When Jim Barton and Mike Ramsay left their jobs as computer engineers in Silicon Valley, they had only a vague concept for a machine that combined a computer hard drive with a TV. That became TiVo, the world's first digital video recorder (DVR). Since TiVo lets you watch what you want, when you want, it's no wonder it has 1.3 million subscribers. We talked to Mike and Jim about the keys to their success.
Go where the action is
Barton:Silicon Valley was where it was at for what we wanted to do. If you want to play in the big game, you've got to go to the stadium.
Be honest and confident
Ramsay: We went in to these Silicon Valley venture capitalists and said, "This isn't a technology product; it's a consumer service. It's not about computers; it's about television. And it's going to require hundreds of millions of dollars before we become profitable. We hope you like our idea."
Ramsay: When we started, we really thought about the kind of company we wanted to have, rather than the products we wanted to create. We wrote a list of core principles for our company to follow. One of them was "It just works," meaning everything has to work in the most fundamental, easy, intuitive way possible. The principles were strong from day one and set the tone for how our products were created and how we treated our employees.
Barton:The usual comment we got when we first unveiled the concept was, "That's great, I'd buy it, but I don't know anyone else that would."
Ramsay: The investors didn't quite get the idea of TiVo, but they knew we would be able to execute it and recruit top talent, mostly because they could see the passion we had for it.