I’ve helped found three companies in the past fifteen years. All still survive in one fashion or another, but I stepped down from my role in the first two with a heavy heart. Tripod merged with Lycos in 1998, and after a year working for our new corporate parent, it became pretty clear to me that our strange little company was going to be utterly transformed by the merger and that wasn’t a change I wanted to be part of. My departure from Geekcorps was far dicier – my colleagues and I felt forced out by the company we’d merged with a year earlier, and when we left, we were all disappointed and angry.
In the dark days immediately after leaving Geekcorps, I remember telling my wife that there are only three things that can happen when you found a company:
– it fails, and you walk away.
– it succeeds, and you stay there forever.
– it succeeds, you move on and the folks who take over run it differently than you would.
At the time, I was too angry to realize an implication of that third possibility: the people who take over your business might run it better than you ever could.
That’s what’s happened with Global Voices. Rebecca and I were watching from the sidelines at the fourth day of our annual summit in Budapest, a closed meeting for our community to plan its future direction. As David, Solana and Georgia engineered an amazingly smooth, fun and participatory meeting, Rebecca turned to me and said, “Wow, they’re good at this.” “Much, much better than we are,” I replied.
Georgia Popplewell, Ivan Sigal – both photographed at the Budapest summit by Joi Ito.
The best concievable thing that can happen to you as an entrepreneur – social or otherwise – is to start something that other, smarter people want to work on. I knew we were on the right track with Global Voices when Georgia Popplewell, an utterly remarkable broadcaster, journalist, photographer and blogger, agreed to sign on as our managing director, taking on the absurdly complex task of coordinating the daily efforts of a hundred-plus volunteers and employees from around the world.
I got another vote of confidence when Ivan Sigal agreed to become our new Executive Director, starting in mid-August. Ivan is a long-time pro in the field of media development, working with Internews for the past decade on projects throughout Asia and the Americas. He’s an extremely talented photographer, an up-and-coming blogger, and a very cool guy. Which is a good thing, as he and I are going to be working very closely together, as the responsibilities associated with Executive Director are largely the ones I’m currently covering – raising money, planning strategy, making partnerships. Oh, and did I mention raising money? That’s a big one.
I’m not going very far away – I’m chairing the board of Stichting Global Voices, the legal entity in the Netherlands that manages GV projects. But it feels really, really good to know that we’ve built something that people want to be apart of and that smarter people are now steering the ship.