The Best Advice I Never Took!
Dave Wetherell and Softrend
I can still remember the “T” Ball games of the late 1990’s where various parents would brag about all the money they were making with their investment in a company in Andover known as CMGi. The driving force of CMGi was David Wetherell. He was one smart son of a gun! A true visionary. He rented an office in Windham from my dad at Woodland Ridge, soon after it was built in 1982. He lived in Derry NH and that was his SAAB pictured in the parking lot. At that point he was running a company called Softrend.
Reuters, in their article titled, Big Personalities of the dotcom boom– where are they now?, writes the following about Wetherall and CMGi: Then: David Wetherell was CEO of the public holding and venture capital company CMGi, which helped grow to more than 1 billion in annual revenue with his energetic buying of then-notable internet companies, including Lycos and Alta Vista. He developed a tool called Engage to sell data that aided early versions of targeted advertising on the web. But shares of CMGi topped at $199 in 1999 and fell to about $6 in 2000. CMGi later became ModusLink Global Solutions via a merger.
On a Blog for VentureFizz, Keith Cline discusses Dave Wetherell and CGMi: You may remember that CGMi had the naming rights to the home of the New England Patriots which was known for a time as CMGi Field. Cline says that “at its peak, the company had over 70 investments, 20 subsidiaries, 5 thousand employees, and 1.5 billion in annual revenues. Its market cap was 41 Billion and ranked somewhere around No. 7-9 in the world in terms of aggregate traffic to all of its properties”
“Wetherell became Chairman, CEO and orchestrated a leveraged buyout of the company in 1986. CMGi’s core business was focused on selling mailing lists of university faculty and information buyers to educational and professional publishers. After taking over, Wetherell built up the company’s revenues and market share, and took the company public in 1994. Shortly after its IPO, Wetherall founded BookLink Technologies, a web browser company, which was sold to American Online for an all-stock transaction that yielded $72 million for CMGi from and initial $900 Thousand investment.”
“The proceeds from the sale of BookLink allowed CMGi to focus on a two pronged strategy . It would incubate its own startup internet companies and also have an investment arm, CMG@ventures to fund early stage internet companies. As the business grew, CMGi became a NASDAQ 100 company and market leaders like Microsoft, Intel, and Sumitomo held minority positions in it. CMGi’s portfolio included companies like, Alta Vista, Engage, Lycos, GeoCities, Raging Bull, NaviSite, Furniture.com, MotherNature.com, MyWay.com, Snapfish and others…” “AltaVista was developed by researchers at Digital Equipment and was the Google of its time…According to Wetherell, Novell and CGMi were planning a merger and Eric Schmidt would have been CEO of the combined entity but the merger was put on hold when the market crashed during the Spring of 2000. He also mentioned at one point CMGi discussed acquiring Google, but the board was against it.” (They also looked at investing early on in ebay but the board thought the valuation was too high.
Are you wondering where Dave Wetherell is today? After retiring from CMGi he “started as a sole angel investor, (in Biotech) and it blossomed into an investment firm with $200 million under management, called Biomark Capital.
So what was the “best advice” that I never took. Dave Wetherell told me to invest in software companies. This was when the likes of Wang and Digital ruled the technology scene. Microsoft Windows would be introduced in 1985. Well there is good news folks, I still have my Pets.com sock puppet; that must be worth something. Speaking of SAAB’s, I also drove a SAAB during the eighties. My SAAB had an odd quirk; it would suddenly come to a stop on the interstate.