Tag: On Principle



David Karandish’s Answers.com was a whopping success, but he was on the ropes 90 days after he began running it. How did his earlier startups teach him to take a punch?

Karandish is, by any standard, a massively successful entrepreneur. His most noteworthy transaction is the sale of Answers.com for $960 million—a “rounded unicorn,” he says, using startup shorthand for a billion-dollar deal.

But that success was hard-fought and made possible by a litany of failures and one unexpected disaster. Meanwhile, those failures—and that one big success—paved the way for what already promises to be another massive hit for Karandish, BSCS ’05. Capacity, his AI-driven customer support platform has been on a tear.

Our story hinges on a two-hour period in 2011, 90 days after David—at age 26—and his partners had engineered the merger of their company with Answers.com, taking the once-public Answers private. That day, David’s team watched the traffic drain from their site in the wake of a change in Google’s search algorithms. “Our $127 million acquisition went unprofitable in about two hours,” he said.

This is the story of what led to that moment, how David and his team responded, what in his history informed that response and how he’s carried those lessons into his next chapter with Capacity.

Along the way, we learn something about the difficulty of thinking in terms of failure—though failure was the fate of his first six startups. We learn about the danger of taking customer acquisition for granted. We learn how a successful entrepreneur can roll up the lessons into one more big win.

And we begin to understand why it’s so important to learn how to take a punch.

Listen to this episode of On Principle.




In the summer of 2017, a data breach occurred at Atlanta-based credit bureau Equifax affecting the records of more than 140 million consumers in the United States. The company announced the incursion in September, arguably one of the largest such breaches in history at the time, giving hackers access to private information—names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, credit card numbers, even driver’s license numbers.

​“We had people being attacked publicly, people avoiding mentioning the fact that they worked for Equifax.”

Into that scene, WashU Olin alumnus Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. stepped as the company’s interim CEO, charged with managing the fallout from the situation. Employees were scared as they faced furious backlash—even threats from consumers. Systems were overloaded as consumers flooded the firm’s call centers and websites. “The building was on fire,” do Rego Barros said.

In this episode, we examine the steps he and his colleagues took to confront the situation and begin to restore trust among consumers, customers, regulators and policymakers. While avoiding the regulatory and legal issues—these won’t be relitigated in this episode—we focus on three primary decision points: Engaging with employees, engaging and reassuring consumers (e.g., individuals), and doing the same with customers (e.g., banks and other institutions).

The subject remains topical today as companies and institutions continue to be vulnerable to data breaches that expose private consumer information. What decisions had to be made in the immediate aftermath of the breach? What were the implications? How does a business re-establish trust with customers under those circumstances? Then, once the immediate fire is quelled, how do you propel the business into a better place?

Listen to more of On Principle’s first season.