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Shannon Henry's The Download Live
Discussion with Brian Loew, CEO of Worldweb.net

Thursday, January 13, 2000 at 1 p.m.

Shannon Henry
Shannon Henry

Brian Loew has launched a creative way to recruit tech workers. The Worldweb.net chief executive has brought his company's staff from 32 to 95 in the past year. Besides giving employees $2,500 for recruits that get hired, Loew gives his staff a choice of two out of the following six perks:
• A cellular phone and monthly access
• Broadband Internet access at home
• Parking
• A month’s subscription to online grocery store Streamline.com
• Regular car washes
• A health club membership

Join us Thursday at 1 P.M. as we discuss innovative ways for employers to retain and reward workers and for employees to get the most out their jobs.

Shannon Henry: Hi Brian! Could you tell us a little about what Worldweb does? And how did you come up with that great list of perks?

Brian Loew: Worldweb.net is an internet software company. We sell software called Expressroom for enterprise content managment. Our software is written in Java and is heavily XML-based.

As for our perks, our most valuable asset is our people -- so we thought hard about how to attract and retain the best talent.

Shannon Henry: As the 29-year-old founder and CEO of Worldweb, have you found that your age helps, hurts, or just doesn't matter in your business?

Brian Loew: It's funny -- whenever I get asked that question, I realize that I don't think about my age very much at all. I've just gotten used to talking to many audiences about the company and age is the last thing on my mind.

McLean, VA: Brian,

How long has your company had these perks, and what has been the reaction from your staff?

Brian Loew: We just expanded our benefits -- effective January 1. The reaction has been terrific. I think people most appreciate the ability to choose rather than being forced into a common set of benefits.

Fairfax, VA: What do you think about the high-tech immigrant workers, working on H1 Visas? Are they really playing a big part in the upstart companies? What is the best way, in your opinion, to address the high-tech employee shortages?

Brian Loew: We have sponsored some employees with Visas. I don't see this as a *huge* issue but clearly we'll do what it takes to support our employees and attract talent regardless of citizenship.

Tysons Corner, VA: I have a new business idea. But I do not have the required capital-resources. What should I do?

Brian Loew: Don't be afraid -- go for it! You live at Internet Ground Zero and there is tremendous enthusiasm from local investors. Start going to some of the Marino Institute stuff or the NVTC....and read all you can.

Rockville, MD: I apologize if this is not the type of question that you can answer, but I have to try. My work experience is in project management and publications. However, in the last 2 years I have been temping with various employment agencies. In the course of the 2 years I have come to learn the different softwares, including html language and web design. I also taught WordPerfect and LAN Introduction courses back in 1994-5. Is there any type of tech job I can look for with this kind of computer experience? I have a BS in Advertising Design and a Masters in International Management. I thank you for taking the time.

Brian Loew: I think that most companies like Worldweb.net are looking for intelligent people who work hard and who can learn quickly. Except for certain highly-specialized positions, the ability to learn new things quickly is as important as the raw skill set you bring to the table on day one. On the other hand, if you want to be a Java programmer, go learn Java....get really good and give us a call!

Shannon Henry: Just because AOL is in a lot of people's minds these days...Do you or have you had deals with AOL? As a local company CEO, what do you think of the deal and of the fact that they're moving their headquarters to New York?

Brian Loew: I think one of the most important messages about the AOL / Time Warner deal is that content really is King -- and it's utterly necessary to have good ways to manage all of that information

As far as moving their headquarters to NY, I am a little bit sad about that since AOL has been such a huge part of the Washington area economy. But I don't think that will change completely, and I think the move says more about the fact that NY is the media capital of the world than anything else. You can be sure that there will still be a ton of AOLers working down here.

Fairfax, VA: As your company continues to grow do you think you will be able to maintain these benefits, and add new ones, or that they will be reduced.

Brian Loew: As we grow we definitely plan to add more benefits to the mix. We've had no shortage of recent suggestions from our employees. I expect that periodically we'll update the plan.

Baltimore, MD: What advice can you give a person like me, who wants to get in high tech. I am currently in an MBA program at Marymount University, and my concentration is Healthcare Mgmt. I am not sure if I want to pursue healthcare mgmt, but I have almost completed the program.

Brian Loew: Healthcare is extraordinarily technology-intensive. I think that your goals are not mutually exclusive!

