When You Lose, You Learn

Article by:
Colin Campbell, EO South Florida
Colin Campbell
EO South Florida

An Internet pioneer since 1993, Colin and partners have launched four successful Internet companies, including Internet Direct Canada, Tocows.com, Hostopia.com and GeeksForLess.com. Contact Colin at [email protected]

Sometimes it takes a major loss to really learn a lesson. In my case, that loss was my business; which had taken me seven years to build. Over the course of a year, I lost more than US$100 million! How did this happen?

At 23, I launched an Internet service provider with my brother— this was before “the Web” even existed. Five years later, with two businesses in tow, we were the kings of the Internet in Canada. When we sold both of our companies, we had more money than we could ever imagine. Expensive wine, cigars, houses— we lived the good life!

Everything changed in a heartbeat. Some judge decided Microsoft didn’t have the right to rule the world, and the NASDAQ collapsed to below 4,000. The company that bought ours had to pull its offering and wait for the market to rebound. The stock, of which I had a little too much, went from being worth US$20 a share to just six cents a share, thanks in part to the dot-com bubble bursting. I couldn’t believe it! I had worked so hard, only to have it all fall apart. I lost everything. And it didn’t just affect me— most of my management team had become millionaires over night before losing it all. Though I was miserable, I had to find a way to let go. I began to put all my energy back into what I truly enjoyed: The Internet. I created a new company, Hostopia.com, and found success once more.

What did I learn from my meteoric loss? That when faced with a monumental crisis, all you can really do is accept it and put yourself back in the game. I can’t change the past, but I can certainly apply what I learned from it. As a corollary, in August 2008, one month before the financial crisis hit, we sold Hostopia.com for US$120 million. And yes, this time the shareholders got all cash.

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