002: Doug Lebda of LendingTree.com | How to Build and Re-Build a Remarkable Online Business

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking with Doug Lebda, the founder of one of the most successful online businesses to survive through the dot-com era to today, Lending Tree.

LendingTree.com was founded in 1996, and was inspired by Lebda’s own personal frustration applying for a mortgage.

He wrote the business plan for Lending Tree while still in business school, then left a comfortable job as an auditor with PriceWaterhouseCoopers to roll the dice and launch Lending Tree.

He later oversaw the sale of Lending Tree to IAC Corp, the innovative and entrepreneurial holding company run by Barry Diller which owns numerous well known online businesses, such as Match.com, The Daily Beast, and College Humor.? He later served as President of IAC Corp from 2005 through 2008.

After IAC Corp decided to sell off Lending Tree in 2008, Lebda returned to the company he founded, and oversaw a successful turnaround, helping Lending Tree to thrive and grow once again.

In this 23 minute interview, we discuss:

  • how Lebda saw an opportunity for a new business after experiencing personal frustration through the inefficient process of applying for a mortgage to buy a house.
  • how he was able to survive the dot-com meltdown by focusing on improving profitability, cutting costs, and focusing on customer satisfaction.
  • what it was like working with legendary business icon Barry Diller which he described as “challenging and fantastic”
  • the difficulty of doing layoffs to cut costs while simultaneously launching new lines of business.
  • how Lending Tree knew where its revenue was going to come from before it even started – unlike many other dot-com businesses.
  • IAC’s business accelerator program – an internal program to fix problems being experienced by companies in IAC’s portfolio by bringing together talent across IAC to diagnose and fix the problem during a two-day “bootcamp” at company headquarters.
  • how he was able to supervise hundreds of employees by setting clear goals and objectives, creating a good culture, and empowering employees.
  • how Lending Tree went public in February 2000, just a month before the stock market hit its peak in March 2000.
  • how Tree.com keeps employees motivated (hint: it has to do with providing a gym, catering lunch each day, a pool table, and a bar in the office – sounds pretty good to me.)
  • his experiences as angel investor involved in?RecycleBank, a green tech company that was named one of the 50 most innovative companies in the world; StellaService which does online ratings and reviews through mystery shopping of online retailers; and Tykoon, a financial platform for children and families where kids can track savings and earn real money through allowances, chores, etc.

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Enjoy the show!