it out of here
watched Webvan grow at breakneck speed. Unlike many dot-coms, Webvan hired
veteran managers to run the company. In September 1999, George Shaheen,
former head of Arthur Andersen Consulting, took over as CEO. The company
built state-of-the-art distribution warehouses to assemble the grocery
bags for a brave new nation. It signed long-term leases and wrote dynamic
software to optimize delivery schedules. In June 2000, it subsumed its
struggling competitor, Bellevue, Wash.-based Homegrocer, for $1.2 billion,
and then set its sights on Amazon.com.
While he never had a bunk bed over his desk, Gutierrez did put in 60-
and 80-hour workweeks. In addition to his $100K salary, he, like everyone
at Webvan HQ, had an e-trade account and kept a constant eye on his portfolio.
With visions of stock options dancing in his head, dreams of sudden wealth
were never very far beneath the surface.
The giddiness came out in other ways, too: Gutierrez remembers going
out to the warehouse to do on-site software upgrades and sometimes
a little joyride on the vast system of conveyor belts. “It was a
great company,” he says, “and everyone who used Webvan
loved Webvan. And we really loved working there.”
But by late 2000, investors were asking for more than love. They wanted
to see some returns. “For the first year and a half, our mantra—drummed
into us at every meeting—was ‘Get Big Fast.’ That’s
what the market wanted. Then suddenly, in 2000, it was ‘Show a Profit.’
That’s a shift of 180 degrees.”