While working for Microsoft in the 1990s, Rich Barton became so frustrated with customer service from travel companies that he decided to create his own company. Rather than have a representative clicking through a database to try and book the perfect vacation, why not create a website that would allow customers to set their own preferences? Before it even started, Barton knew he could create the world’s largest travel company. After pitching to his bosses, Rich Barton launched Expedia within Microsoft, and was able to split it into his own company a few years later.
After Expedia, Barton went on to start Zillow.com, a real estate data company that provides unbiased information about what houses are available on the market and what they are selling for. Like Expedia, Zillow provides users with information that was previously only available to agents. The company is also consistently ranked as one of Seattle’s best places to work in various publications.
In 2008, Barton started a new project, Glassdoor.com. The site allows anonymous employees to report their salary, weigh in on their CEO, and review the work environment of various companies. Prospective jobseekers can do the research in one place and know what they are getting into. Glassdoor has raised millions in capital, and many believe it will shake up the job placement industry in the same vein as Expedia and Zillow changed their respective realms.
While currently on the board for eight companies, Rich Barton does not stay long as a CEO. He says that having the flexibility to pursue what is interesting or needs attention is his comfort zone. When asked whether his start up habit is because he likes provoking people, Barton answers “absolutely,” because provocative topics can inspire massive success with a small marketing budget.
“People like to be provoked,” says Barton, “and if you are provoking with information that is on the side of the angels, on the side of the consumer, the louder the industry reacts. And they just can’t win. It’s the greatest way to market, pick a fight with somebody who can’t win.”