Webrot: Why bad management scared off the Spy Sweeper maker's core team

By a reader

Webroot Software makes a really popular anti-spyware application called Spy Sweeper. It was the darling of the software world when it took a HUGE series A funding round ($108 MM) back in Feb 2005. Nevermind that the money was more of a buyout than an investment with the vast majority of the moola walking out the doors with the newly rich founders. Nevermind that the valuation the clueless venture capitalists put on the company basically ended any possibility of acquisition by anyone short of Google.

Webroot took what money was left and started chasing big names from the security industry. Nevermind that those big names were not qualified for the jobs they were given. Nevermind that the big names typically had little experience in the consumer market where Webroot had enjoyed its success. The big names came in and they have consistently mis-managed the company.

The real fallout started early in 2006 when they hired Gerhard Eschelbeck from Qualys to be their CTO and head of Engineering. His awful management style and inability to actually understand the Webroot business resulted in David LeBlanc (a well-known security architecture expert that Webroot lured from Microsoft in mid-2005) going back to Redmond. LeBlanc found it so messed up he left the job after less than a year to go back to his old job at Microsoft.

Leblanc was soon followed by Richard Stiennon, Webroot's well-known VP of Threat Research, and it all started falling apart from there. In the September 2006 quarter they had 25 people leave, nearly 10% of the entire company, and almost all in the organizations headed by Eschelbeck. Almost the entire product development team from Engineering to Product Management to Quality Assurance decided to get the hell out.

Was this a wake-up call for the management team? Well, apparently a few of them can tell that the ship is sinking and are getting off while they can. The latest news is SVP of Business Development Seksom Suriyapa (a high-profile hire from McAfee who started at Webroot in September 2005) and VP of Marketing Vinay Goel (hired from Check Point in may 2005) are leaving "to pursue other opportunities."

Why aren't the executives behind the company's personnel disaster (Eschelbeck, COO Mike Irwin and CEO David Moll) being held accountable by the board? Because the company still sells a zillion copies of Spy Sweeper in Best Buy and as long as the company is making money, who cares? The fact that the team that built the successful product is gone doesn't seem to have sunk in yet...