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商业 - 科技

不安分的Wildfire创始人

Helen Coster 2012年10月23日

最近,谷歌斥巨资收购了社交网络广告营销公司Wildfire,这家初创公司的创始人维多利亚•兰瑟姆也因此进入人们的视野。她来自新西兰的一个小地方,是家里的第一个大学生。从成立探险旅行公司到社交营销公司,她一直在尝试新的东西,但她每一项决策的时机都掌握得恰到好处。

    今年夏天的一个早晨,维多利亚•兰瑟姆和阿兰•查得将他们的本田思域车开进了谷歌(Google)的山景城总部。四年来,他们的社交营销初创企业Wildfire已经发展到了近400名员工和2.1万名客户,并与Facebook建立了紧密的联系。现在,谷歌也希望参与进来。

    1个小时后,一群谷歌高级经理报出了详细出价;据称是3.50亿美元,外加1亿美元的留任奖金。“当时我想,我可能很长时间都忘不了这一刻,”36岁的兰瑟姆说。

    兰瑟姆在正确的时间和地点,成立了一家正确的企业。Wildfire是由兰瑟姆和她当时的合伙人、如今的未婚夫阿兰•查得共同创立,属于企业社交软件公司,专门帮助各种品牌在社交网络上到达用户。今年早些时间,三个月时间内有半数企业社交软件公司被收购。5月份甲骨文(Oracle)斥资3亿美元收购了Vitrue,6月份Salesforce.com出资7亿美元收购了Buddy Media。接着7月份,搜索巨头谷歌差点错过机会,最终据称是付了3.50亿美元收购Wildfire。

    在大多数公司都还没有认真对待社交网络之时,兰瑟姆和查得很早就看到了Wildfire的市场需求,他们打造了一家极富竞争力的企业,待价而沽。这样极富远见的策略,加上坚持不懈,让兰瑟姆在《财富》杂志40位40岁以下商界精英榜单中与Buddy Media的共同创始人迈克尔•拉泽罗并列一席。而且,这个故事不是始于硅谷,而是在新西兰。

    兰瑟姆自小在新西兰北岛一个只有65位常住居民的乡村Scott's Ferry中长大。她的父亲是一位芦笋种植户,母亲是一家农用设备公司的办公室主任。为了赚些零花钱,兰瑟姆在家里的地里帮忙摘芦笋,装上一辆红色拖车,卖给住在Rangitikei河岸附近的渔民。

    青少年时期的兰瑟姆开始向往外面的世界,17岁时她拿到了一份奖学金,离开新西兰前往美国。后来,她进入明尼苏达州的马卡莱斯特学院(Macalester College),成了家族中第一个大学生。她遇到了专业滑雪运动员查得,后来成为了她的商业伙伴以及未婚夫。兰瑟姆在华尔街短暂工作过一段时间,担任摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)的传媒分析师,后来决定自己闯一闯。她说:“经过一轮又一轮的裁员后,我相信生活中应该有有更美好的东西。” 2001年,有一次她正在筹划一次度假,在互联网上搜索冲浪营,寻找探索旅游地的新方式。结果什么也没找到,她和当时身为所罗门美邦(Salomon Smith Barney)分析师的查得决定建立自己的旅行公司,专注于他们热爱的滑雪和其他活动。

    他们在布鲁克林Fort Greene的公寓里,利用晚上和周末的时间写出了商业计划书,包括带领年龄20-45岁的小队旅行者前往偏远目的地。2001年,他们放弃了在银行业的工作,前往新西兰,成立了自己的公司。他们在网吧、青年旅社以及Lambert的后排座椅上办公。Lambert是他们的1980年丰田卡罗拉,以一位滑雪伙伴的名字命名。他们将公司命名为Access Trips,2002年推出了首款产品:新西兰南岛14日冲浪滑雪之旅。

    On a summer morning earlier this year, Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard pulled their Honda Civic into Google's Mountain View headquarters. Over four years they had grown Wildfire, their social marketing startup, to nearly 400 people, 21,000 clients, and had become closely tied with Facebook. Google wanted in.

    An hour later, a team of senior Google (GOOG) executives shared details of their offer, reported at $350 million plus $100 million in retention bonuses. "That's when I thought, 'I'm going to remember this for a very long time,'" says Ransom, 36.

    Ransom was in the right place at the right time with the right entrepreneurial play. The company she'd founded with her then partner and now fiancé Alain Chuard, Wildfire, was one of a series of enterprise social software companies that specialized in helping brands reach customers over social networks. In the space of three months, half of them got bought earlier this year. Oracle (ORCL) shelled out $300 million for Vitrue in May, and Salesforce.com paid $700 million for Buddy Media in June. Then in July, before the search giant missed its chance, Google paid the reported $350 million for Wildfire.

    The story of how Ransom and Chuard saw a need for Wildfire long before most companies took social networking seriously, and then built a business strong enough to command that high price, is one of smart strategy paired with flat-out tenacity— the stuff that earned Ransom, who served as the company's CEO, a spot on Fortune's 40 Under 40 (she shares a spot with Buddy Media cofounder Michael Lazerow). It begins not in Silicon Valley, but in New Zealand.

    Ransom grew up in Scott's Ferry, a rural village of just 65 people on New Zealand's North Island. Her father worked as an asparagus farmer; her mother was the office manager at a farming equipment company. To earn pocket change, Ransom picked asparagus at the family farm, loaded it on a red wagon, and sold it to fishermen on the banks of the nearby Rangitikei River.

    As a teenager, Ransom grew restless, and at age 17 she won a scholarship and left New Zealand for the United States. At Minnesota's Macalester College, she became the first member of her family to earn a college degree. She also met Chuard, a professional snowboarder who would later become her business partner, and eventually her fiancé. After a short stint on Wall Street, where she worked as media analyst for Morgan Stanley, Ransom struck out on her own. "Going through round after round of layoffs, I decided that there had to be something better in life," she says. In 2001, she was planning a vacation, searching the Web for surf camps that offered a way to explore the country she'd be visiting. Finding none, she and Chuard— then an analyst at Salomon Smith Barney— decided to start their own travel company, focusing on snowboarding and other activities they loved.

    At night and on weekends from their Fort Greene, Brooklyn apartment, they wrote a plan for their business, which involved taking small groups of travelers, age 20 to 45, to remote destinations. In 2001 they quit their banking jobs, moved to New Zealand, and built the company while working out of Internet cafes, youth hostels, and the back seat of "Lambert," their 1980 Toyota Corolla named for one of their snowboarding pals. They called their venture Access Trips, and in 2002 launched their first product: a 14-day ski and snowboard trip on New Zealand's South Island.

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