Building CNET one person at a time
This is part of the storyCelebrating a quarter century about industry technology and our role in telling our story.
Editor’s note: As part of our 25th birthday, we are publishing a series of guest columns from former CNET leaders, editors and reporters. You will find Halsey Minor’s bio below.
CNET literally had a ridiculous idea when it debuted: an ad-supported online service supplemented by “TV channels” run by people who know nothing about TV. But there was also a shot to succeed in it because you could see the excitement in the material vision we created.
My idea forIn 1990 I produced one of the world’s first intranets for Merrill Lynch in New York. I was a passionate reader of computer magazines when they started. But in 1993, as AOL began to take off, I realized that I needed to create a new kind of media company that combined my passion for tech media with my skills in creating “hypertext” content, which today Is called HTML.
At the time, it all seemed very difficult. I wrote a 100-page business plan and there was another 100-page document describing the online service we created. However people took me seriously because I had a clear vision of where I looked, I had very limited funds.
As I was making all this great content, the first $ 100,000 I raised went fast. I was working all over and I saw no way out, but then I started talking to a fellow at the University of Virginia named Shelby Bonnie, who was doing well at New York’s hedge fund. He liked the idea and, I think, my obsession, because on a disappointing Friday, while staying away from calling it a weekend with me, Shelby wired $ 50,000 while he was on vacation.
On san francisco
In January of 1994, I moved from New York to San Francisco with two other employees. We found an amazing building at 150 Chestnut Street – in those pre-dot-com days, San Francisco had an 18% office rate vacant – with a large open area that could be used as a studio. To be clear, at this time I never used a home camera, much less operated a TV studio.
My job at the time, and it was still likely my best skill, was finding people. So I went after Kendall Wendell, a well respected TV executive who played a key role in starting Fox Network and other well-known TV properties. We convinced him that this media model was the future and he moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I was able to convince Jonathan Rosenborg, who runs the media group, To be my CTO, and I hired Pentagram, the world’s best graphics firm, to create the CNET logo. I also hired former MTV video producers to do “vision tapes”.
people think, But there was a lot of magical technique behind the way we did things. At that time we had a problem with publishing that no software package existed to do web publishing. There was not It was connected to a database – and we were building a database . All websites had static content that was programmed by hand. I gave Jonathan six months to build a dynamic solution, and so he created the Internet’s first tool for publishing pages that could change based on a database.
Growing up and going public
Then, in June of 1996, Morgan Stanley made us public. WhenIt went public in 1995, becoming a cultural phenomenon. Investors were taking notice of the internet, so we quickly started raising private funds for our own IPO. Netscape and after , We were one of the very first Internet companies known publicly. We raised $ 25 million, which is not much today.
The 1990s, commonly known as the “Internet bubble”, looked like a TV show that was growing four times faster. Everything happened fast. Deal was fast. The people. People left the job fast. The people . Stocks rose sharply. It was trying to run a company that was attractive to the industry but fulfilled our ideals.
This was followed by a primary focus on improving our internal systems and every aspect of our business so that we could do as much as possible with our mission to provide everything related to computing under one brand. I wanted a company that had the right ethos and survived when someone separated. Twenty-five years later, CNET is thriving and its ethos remains intact.
Halsey Minor is the founder of CNET and served as CEO until 2000, When he left the company. Today he is the CEO of Liveplanet.