In 2003, Hotels.com founder Bob Diener sold his portion of the business to what was then InterActiveCorp (and the parent company of Expedia) in a deal that valued the company at over $5.5 billion. As part of the deal, he agreed to a five-year non-compete contract.
“I advised the company for a while after we sold, but eventually I was done with hotels.com. It was very difficult to let go. I started that company from scratch. It felt like I was sitting idle as I watched someone else raise my kid.
I was used to such intensity in my daily work routine, and not going into the office and interacting with my employees—that was a rough period for me. It was difficult to overcome. I was constantly going at 100 miles an hour. I had dreamed of having free time, but when I finally got it…I guess the grass is always greener, as they say.
The day after my last day of work I went to kite-surf camp in Costa Rica. It was something I always wanted to do. It was a great diversion, being in another country, in a remote part of the world. It was a great way to get my mind off of letting go of the business. I also built a house, learned to snowboard, got involved in charities.
I still felt a big void. I felt like I wasn’t being productive enough. I’ve just been that way my whole life. Very intense, very focused, very goal-oriented and driven. Having that sense of accomplishment—that’s what drove me to start a business again. We had no plans to go back into the hotel business. But right at the five-year mark, we went into a deep recession, the hotels needed help, and consumers were looking for new ways to book hotel rooms. We saw great opportunity, so we launched getaroom.com in July 2009.
During my non-compete, people would ask my kids, “what does your dad do?” They didn’t really have a good answer. Part of the reason I started getaroom.com is because I wanted them to have a good answer. Now they all proudly talk about the business, which they’re very involved in. They walk around wearing shirts with our business logo. It’s been a really special thing for me to show them what it’s like to grow a business, to start it from scratch—what it’s like to be an entrepreneur."