Home Up, Up and Away
Remember when Austin was flooded with fleets of 20-somethings cruising in new Porsche Boxsters? Or when over-eager families would bid up houses before they even went on the market? Yes children, I’m talking about a magical time called the Tech Boom, when techies and online entrepreneurs were flush with ever-expanding options, and they ruled Austin like kings!
Then one day, the evil gremlin named Reality swooped down and burst their mighty tech bubble. For many, the riches disappeared as quickly as the catered lunches, lavish celebrity-sponsored parties, and other accoutrements of fancy financed by Internet pixie dust.
But some Austinites were more fortunate than others. A select few Tech Warriors sold high, crested the wave, and learned that the Internet was about information and connectivity, not just another place to sell dog food. Those hardy few banded together in an underground limestone fortress, waiting for the time when online services would no longer be mocked for their sock puppetry ways of the past, and they might rise again.
Lo and behold children, those days are upon us, for an Austin clan named HomeAway has just raised $160 million in venture capital! Together with the $47 million plundered earlier this year, HomeAway is sounding a call that echoes the glory days of 1996. In just two years, they have transformed from a handful of executives with a rag-tag collection of online properties into a bustling guild of developers and phone support technicians (and more executives) poised to consume their greatest rival.
HomeAway’s booty is all the more impressive since the wizards of venture capital are loathe to share their secrets since the dark times of The Bubble. Some whisper that HomeAway lured the capitalists with tales of existing profits and untapped markets in vacation rentals, with nary a mention of Web 2.0 or wiki mysticism.
If leader Brian Sharples has his way, HomeAway will transform into the Expedia of vacation rentals. There are many dangers lurking ahead, since they must tame the motley cadre of owners who feed their site while also convincing travelers to trust unknown proprietors as they would the Hilton and Radisson overlords.
There are not many “happily ever afters” in Tech Land, and that is for the Gods of the Market to determine. But with $160 million in their treasure chest, HomeAway is poised for an epic journey which will be retold in song and story for generations to come.