Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Moving On

Almost exactly nine years ago, when everyone and their brother was trying to do an Internet startup, my brother Keith and I and a few friends started comparing ideas. As Keith put it, "Ken, could you really look your grandchildren in the eye and tell them that you lived through the greatest business explosion in history, and you didn't try something?" So I got on board: at first, just working evenings and weekends, and in mid 2000, once Zango got its first round of funding, working full-time (or rather, somewhat more than full-time). Our big idea was "desktop advertising": sponsoring content by means of targeted advertisements delivered to your desktop.

How we've done that has changed pretty dramatically over the years, and we've sometimes been more successful at it, and sometimes less. As probably everyone knows, there was a period around 2004 when Zango screwed up pretty big, by not monitoring our publishing network as closely as we should have. But on the whole, Zango has generally succeeded in that initial goal, and in the process, has helped to carve out a unique niche in the very crowded Internet advertising space.

My involvement with Zango, first as co-founder, and eventually as CTO, has been one of the great highlights of my life. The culture at Zango, especially in its technology group, is as positive and ego-free as any company I've seen. We argue, but we argue about the issues, not the personalities, and folks are only interested in getting at the right answer, regardless of whose answer it is. The people there are smart, hard-working, dedicated, and as good a set of folks to work with as I've ever seen. I'm proud of what they accomplished, and I'm proud to have been their leader.

But nine years is a long time, and I've made the difficult decision that it's time to move on. Yesterday, as part of its transition over to its Platrium platform, Zango had to lay off 68 employees, roughly one third of its work force, and I took the opportunity to tender my resignation as well.

No part of this decision was easy, but in the end, I'm comfortable with it. A typical day lately had me starting at 4:00 am (to make my meetings with our Tel Aviv office), and didn't finish for another 12 or more hours. It's been wearing on me. I'm exceedingly proud of Zango, and I'm going to miss the folks there a great deal, but I need to spend some time with Caedmon, I need to remind my wife why she married me, I need to do some fishing, I need to get back to the outdoors. And I need to figure out what I want to do next.

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