John Furrier, the recently deposed CEO of PodTech, is working the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco in a lime-green shirt. His outfit, like his equally glaring smile, suggests that he's unbothered by leaving the Internet video network he founded. No longer even an employee at the company, he's trying to spin his departure by trotting out all of the usual clichés. He writes in his blog: he's had "a blast," remains "passionate and motivated," and is "even more excited by the possibilities available for entrepreneurs" in the future. He even uses the excuse of family, recently mocked by Jack Shafer in Slate, by mentioning the tragic passing of his mother. For his next move, he plans to jump from one buzzword-ridden business opportunity, podcasting, to every conceivable new one: "collaboration, communications, social application development, new media, and emerging online advertising 2.0 solutions." Oh, and he's building a Facebook app. In other words, he has no clue what he's going to do next.
In the Valley, the habit is to focus on future, not past. Furrier offers to tell readers of his blog what he learned — but only in private email. What's the use in that? We'll do you the favor of recapping Furrier's big mistakes, and the lessons he ought to draw from them, for him, in public.
Mistake: Furrier couldn't resist signing niche "talent"with little chance of attracting advertisers. Conversely, boring tech-related content has attracted advertisers but no mainstream audience.
Lesson: Talent — creative or otherwise — should be hired to serve a business mission, not the CEO's ego. Hiring people you like can be excused by "going with your gut" — but gut decisions are best backed up by numbers.
Mistake: It's still not clear to this day whether PodTech is a content network or a provider of video services. Riding the novelty of video podcasting worked only as long as podcasts were novel.
Lesson: Spotting a trend is one thing; capitalizing on it is another. Exploring nascent technologies is never a bad idea — but it requires moving quickly to learn from one's mistakes. And that, in turn, requires being able to admit them.
Mistake: Furrier hoped to attract funding and advertisers by throwing lavish events like Bloghaus at the Bellagio at CES 2007 and the "Vloggies" award banquet. Neither had much impact. Meanwhile, the company's operations were chaotic, and contributors went unpaid.
Lesson: Creating an image is better done through a company's day-to-day work than through big parties.
Anyone trade notes with Furrier? Forward his email. We're curious how closely his lessons match ours. Unlikely, though. That's why we're sure his next venture will be equally fun to blog, horrible to watch.