Podtech failure: Scoble’s lessons

Not long ago, Podtech was a video company with a bright future — or at least so it appeared. Run by John Furrier, with some high-profile social media types like Jeremiah Owyang and Robert Scoble on board, the company had high hopes of being a new video-content provider. And then the train left the track at some point, and now the company’s assets (whatever’s left) have been sold for just $500,000. Owyang left to join Forrester and Scoble left to go to FastCompany, and John Furrier was effectively forced to resign. So what happened? How did $7.5-million worth of VC money get vaporized so quickly?

We may never know the complete answer to those questions, until someone like John chooses to talk about it (Update: He has posted a comment on FriendFeed), but we can draw some tentative conclusions from what Robert Scoble has said on FriendFeed. Among other things, he says:

“Podtech was screwed up by a number of decisions. Everyone played a part, but I sure learned a lot about how a company can screw up big time. Major learnings for me? 1. Have a story. 2. Have everyone on board with that story. 3. If anyone goes off of that story, make sure they get on board immediately or fire them. PodTech did none of the three and I’m sorry for my part in not making the three happen.”

And then, apparently unable to resist adding more details, he says:

“Other things I learned: 1. Make sure people are judged by the revenues they bring in. Those that bring in revenues should get to run the place. People who don’t bring in revenues should get fewer and fewer responsibilities, not more and more. 2. Work ONLY for a leader who will make the tough decisions (see above). 3. Build a place where excellence is expected, allowed, and is enabled. 4. Fire idiots quickly (didn’t happen at PodTech — even if you count me as one of the idiots)”

And finally:

“Other things I learned: 1. if your engineering team can’t give a media team good measurements, the entire company is in trouble. Only things that are measured ever get improved. 2. When your stars aren’t listened to the company is in trouble. 3. When your stars start leaving (Gillmor and Owyang left before I did) the company is in trouble. 4. Getting rid of the CEO, even if it’s all his fault, won’t help unless you replace him/her with someone who is visionary and who can fix #1,2,3”

But there are some things not even Scoble will blab, apparently:

“Much of the worst stuff is too personal. Failures of companies often happen around failures at the leadership level. Telling why things failed means telling off investors, executives, and others (and even me). Not likely to happen because that’d mean burning bridges and I’m just not willing to do that. These people have too many friends. :-)”

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