How this CEO went from creating Lycos and LinkedIn to changing the world.
Bill Townsend’s road to stratospheric success has been filled with many unexpected twists and risky turns that have paid off for the Las Vegas resident. Big time. As the consummate can-do entrepreneur, Townsend (thus far) has helped to create and build several billion-dollar companies, including such global behemoths as search engine Lycos, social networking pioneer sixdegrees.com, whose intellectual property was the foundational basis of LinkedIn, GeoCities and Deja.com. Oh, but we’re not done. Townsend also cofounded a couple of television and event production companies: RevolutionSports (along with Roddy Piper and Shane Douglas) and Blake Townsend Productions alongside big-time publicist Charmaine Blake.
Today, Townsend is President and CEO of TRICCAR Holdings, Inc., a bioceutical research and development company focused on pharmaceutical and nutraceutical solutions to common diseases. Talk about tired of winning. By comparison, what have you—or any of us—done today?
I caught up with Townsend in Vegas for what proved to be one of the most enlightening interviews I’ve ever conducted in my life. Get ready to enjoy the ride otherwise known as Bill Townsend.
By Richard Pérez-Feria
Bill, throughout your career, you seem to always be way ahead of the curve. Is being a groundbreaker important to you?
I’ve never thought of myself as a groundbreaker, instead thinking of myself a person who’s really good at putting pieces together to solve a problem that most people don’t realize they have.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to see the possibilities for the future. Sometimes this works out great, such as the case with Lycos where we saw the ability to catalog what at the time was this new thing called the Internet. My four partners and I took it from incorporation to publicly-held in a then NASDAQ record of eight months and grew it into what was then one of the top five Internet sites in the world.
I started TRICCAR because my sister-in-law developed ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and had exhausted all known treatments. I came up with 18 formulae that didn’t do anything of significance, but the 19th formula let her sleep and rest properly. Further investigations led us to an ALS cure that we’ll put into clinical trials soon. Groundbreaking? Yes.
Other times, being able to envision the future may not work out as planned. With Pay By Touch, we brought biometric payment systems to retailers. You could walk into a grocery, drug, or mass retailer and pay conveniently and securely by swiping your finger on a scanner attached to the credit card reader. No need to carry cash or credit cards as your finger gave you access to your bank account and credit cards that were securely stored in our system. Unfortunately, the cost of the readers was so high it made the financial aspects of the company difficult. We raised nearly $400 million and had 800 employees, but the technology wasn’t stable enough for mass deployment. Eventually, we shut down and the company’s assets were purchased by Mastercard.
At my current company, TRICCAR, we have been very fortunate in leveraging years of rapid prototyping in the software and Internet industries and applying that to nutraceutical and pharmaceutical design. In just a few years, we’ve created more than 80 formulae and from that 38 have been proven to be effective in treating common illnesses, and some not so common diseases that don’t get proper funding because they’re not as widespread as diseases like cancer and diabetes. I started TRICCAR because my sister-in-law developed ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and had exhausted all known treatments. I came up with 18 formulae that didn’t do anything of significance, but the 19th formula let her sleep and rest properly, taking her from one or two hours of sleep to a consistent eight or nine hours. Further investigations led us to an ALS cure that we’ll put into clinical trials soon. Groundbreaking? Yes. But at the core was the desire to help someone with a fatal disease and doggedly pursuing a solution to help her have hope for a better tomorrow.
What’s the single biggest potential upside in the CBD/Hemp world? What’s the biggest myth about that world?
I fear for the CBD/Hemp market because while there are great benefits to cannabidiols, there’s too much misinformation and snake oil being sold. We tested 41 CBD products and found 9 had zero detectable CBD. Nearly all have labeling that’s misleading or inaccurate. For instance, many consumers see a label that says 300mg and they assume that each serving is 300mg, not that there is 300mg in a 60ml bottle, which means it’s less than 1 percent CBD by volume. This is misleading and it behooves those of us in the industry to push for independent third-party testing of products and truth in labeling and advertising.
What I find really exciting about CBD is the ability to add it to other products to increase effectiveness. We’re doing some work to determine how much CBD is most beneficial for healthy people, those that suffer anxiety, PTSD, or other issues and it appears that each disease benefits from different levels of CBD. That’s exciting to me because it means we can fine-tune the doses to better address a customer’s symptoms. Just as interesting is the whole “full spectrum” entourage effect of CBD when combined with THC and terpenes. This is where the future of CBD is, and I hope honest articles about the effects and required doses soon become mainstream.
Tell us about some of the exciting work TRICCAR is currently doing.
TRICCAR was founded to seek a treatment for ALS. As we traveled the world, met with medical and research experts, and looked through volumes of medical books from places as far away as Italy, China, Mongolia, and Argentina, we found recipes for treatments that have long been forgotten. We were able to recreate and alter many of these to develop treatments for obesity, hypothyroidism, skin cancer, diabetic nerve pain, trigeminal neuralgia, and several other conditions.
