Google en Fuego
Google announced on Friday the acquisition of RSS publishing powerhouse FeedBurner (media coverage here and here). I was fortunate enough to be a member of FeedBurner’s Board of Directors for the past year and had a good window into the successes of the business as well as the deal with Google. It was all very interesting and good learnings for me as an entrepreneur as well as a first time outside director. My original post (the “fortunate enough” link above) contained all the things I love about FeedBurner in it, so I won’t rehash those here, but I will try to distill my top 3 learnings from my experience with the company:
- Creating value through focus is key in the early stages of a company. The FeedBurner team had a relentless focus on publishers. That’s what produced the value in the company that Google acquired in the end — massive publisher distribution and great brand and technology behind it all. Had the company gone on to do a couple more years independently, the team would have had to split focus between publishers and advertisers. I have no doubt that they would have been able to do the job, but a dual focus is more complex to execute well and harder to balance in terms of priorities.
- Running a company is all about improv. As many people know, FeedBurner CEO Dick Costolo is a former, I’d argue current, stand-up comedian/improv actor (see his entertaining and informative interview on Wallstrip here). Dick proved that those skills, while perhaps not as expensive to acquire as an MBA, are probably even more essential to running a company. You have to be able to elegantly manage chaos with a smile…and you have to constantly be quick to think on your feet.
- Being an outside Board member was fun but had new challenges. It’s hard to know how much to be involved with a company when you’re neither management nor investor. I was constantly worrying that I wasn’t doing enough for the company, but I was also trying to be very conscious of the fact that it wasn’t my company to run, only to advise. I think Dick and I got the formula pretty close to right, but it wasn’t obvious.
Congratulations to Dick, Steve, Eric, Matt, and the rest of the team at FeedBurner for a job well done!