Razorfish swims against the stream
By Kim Girard
Staff Writer, CNET NEWS.COM
Jeff Dachis' digital media company in New York's Silicon Alley is full of
Although the moniker is just a nickname for Razorfish's 1,300 employees,
chief executive Dachis is somewhat of a shark, running a company that was
an early mover in a market now swimming with me-too IPOs. Since quitting a
job as a
at a hip Tribeca diner, Dachis has built a firm worth more than $4
billion, boasting big-name clients such as Schwab, CBS, NBC and high-speed
Net access firm Road Runner. And what's more, the firm is profitable,
grabbing some $2.1 million during the first nine months of 1999.
Dachis is one of seven siblings, many of whom also are
entrepreneurs. Launching Razorfish in 1995 with childhood friend Craig
Kanarick was more about destiny and passion than
a calculated business plan. "It willed into existence by sheer force," he
Like many sharks, Dachis has a sharp bite. His character alternates from
braggart to cheerleader to savvy businessman. Although he quips that his
company's success so far has only brought him paper wealth, he does point
out one big purchase he has made: a house for his mom in Arizona.
Jonathan Nelson, a Dachis acquaintance who heads interactive agency Organic
him as a forceful, opinionated man whose company happens to be known for
throwing great parties.
"He's really opinionated, super intense, a snappy dresser, fearless," Nelson
Despite Dachis' confidence, critics are questioning whether Razorfish can
retain its culture amid rapid growth--since November alone, Razorfish has
acquired TSDesign, I-Cube, Lee Hunt Associates and Sweden's Qb
The CEO maintains that all his acquisitions have been strategic, and that
Razorfish will remain cohesive under one brand and one name.
Dachis recently spoke to CNET News.com about the future of the Internet, his company and his place in digital history.
CNET News.com: You run a so-called digital services company. There's been
recent criticism that your niche is becoming more like the fast food
industry--there's so much business to be had and everyone is taking on so
much that what's being delivered has become a commodity. Can you
I don't agree. You can go to "McWeb" or whatever, but that's not what we
deliver. We're the haute cuisine in a premier custom solution shop every
time. You can't box innovation. You can't put boundaries around inventing
reinventing the world. It doesn't work like that--and if it does, you become
a commodity. So all of those guys will become a commodity and we will
continue to be the premier service provider that we are.
What do you think sets Razorfish apart from competitors? Most Net
companies are often lumped together in the same group, yet firms still tend
to maintain a different expertise.
There are absolute distinctions between our company and everyone else. One
we're global. More than 40 percent of our revenue comes out of Europe and
seven of our 11 offices are in Europe. There isn't another company in the
States that has the European coverage that we do. It gives us an advantage
when it comes to wireless and other activities that are going on in Europe.
The second is our service offering: a complete end-to-end solution. We have
the most complex technology integration skills that exist in the services
space. There isn't anybody who has stronger technology skills than we do or
the depth and scale to deliver these technology solutions. On top of that we
have the most creative individuals on the planet coupled with complex
strategists, so you really have a skill set that's above and beyond the
caliber of any of the other companies out there. And on top of that we're
delivering those skill sets through platforms that aren't available from any
other companies--like wireless. We have the largest wireless lab in the
world. We're a founding member of the WAP (wireless application protocol)
forum. We're partnered with Nokia and Ericsson building wireless
applications. None of our competitors can say that. None of them. We also
have broadband capabilities. We've done more broadband work than
any of our competitors or all of them combined.
Recently Whittman-Hart agreed to merge with USWeb/CKS, a deal that
industry and caused a lot of speculation. Do you think it was a smart move
No. For USWeb, that was a way for (USWeb president) Bob Shaw to punch his
ticket out and cash in. USWeb has always been sort of a bad amalgamation of
slapped-together companies with no brand and no culture and no specificity
the way they do business--an aggregation of revenue financially architected
to get the founders liquid on the stock.
It isn't something that is passionate. It isn't a group of people that's all
about the creation of the digital future. They're not user-focused. It looks
good on paper from the stock market's perspective, but it isn't about
NEXT: Being a big fish among many breeds