If at first you don't succeed, cast your failure as part of an industry trend. That's the exit strategy of Russell Beattie, who launched mobile startup Mowser after being fired from Yahoo in 2006. Fired, mind you, when Yahoo was firing very few people. Beattie's tale of woe explains Mowser's failure thus: Designing Web pages for cell phones was always a short-term game, and his bet came out wrong. TechCrunch's Michael Arrington plays right into Beattie's hand, arguing about the future of the mobile Web instead of asking why Mowser failed. He encourages Beattie to launch a new startup building applications instead of a mobile Web browser.
The debate is interesting enough: With cell phones constantly changing, should one try to optimize Web pages for small screens and numeric keypads, or make tools that run on any number of phones?
But that debate doesn't tell us why Mowser failed. A former Yahoo insider says Beattie's Mowser drew on several elements of Yahoo's Sushi platform for cell-phones, now known as Yahoo OneSearch and OneConnect, among other names. Beattie, better known inside Yahoo for his prolific blogging and conference attendance than for his product-management skills, just couldn't duplicate the design. (Other ex-Yahoos did manage to recreate parts of Sushi, allegedly so successfully that they got sued by Yahoo.)
His former colleagues, from what we hear, aren't shedding too many tears over his tale of woe, which includes getting his car repossessed twice and subsisting on buttered macaroni. Then again, given that his alternative was somehow hanging onto a job at Yahoo, I'm not sure Beattie was worse off in the end.