Casual in cutoff jeans and a T-shirt, the former Expedia boss dropped some juicy anecdotes for the crowd at Zillow’s offices overlooking Elliott Bay from the 46th floor of the Wells Fargo building downtown.
Ripping on Web 1.0 business models and raising money just to spend it on traffic acquisition, he laughed about how back in the day, AOL told Expedia it would charge $500 million for cornerstone placement on the portal.
Later someone in the audience said he was scared of Web 2.0 companies that start as community-driven services, gather users’ personal information and then morph into ad-supported businesses.
Barton called them former “commie” sites, using a term that he said he and Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer would apply to community sites with no business model.
In meetings in Redmond, they used to call Google a commie site, but it has shown how a company can gracefully transition into a business venture, he said.
Barton kept the riff going, saying that Wikipedia is another commie site and Craigslist at least looks like one.
Others asked if Seattle compares favorably to Silicon Valley for startups (Barton said yes) and what makes companies attractive to a venture capitalist. Barton, who is also a partner in Benchmark Capital in Menlo Park, Calif., said he’s more interested in young companies’ growth curve than their total users.