Last week Monday I heard the “local boy makes it big in silicon valley” story. Fascinating stuff.

There’s a bit of tech history in the MLive article including the inspirational 1986 Super Bowl Apple TV commercial “Power to the People” which was the theme and point of Richard Barton’s talk.

This guy sat in front of Bill Gates in 1993 selling a web site called Expedia which Gates approved as an internal project. Three years later he was sitting in front of Ballmer asking to take the company outside of Microsoft and public. Today Expedia does $35 Billion / year in sales helping consumers make their own travel arrangements.

In 2005, after IAC Corp. acquired Expedia in 2003, he came up with the idea for another popular web site.

MLive says, “Home values represent people’s biggest assets,” Barton said. “Why shouldn’t we be able to track the values of our homes the way we track our stocks?”

Today Zillow is the largest real estate site and enjoys 64M unique monthly visitors as the standard of home equity valuation.

Richard Barton calls the internet a “revolution of empowerment to freedom.” I believe this is true and the Arab Spring is a reflection of knowledge as power. He says that the world’s 7 Billion cell phones are the next frontier.

Barton’s BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is UGC (User Generated Content). Essentially, reaching into information or people to acquire value. This is really what Google, Facebook, and Twitter do. They aggregate UGC to create value.

I really enjoyed Barton’s description of his late Grandfather as “the improvement guy.” His Grandfather was always looking to learn seeking self-improvement – which was inspirational to Barton and is instructive for each of us. I also enjoyed his answer to the question, “How do you come up with names like Expedia and Zillow?” Track me down for the unique, syllabic, scrabble based answer to that one.

This fascinating story got me thinking about my friend Doug, who I grew up with and is now a Petroleum Engineer in Denver, Colorado. We’re politically opposite and lately Doug says, “Bring me the data.” Essentially, don’t bring me opinions or ideas, show me the objective proof!

I’ve been thinking about Richard Barton’s story a lot over the past week. His is a classic story of capitalism. Some say that entrepreneurial capitalism is the story of destructive innovation. Barton was a curious and innovative mind who leveraged a new medium called the internet to change the way we get answers while improving our everyday lives.

That’s a real value proposition. That’s real value. That’s real power to the people.

Michael Ritsema
i3 Business Solutions, llc

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