learnt from their mistakes, NN wouldn’t be what it is today without Ivan’s ability for taking risks and making losses 😉 Those days were great fun and paved the way for a lot of what is happening in the industry today… Try not to be so condescending Mark, it didn’t help you then and it won’t now.

  7. Running a company is never a walk in the park – I know – I have started up and run two in my comparatively short lifetime. There is nothing more unconstructive as to have to work alongside and pay a member of the so-called team who is inevitably too selfish (and no doubt thick) to be a team player. It’s a shame – sounds like loaf and double barrel still have a lot to learn.

  8. Strange, my post was intended to pay Ivan and Steve compliments by calling them ethical and commented on how they have grown their management skills over time. Funny how everyone else seems to have misinterpreted it.


    Hi Ivan 🙂

    You talk about NetNames not dying but my comment about risk and death was related to Netbenefit buying out NetNames:

    I always though we had the better ideas, people, and vision but NetBenefit managed to out grow us by caring less about the balance sheet, got publically listed, and then bought you out.

    My view is it should have been the other way around as you were the visionary with all the ideas and Netbenefit were mostly a bunch of copycats who focussed more on web hosting, so yes I was sad to see that happen and to me it feels like the NetNames you created died when that heppened.

    Anyway, I will leave my comments at that as blog comments always get misinterpreted and seen out of context.

    Best wishes. Mark……

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