McLean, VA: I currently work for a very large telecom company--75k employees--as an engineer, and it's time to move on. How do I find a reputable recruiter or headhunter to help me locate a new position, preferably in a smaller company? I would also like the recruiter to be paid by the new employer, and not by me. Thanks.

Brian Loew: We hire many people with the help of recruiters. There are some very good recruiters who take the time to understand your skills and your desires and who can find the best fit. Check out the Monday Business section of the Washington Post or surf some of the career sites. Fortunately, it's an employee's market right now and there are a ton of companies using headhunters to find people like you. I might also suggest picking a company you want to work for and calling them up, even if they're not officially hiring!

Shannon Henry: How do you keep the company culture as you get bigger? I've seen a lot of start-ups struggle with that issue.

Brian Loew: Company culture is very important to us. We have an ethic that can be described as 'progressive yet professional' -- meaning that as long as the quality of our work is very high, it's ok to be your own person. As a result, we have one of the most interesting, intelligent, productive groups of people I've ever seen. As we grow, this ethic has to be embraced by every manager at the company and conveyed to every single person we hire.

Vienna, VA: As a tech worker, I see new buzzwords popping up every day. B2B, e-commerce, data warehousing, supply chain management etc. etc... I am often baffled and sometimes scared by the impact of these technologies on a traditional client-server specialist -database-interface developers-. How do you see the future for these people? What should they do to survive in this ever-changing world?

Brian Loew: I like to say that the people we hire are the kind of people who would be doing what they're doing even if it weren't their job. Most people here go home and log onto their computers just to learn more. They're constantly reading about their profession and a lot of what they know is learned by conversations with their colleagues. So in short I would say that you should not be afraid, but rather should read, read, read and talk to people you know and respect.

Wash D.C: Many people -especially conservative stock market analysts- say that most internet-e-commerce companies have not yet generated profits? What do you think about that and how does that affect your cash flow and the jobs of your -and many other companies'- employees?

Brian Loew: I think that eventually, all successful Internet companies should -- even must -- be profitable. But it's also clear that investors and markets are willing to support companies in the early, unprofitable years. If I could go back in time as a Venture Capitalist and bet on one of the 100 U.S. car companies that eventually made it to the Big 3, I'd pump money into that company and encourage it to grow faster, even if it meant putting off profits for awhile.

Washington, DC: Would you hire a person without computer programming background if they had a good work history and were intelligent? I'm good with computers -aka better than the lawyers I work with-, and I'd love to get a "tech job", but now I'm a paralegal in a law firm -was on the Hill before-. Any suggestions? Will companies train non-computer people?


Brian Loew: Yes! Tech companies need more than just programmers. We're hiring in Project Management, Marketing, Sales, etc. -- and so is every other high-tech company.

Washington, DC: I think you are on the right track witht the benefits you are offering, but some of those are more attractive to the younger worker; what about stock options, training, 401k and-or pension plans?

Brian Loew: Good point. We also offer a matching program for our 401K plan, and every employee receives stock option. We also offer life insurance and disability insurance. These are all things that are important parts of the package.

Fairfax, VA: Could you tell me what the name of your company has to do with what services or products you provide? In this Brand-savy world of the internet, you name seems rather odd...

Brian Loew: If you have a better one, our Marketing department is hiring!

Mclean, VA: Is there a one-stop source to find out all upstart tech companies in the Metro DC area?

Brian Loew: I know that the Netpreneurs -- part of the Marino Institute -- is a good place to start.

Alexandria: What other sort of benefits does your company offer? Where are you located?

Brian Loew: We're in Old Town Alexandria, and we also have offices in New York; Austin, Texas; Los Angeles, CA and Europe.

Washington DC: With the necessarily extreme demands on most Web-based employees' daily hours, it is very difficult to keep any personal time for rest, relaxation and family responsibilities—or illness. How does Worldweb address this conundrum with all levels of its staff, and do many potential employees inquire frankly about this?

Brian Loew: It's hard to complain when you're chained to your desk. No, just kidding :-) Actually we have an attitude that says as long as you're productive and get the job done, it's OK to structure your work hours to accomodate a social life and take care of your family.

Shannon Henry: Time to wrap up. Thanks, Brian, and thanks for all the great questions. Bye!

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

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