Zillow chairman Rich Barton and aQuantive co-founder Nick Hanauer are two of Seattle’s most accomplished entrepreneurs, having created billion-dollar companies that altered how we shop, travel and buy real estate.
Both also are extremely outspoken when it comes to politics, sharing some of those opinions in an informative appearance today on The Conversation with KUOW’s Ross Reynolds. It was a wide ranging and fun discussion that touched on everything from the Pets.com sock puppet — a painful reminder to Hanauer of perhaps the “stupidest idea ever conceived by humans” — to Brazilian butt lifts — a popular cosmetic procedure discussed on the community-oriented site RealSelf.
But the discussion started off around philosophy.
“Philosophy is basically a discipline that teaches you how to think, and analyze complicated problems,” Hanauer said of the degree he earned from the University of Washington. “And as entrepreneurs, that’s what we are constantly doing. Rich and I share a passion for disruption — for looking at a circumstance or a problem and finding a profoundly new or transformational way of fixing it or rearranging the pieces.”
Reynolds called this a classic case of “creative destruction,” to which Barton offered a more favorable term of “creative disruption.”
“It is not about destroying the old, as much as it is empowering people to take control of their lives,” said Barton, adding that smartphones now permit people to connect to the “magic cloud” in incredible ways, allowing them to access information that had previously been locked up by guys in suits or governments.
Hanauer later added that both he and Barton “love to take risks.”
“Our wives are very, very patient,” he joked. Hanauer later added that “all important things look insane to lots of people.”
Both men were also asked about their feelings regarding the so-called fiscal cliff, with Barton saying he spends little time thinking about it.
“I think that is one of those things that is a short-term oriented thing,” he said. “I think people love to be scared, and love to be excited about things happening in the short-term. I try to spend most of my time thinking about the long-term, and how I can be spending my time and resources building things that can make things better in the long-term.”
Hanauer called the fiscal cliff “more of a slope,” and noted that it represents an opportunity to discuss ideas about where prosperity comes from.
“We live in a society that is sort of dominated by this economic trickle-down orthodoxy that if you make rich people richer, and by extension middle class or poor people poorer, that’s the secret to growth…. And, of course, if there were a shred of truth to that at all, we’d be in much better shape than we are today.”
More from the interview here, including a discussion of how their families met at Whistler (minute 6); Qliance health care (minute 8); how they deal with failure (minute 9:30 and 12:30); Barton’s description of Seattle startup RealSelf, which can help folks locate the best place to get a Brazilian butt lift (11 minutes); the environment in Washington state for startups, which Barton called a “wonderful startup cake.” (minute 15) and why they love attending Burning Man (minute 17).
Definitely worth a listen.