Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Spring 2001Kellogg School of Management
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Shayne Gilbert '93 considers the Old Economy when launching New Economy ventures

  Shayne Gilbert '93
Shayne Gilbert is launching online projects on time and on budget.

Like many of her colleagues in the dot-com biz, Shayne Gilbert '93 has seen her share of crash-and-burn stories. But despite the recent failure of several high-profile Internet companies, Gilbert feels the future remains bright for Web-based business ventures.

As the CEO of Silverweave, an Internet consulting firm headquartered in Boston, Gilbert stands at the forefront of a new breed of online entrepreneurs who are poised to see the industry into its new era. One where good ideas combine with solid traditional business practices to achieve financial success.That's the formula for success that Gilbert details in her recently published book, 90 Days to Launch: Internet Projects On Time and On Budget.

"So much of the business that was happening on the Web weren't bad ideas," Gilbert says. She blames the demise of online businesses on the lack of accountability and neglect of traditional fundamentals. In fact, her book's title, a reference to the number of days in a typical quarter, stresses the importance of holding online ventures to the same standards as traditional businesses.

"If you don't take it from that perspective you get lost," she says. "If it traditionally costs $100 to acquire a new customer, unless it's going to cost us less than $100 to acquire a new customer through the Internet, we can't do it." 90 Days also stresses the importance of an iterative approach -- immediate, incremental steps -- to building an online business. Also important is flexibility.

"You have to be sensitive to technology changes. What works today on the Web might not work tomorrow when we're all wireless," she explains.

A career that blends high-tech and entrepreneurship is natural for Gilbert, a fourth-generation entrepreneur with a knack for realizing technology's potential. After graduating from Kellogg, she spent six months at Coopers & Lybrand in New York before returning to her native New England for a job at Tucker Anthony, a Boston brokerage firm involved in venture capital funding. In 1994, she struck out on her own, and started InterLog, a company that created CD-Rom-based interactive apparel catalogs that would eventually migrate to the Web.

"I was convinced that Kellogg had taught me how to write the world's best business plan and within six months I'd be making more money than I ever had before and be fully funded," Gilbert laughs.

She has since learned that success can arrive more gradually, and require continuous dedication -- along with all those b-school skills. InterLog never made it to first-round funding, so Gilbert ended up bootstrapping the company on her own. Today, that company, reinvented as Silverweave, counts among its clients industry leaders such as Lucent Technologies and Houghton Mifflin.

In addition to consulting and writing, Gilbert teaches courses in project management and marketing at Marlboro College in Brattleboro, Vt. She is also working with Bay State College in Boston to develop the first Internet project management certificate program in the country. Courses will teach communication and project management skills to help students bridge the gaps between technologists, designers and management.

"With the flatter organizations that are out there now," she says, "there's a real need to have people who can understand not only marketing but also operations and technology."

Gilbert is also active in The Cyber District, an organization she founded along with other Boston-based tech firms to foster networking and idea-sharing among New England-based tech companies, as well as community outreach in the form of career counseling at local high schools. Gilbert believes that by the time those kids are ready to join the workforce, they'll find a robust Internet economy.

"This recent shakeout was a good thing," she insists. "There still have to be adjustments and changes in course. But we'll see the strong and the sustainable survive.

"The last seven years have been an incredible ride, and I can't wait for the next seven years," Gilbert says. "We have so far to go. This is just the tip of the iceberg."

--Chad Schlegel

©2001 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University