Here Raj details some of his lessons learned with @Home, and then discusses his transition to Epinions.com.
SM: How long did you work with @Home? RV: Well, about 3.5 years into my time with @Home, it was “grown” rather than “rapidly growing”. The merger with Excite was complete, and the 30-person company I’d joined now had over 3000 people. Along the way I’d learned that what I enjoyed most was having impact. It motivated me when I knew that what I did had an identifiable effect on what the company was trying to do. The sheer number of things now going on and the sheer number of people involved in the projects made it increasingly difficult for me to be as involved as I wanted to be.
SM: I know what you mean. I find it depressing to be a cog in the wheel …
RV: Yes. At about this time, I was having dinner with Naval Ravikant, a friend of mine from @Home who had left about 6 months earlier. Naval had spent some time as an EIR at August Capital, leading to his founding a company then called Epinions. The company had assembled a group of veterans from the previous round of Internet startups – Netscape, @Home, Yahoo, and others and was ready for its initial launch, but was looking to expand the team. For me, Epinions was an opportunity to return to my familiar “around 30 people” company environment, and therefore hopefully to return to having more impact on the direction of the company as a whole.
SM: How did your time at @Home prepare you for your work with Epinions? RV: Epinions was really a chance to apply everything I thought I’d learned at @Home in terms of building and managing engineering teams, maintaining engineering quality while moving at high speed, balancing product and technical requirements, and any number of other things I probably can’t even articulate right now.
Additionally, I got more exposure to the business side of the equation than I’d previously had. As a company, and as a management team, we experimented with a wide variety of ideas for generating web traffic, revenue, etc. This introduced me to a new and interesting set of things to think about, whereas previously I’d been more focused on figuring out technical solutions to given product ideas, I was now starting to move a little further “upstream”, thinking about the product and business strategy as much as the product engineering ideas.