Remember how when you spent all your time playing computer games, your mum would tell you that you’d amount to nothing? There’s a guy who quit his job to play World of Warcraft for a year – and when he was done, founded a billion dollar company.
Robert Hohman is the archetypal nerd – he majored in Computer Science and joined Microsoft in 1993, straight after college. He was a part of the team that built Expedia, which was then Microsoft’s in-house travel site. These were the heydays of Microsoft, and many of the initial employees ended up becoming millionaires. From Expedia he moved on to become the President of Hotwire. And after a decade of working, he decided to quit to play WoW full time.
“I took a year off and played World of Warcraft. I would pat the kids on the bottom every morning, send them to school and then I would dominate as an Orc Warrior”, he says. “I played for a year nonstop and then I hit the maximum level in WoW. I was maniacal in chasing this goal.” And when he got there, the itch was finally scratched, and the very next moment he started a company that’s a household name today – the job review site, Glassdoor.
The year of WoW helped him decide the kind of company he wanted to build.
“I learned from playing WoW about community. It was the first time I really felt part of a online community. I’d be up the morning and be excited to see my guild. Isn’t that nerdy?” he laughs. An online community has different characteristics than a real-world one, he discovered. “There’s a space and time ‘shift. A ‘real’ community is governed by normal rules of space and time, but online is not. It happens across all hours of days and night and across all parts of the world.”
Today he spends his time running his 450 member company and playing Starcraft with his sons, who are both Starcraft experts themselves.