Our obesity formula is rooted in medicine from the 1500s and is an all-natural formula that has been proven through double-blind placebo-based studies to help people drop an average of 23 pounds in just 90 days with no exercise requirement and no crazy food diet that leaves you yearning for food.
Our CBD products are industry-leading in terms of percentage of CBD by volume, and they’re being tested on humans and horses, dogs and cats, with very encouraging results.
Our calcium product brings the most bioavailable calcium supplement, delivered via two effervescent tablets, to the world when 92 percent of women and 74 percent of men are calcium deficient, largely due to our move away from dairy. Two tablets, dissolved in a glass of water, provide as much calcium as three glasses of whole milk. We have $60 million in clinical studies backing this product and it’s been proven to strengthen bones, increase growth rates in children, increase testing scores, and keep teeth strong.
Our CBD products are industry-leading in terms of percentage of CBD by volume, and they’re being tested on humans and horses, dogs and cats, with very encouraging results. Our work with the DEA and FDA ensures we don’t run afoul of federal laws and makes us extremely cautious in only introducing products to the market that have had pharmaceutical-level testing behind them to guarantee they work.
What does our healthcare, medical and societal future look like given medical advances, technological breakthroughs and automation? Are we going to be living longer in a more disconnected, automated world, for example?
I envision a day, possibly in the not so distant future and certainly in our lifetime, when you can put your palm on a scanner and it will measure your vital signs, transmit them to your physician, and basic tests such as pulse, blood pressure, and even blood tests could be conducted.
I see a time when we can be dispensing medications based on body weight instead of a one-size fits all program as we have now. I’ve always felt it odd that I can be six-foot-two and weigh 202 pounds and my sister can be five-foot-six and weigh 132, but we’re both directed to “take two Tylenol” or “take 1 tablespoon Robitussin cough syrup.”
I’m very excited about micro-dosing and TRICCAR is conducting tests on micro-dosing with incredibly positive results that ensure an even amount of medicine in the body at all times, removal of dangerous spikes as the result of medications, and, in the case of cannabis extracts, ways to lower the effects of THC to a point that someone can benefit from a cannabis product without feeling so high they can’t function.
Give me the elevator pitch on the value of CBD.
CBD is an exciting element of the cannabis plant that, when combined with low levels of THC, terpenes, and Omega 3 and 6 rich hemp oil, can help the body more effectively cope with stress, pain, and heal in ways patients who don’t consume CBD don’t benefit from.
Your CV is something else: From Lycos to Roddy Piper. Looking back, can you believe the road you’ve been on?
I grew up on a family farm in Western Pennsylvania. I was a fifth-generation farmer. We had a great fishing pond on the farm and when I was 14, I decided I wanted to be a professional fisherman like the great Roland Martin. I found myself in fishing tournaments but often put the rod and reel away and got my camera out to photograph nature. By the time I was in college, my goal was to make movies. Somewhere along the way, I read a book, Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy and I knew advertising was where I wanted to work. That led me down a path of understanding the consumer and ultimately, when we launched Lycos in 1995, I was able to use my understanding of consumer behavior to our advantage. I worked in senior management at some great tech companies including GeoCities (now Yahoo!), Deja (now Google and eBay), sixdegrees.com (now LinkedIn), then moved on to Pay By Touch which was all about technology, biometrics, and personalized marketing. From there, I ventured into health and wellness at Product Partners, the makers of P90X and others, and the dietary supplement drink maker, neurobrands. At the same time, I served on the board of Newegg.com, a $2.8 billion online retailer, so I kept my feet in tech throughout my career.
Our concept was simple: create a television and live event production company centered around combat sports and create new rules and styles of historical sports like wrestling, boxing, Muay Thai and others.
I was approached to create a wrestling video game, which I wasn’t interested in, but after learning about the state of professional wrestling and how the athletes are independent contracts with no company benefits or profit sharing, I teamed up with “The Franchise” Shane Douglas to create RevolutionSports. Our concept was simple: create a television and live event production company centered around combat sports and create new rules and styles of historical sports like wrestling, boxing, Muay Thai and others. Rowdy Roddy Piper heard about us and called me one day and the next thing you know, he was part of our company, along with about a dozen former world champions. When Roddy passed away in 2015, the team sort of lost interest and at that point I put my focus into TRICCAR.
I guess you could say that my path has certainly not been what I thought it would be, but it has been incredibly rewarding from the standpoint of creating valuable brands and changing people’s lives.
If there’s one thing left to discover and gift to the world from Bill Townsend, what do you think that would be?
The goal for the remainder of my time on Earth is very simple: be a great Dad and husband; help others; and, leave a legacy that people will look upon some day and say, “TRICCAR put people above profits, wellness above patents, and focused on giving people hope for a better tomorrow.” If I can do that, my life will have been successful.