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David Selinger

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Profile

David Selinger, founder of Redfin, is an entrepreneur and data man with not just ambitions, but also with clear goals and accomplishments. Originally from Grants Pass, Oregon, Selinger graduated from Stanford University with a BS in Computer Science in 2003 after seven years (he had dropped out for three years to start a couple of companies during the dot-com heyday). He’s founded several technology companies, including Redfin, MyTwoFrontTeeth.org, and richrelevance.

Selinger dropped out of Stanford to start MyTwoFrontTeeth.org in October 1998. The group provides gifts to needy families during the holiday season. Selinger claims this is by far one of his greatest achievements. But in May 2007, the website merged with Family Giving Tree.

But Selinger wouldn’t be where he is today without his almost two years working under Jeff Bezos at Amazon. In 2003, Bezos hired Selinger right out of college. Selinger rejected six separate offers from the company until the management office coaxed Selinger into running the company’s Customer Behavior Research group, which focused on data-mining research and development. Upon arrival in Seattle, Selinger was bounced around from one manager to another, including working directly with Bezos himself.

While there, Selinger learned lessons that would define his career. Bezos had Selinger dig into Amazon’s data to unearth new ways to grow the business. Selinger and his team created three new data-driven systems that delivered a hearty portfolio of patents and drove Amazon’s annual profit by over $50 million.

In 2004, Selinger would leave to co-found Redfin, the premier online real estate marketplace. He served at the company’s first Chief Technology Officer. He would leave this company about a year later.

Selinger would have a short stint at Overstock.com in 2005 as the Vice President of Software Development, Personalization and Data Mining. During his five-month stay, he would oversee the recovery of a sideways ERP implementation, initiate the launch of the Overstock co-branded credit card and directed the analytics group to focus on upsell, cross-sell, and customer experience. In February 2006, he would start richrelevance, a global leader in omni-channel personalization to create a data-centric, single view of the shopper. Clients include Target, Costco, Marks & Spencer and Priceminister. RichRelevance has been recognized as a “Best Place of Work” in the Bay Area for numerous years.

Companies and Investments

Family Giving Tree (board member). Fostering Change for Children (advisory board member). Solace International (advisory board member). Interactive Touch Books (former chairman). Palindrome Advisors (founding advisor). The Darfur Stoves Project (member of the board of directors). 500friends (advisor). NeonMob (advisor).

Lessons Learned

Metrics define your corporate culture. — More than anyone I’ve ever met, Bezos knew that things don’t improve unless they’re measured. At Amazon, everything that can be measured is. Every piece of data is tested and analyzed -- not just web design or product features, but finance, HR and operations processes. While I was at Amazon, my team proved (65 pages of proof, in fact!) the impact of website load times on sales, and identified the metrics that mattered. Without hesitation, Bezos and Amazon reorganized around a new, even more aggressive method of measuring website performance, changing hundreds of jobs to obsess about these very metrics. Metrics become objectives, objectives become mantra, and mantra composes the verbiage of everyone’s job.

Listening to data starts at the top. — A data-driven culture is meaningless without the support of the CEO and executive team -- and their own willingness to challenge assumptions that they hold dear. A top-down approach is the only way to break the tyranny of the “HiPPOs” (Highest Paid Person’s Opinions). Bezos had a rare ability to set opinions aside in favor of data. At Amazon, one of my proposals was to sell advertising on the homepage, and Bezos’s initial response wasn’t positive: “It is one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard.” Yikes.

My dad always says, “Only you know your integrity and you can never compromise it.” And my mom is always saying, “People can take away any of your material gifts. No one can ever take your education away.”

Inspiring Quotes

Wealth is not determined by the quantity of one’s assets, but rather by how much he feels he is lacking.

Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum

David Selinger's Quotes

My experience with Jeff Bezos changed me forever.

David Selinger

Today isnt a victory for democrats, its a loss for Americans. Our parties are led by confrontational egocentric infants. The whole lot.

David Selinger

Influential Books

Stieg Larsson - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Book 1 of the Millennium Trilogy (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

Orson Scott Card - Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet)

Frank Herbert - Dune

J.R.R. Tolkien - J.R.R. Tolkien 4-Book Boxed Set: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (Movie Tie-in): The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King

Mentors

Jeff Bezos

References


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