Megan Muir

At the recent GeekWire Meetup in Seattle, Rich Barton (co-founder of Zillow, founder of Expedia, and co-founder of various other startups) participated in a Q&A session with John Cook, co-founder of GeekWire.  (Video available here.)  Among other things, Barton encouraged entrepreneurs to aim big and “go for the home run.”  Continuing the baseball analogy, Barton said:

Look, you have an at bat, and it takes just as much energy to swing for the fences as it does to bunt.  OK.  So, why bunt?  Why bunt?  Why not swing for the fences?  I would argue that it is just as likely that you will succeed if you swing for the fences as if you bunt, and the outcome will be much more magical.  And, I have to say, being a part of something that you are swinging for the fences and you are trying to change the world, is an excitement that you just don’t get from bunting.

One lesson Barton said he learned from Zillow applies to all types and sizes of organizations, but is critical in early-stage companies where each person can make a difference – positive or negative:

Surround yourself with superstars.  And not just the people you choose to work with.  That’s really important.  But the people you raise money from as well.  Surround yourself with superstars, and everything else takes care of itself.  Whenever in my career I’ve compromised because I’ve had a short-term itch I needed to scratch – and I just had to hire somebody – it’s been a mistake.  And I’ve regretted it.  It’s really hard to get rid of the (poor) performers.  Surround yourself with superstars.  They hire superstars.

Barton also encouraged entrepreneurs to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals (a concept set out by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1996 article Building Your Company’s Vision), saying: “Whatever organization you are a part of – if you are not part of an organization that allows you to think big and take big swings – you are in the wrong spot.”

See a summary of the discussion between Rich Barton and John Cook here and a video of it here, along with photos from the GeekWire Meetup by Annie Laurie Malarkey.