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Shannon Henry's The Download – Live
Discussion with Raul Fernandez, Proxicom's CEO

Thursday, November 18, 1999 at 1 p.m.

Shannon Henry
Shannon Henry
Welcome to The Download Live. I'm your host, Shannon Henry. My guest today is Raul Fernandez, one of the new guard of technology CEOs in the Washington area. Fernandez runs Proxicom, a company that builds Web sites for large businesses. It went public in April and is housed in 11600 Sunrise of Reston, Mario Morino's high-tech hothouse.

Raul Fernandez Fernandez, 34, recently made Fortune magazine's list of the richest people under 40. He has an estimated net worth of $287 million. He's a former Capitol Hill staffer and is a ubiquitous presence at business networking and, lately, charity events. Send in your questions about the local tech scene, the going public process and offering stock options to your employees (every Proxicom employee is offered them). We will discuss his company and business-to-consumer electronic commerce Internet sites, business-to-business electronic commerce extranets and company-specific intranets.

Shannon Henry: Welcome everyone! We're happy today to have Raul Fernandez as our guest. Let's get to the questions.

Shannon Henry: Hi Raul! Could you start out with a brief explanation of what Proxicom does? How did you originally come up with the idea for the company?

Raul Fernandez: Proxicom is leading provider of Internet solutions to Global 1000 corporations. We provide strategy, technology and creative services for clients such as GM, GE, and Merrill Lynch. Fundamentally we help them transform their business in order to take advantage of the Internet as an offensive and defensive tool.

I started the company in 1991 as a systems integration firm. I shifted the business to be Internet focused in 1993. I was working for a systems integration firm and got the desire to try to do it on my own. I used my savings to get the firm going.

Shannon Henry: How did you get the first funding for Proxicom? Angels, Venture funds? What advice would you give to a start-up looking for cash today?

Raul Fernandez: I met a Greenwich Connecticut based venture firm named General Atlantic (GA) through Mario Morino. GA had invested in Legent and they were also early investors in other Internet companies such as E Trade. I was very impressed with the partners, their experience track record, style of interaction with the management so I decided to go with them. They have had other hits including Priceline and Tickets.com.

Today, there are more funding options in than in 1996. I would say do your homework and look for the value the VC brings to you beyond the $$$$'s.

Shannon Henry: What's it like being a tenant in Mario's Building, AKA 11600 Sunrise?

Raul Fernandez: It’s great! The environment is truly unique. It allows our employees to work hard and play hard.

Chevy Chase, MD.: First of all, congratulations on all of your success....wanna get married :- My question is two-fold. As someone who has much access to information, high powered CEO's, etc.; what type of companies-technologies appear to be the next Proxicom's, AOL's, etc? Also, if you were an "average Joe", not already in your industry, what kind of online based service would you start?

Raul Fernandez: Thank you!

I would look at the wireless market.

We have seen the first wave of Internet adoption. That wave was based around the PC, a physical portal that you had to go to, get connected and then interact. The next wave will be wireless connectivity and that connectivity will be anywhere via multiple devices. Cell phone, Personal Digital Assistant, two-way pager, etc. That will drive up the pace of adoption and have a big impact on how we work and play.

Shannon Henry: What do you do in your free (ha!) time, when you're not working?

Raul Fernandez: I enjoy cooking, playing tennis, skiing and catching up with friends. Being on the road a majority of the time means missing out on a lot of opportunities to see your family and friends so when I am not on the road I try to catch up.

Schenectady, NY: What advice do you give to the CEO whose firm has just gone through an IPO? How do you temper enthusiasm for the stock and at the same time act as the firm's most ardent supporter?

Raul Fernandez: I would keep reminding them that there will be volatility in the stock. It will go up and down for no apparent reason. The most important thing they can do is to stay focussed on the business. The best sign I ever saw was in the lobby of an MCI building where they posted the closing price on the stock and said “ tomorrows price depends on you “

Shannon Henry: What do you think of the Skins this season?

Raul Fernandez: There seems to be plenty of room for improvement.

Reston, VA: What kind of background do you find attractive in prospective employees? I don't have a computer science degree, but I do have experience in the IT industry. It seems that doors are getting shut in my face because I don't have the CS degree-- companies seem to ignore the possibility of training a bright person. How can I bolster my resume to get into web development now that I'm four years out of school?

Raul Fernandez: First, they have to be committed to life long learning. Our industry changes every day so the ability to constantly learn is key. We hire bright and passionate people with three different backgrounds, strategy, technology and creative. Send us your resume!

Shannon Henry: What's been the biggest break in your career?

Raul Fernandez:
Getting our first two big, very big, Internet clients in 1994. AOL and MCI.

Anchorage, Alaska: how do you differentiate from among the sapients, viants, et al?

Raul Fernandez: We are an experienced pure play (Internet focussed) that has been completing engagements since 1994. We have completed over 750 Internet engagements for some of the world’s largest corporations. We have had an integrated (technology, creative and strategy) methodology for many years.

Annapolis, MD: What nationality are you? It's great to see someone of an ethnic background so successful!

Raul Fernandez: I was born in Washington, DC. My father is Cuban and my mother is Ecuadorian. I grew up in Maryland.

Shannon Henry: What personal technologies can you not live without? Cell, pager, etc.? What's your favorite tech toy? And if you could have any new one for Christmas, what would it be?

Raul Fernandez:
Cannot live without a cell phone(s) (with multiple batteries and international functionality), wireless email and web device (Blackberry). Looking for Santa to bring me a hand held GPS (global positioning system). Someday all of these things will be in one device.

Rockville, MD: Are you really a bachelor?

Raul Fernandez: I got engaged last June. Getting married in June 2000!

Villanova, PA: Hi, Raul, I've been absolutely impressed ever since I heard of you when I attended St. John's a few years back. As a college student, I was wondering if you had any advice for someone who is currently starting his own Web page publishing business himself-though on a way smaller scale of course!-. It all seems so overwhelming at times and I have been wondering what made you get through all the tough times in the past. Thanks!

Raul Fernandez: Congratulations on your start up! Stay focussed, do good work and your clients will keep coming back and refer others to you. Be smart about the people who join you in the early days. They have to be committed to the same values that you are committed to.

Washington, DC: Which local companies do you believe are worth watching for having a significant national impact....and let's hear about some of the unknowns...

Raul Fernandez:
Two private firms that I would keep my eye on are Onesoft, a Mclean based ecommerce company and OTG, a mass storage capacity company in Bethesda.

Shannon Henry: We're out of time. Thanks so much, Raul for all your great insights. We had so many good questions, sorry we couldn't get to them all. Thanks for joining us. Bye!

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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