The Minds Behind the Madness

What inspires someone to sacrifice sleep, sanity and free time to start a dot-com company? Usually, they'll see an unmet need and find a way to meet it. Find out more about a few of the minds behind the madness -- those who dreamed up solutions and...


Starting out, the Buzzsaw.com team focused mostly on larger commercial builders. "We knew commercial construction was big and had the infrastructure to do things online," Bass explains. "If we can help people save time and complete a commercial building sooner, it's money in the bank for us."

Bass and the other Buzzsaw.com founders wanted to remain private as the organization started to mature. "It's better to live your adolescence as a private company," Bass says. "It allows us to round out our team and nail down our business plan so that when it has to live through the scrutiny of the public market, we're ready." Buzzsaw.com completed its second round of funding in March 2000 for $75 million.

Because the company started off with backing from Autodesk, well known in the building industry, and from Bank of America, they had a solid start. At other startups, Bass remembers sitting by the fax machine for two months waiting for funding to come through. With Buzzsaw.com, he hasn't had time to sit by the fax machine: "There's too much to do here. If one thing doesn't work out, it's on to the next. We look at what else we can pursue."

Bass and his team sought employees familiar with the building industry -- so even in today's competitive hiring market, they've been able to attract and retain those passionate about facilitating change in building and construction. At least half of Buzzsaw.com's employees come from within the industry, which also helps the team stay in touch with the needs and wants of users. They have an advisory council of several dozen firms that pilot developments to the Buzzsaw.com system and become users.

About 200 other companies have started to offer some kind of e-commerce product for the construction industry. "I think the market share for all of us is a fraction of what it will be three to five years from now," Bass says. "With other evangelists and people promoting e-commerce, it helps people think about online stuff. If we were the only people out there selling this, it wouldn't look like a valid idea."

Upside magazine recently included Buzzsaw.com in its list of "Hot 100" web sites and Forbes listed Buzzsaw.com as one of the "Best of the Web."

Bass' future plans include planning ways to increase his company's profitability, as well as expanding and enhancing Buzzsaw.com's offerings to provide end-to-end solutions. He also wants to expand his organization's currently small presence in the European and Asian markets. "The most fun part about all this has been creating a new business," Bass says. "I've enjoyed the challenge around the problem solving, creativity and imagination as we look at how we build a compelling set of services. We started with a blank sheet of paper. We had some constraints and borders but a lot gets to be figured out the first time."

In the next few years, Bass expects to see consolidation among startups and some companies may have trouble raising their second or third rounds of funding. But there should still be ample opportunities in the dot-com startup arena for the creative and persistent: "Startups are a great way to deliver innovation and take advantage of new technology. There are huge opportunities created around that. People continue to come up with more ways to use the Internet, not less."

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Why does he keep this schedule? "I wanted to see if I'd be able to do it -- see if I could put together a team and create products and services that people wanted to pay for," Baier says of starting PurchasingCenter.com. "It wasn't as important to me to be my own boss -- there are a lot of delusions about being your own boss. I still have investors that I need to keep in the loop. The reality is that there's always a higher power somewhere -- Wall Street or investors - even if you start your own company."

Baier balances the excitement of starting and leading a dot-com company with the reality of family life, keeping him fairly focused: "It's exciting and fast-paced, and there's never a shortage of strategic issues to think through and work through."

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