Founder’s Corner

A Word From Barbara

Insight into Why I do What I Do

Barbara 'webmama' Coll

Barbara ‘WebMama’ Coll

I was born in Ottawa, Canada in 1960, where I lived and learned for 27 years. I moved to California in 1987

Most of my family attended Carleton University. My dad, David Coll, received Carleton’s first PhD in Engineering in 1966, and in 1998 became a professor emeritus. My brother Eric and I both have a Bachelor of Engineering from Carleton; he got his in 1983, I received mine in 1986. This is one of the reasons why I can both “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” in the forever changing land of high technology, Silicon Valley.

My mom, Marg, was a meeting planner and early entrepreneur. She started later in life; she was about 40 years old when she coined the term “meeting planner” and founded the Meeting Planners Association.

I moved to Silicon Valley because I thought it would be impossible to keep up with the pace of the Internet in Canada, and was lucky enough to work for some great companies including Sun Microsystems, Qualix Group, (which was later purchased by Veritas), and Ipsilon Networks—later purchased by Nokia.

In September 1996, I founded WebMama because I didn’t think people understood the value of search generated visitor traffic, and as a result weren’t setting up their Websites in a way that was easy for the search engines to find them. I wanted to offer a low cost solution to what I saw as a growing issue.

When I first started thinking about the name for the company I realized Websites and Internet were still relatively new, and most Webmasters were men. I wanted a name that made it clear I was a woman. “Webmistress” just didn’t sound right, so I chose WebMama.

I began working out of my home near Stanford University in Palo Alto, and when we got to a high, high water mark, I moved to premises in downtown, Palo Alto.

How do you break into a new industry? Well, back then you spoke at conferences – you raise your head and your hand and say you are an expert even if you were still learning. When an industry is new there are no experts; I said I was one. Someone took me seriously. And when the industry needed leadership to mature, a whole bunch of us (ok, seven of us) stepped forward and said “we will lead” and formed the industry association, something all mature industries have. I chaired the organization and that put my name – webmama – out there. Ouch! Some of that part of my job was painful.

Now I felt lucky; lucky to be able to be a little more selective in the jobs I took, and feel fortunate to be able to focus my work time on what matters to me. I like that I can just hang out with my family, and find I am spending more time doing pro bono and not-for profit work.

At this stage, I got to spend more time watching and helping out with my son’s school sports teams – like managing the track and field team one year – and getting involved in the women’s health movement. I stopped my crazy speaking circuit and my heavy involvement in the industry associations.

Ten years I spent in the offices in Palo Alto, managing rapid growth in the business, working with my virtual team of amazing consultants with lots of B2B clients; and mentoring many web marketing managers through the growth of their companies.

Today, Inc. is still sought after by companies looking for experienced marketers. I’m still working with some of my amazing consulting friends and some of the biggest B2B clients around. I find it amusing that there are people out there who don’t know my name is Barbara Coll but only know me as the WebMama. Named in 1996 and the brand persists, and if I ever stop dominating search results worldwide please let me know. WM