A while ago I ragged on Robert Scoble (almost silently because, let’s face it, who read my tripe?) because he was talking about marketing and startups and worked at Microsoft. See the oxymoron there? Working at arguably the most powerful corporation in the world (yeah, they know the backdoor codes for every copy of Windows) and giving advice about marketing and startups – one thing that Microsoft has legions of people working on and the other hasn’t been a feature of Microsoft since the seventies. I remember disagreeing with Robert (from the comfort of my chair) at the time with an indignant “What the hell does he know! but I have to accept that the guy is an expert at what he does. And defining the ‘what he does’ becomes important.
When Robert left Microsoft to go to a short gig at Podtech, he said that working for a startup was exciting. Fair enough, Robert, this still isn’t what most of us were doing from day to day. We were running our own startups.
So, not long after, Robert moves to FastCompany.tv as the Managing Director and that’s his first real experience of a startup. He’s got an established brand (no matter what you may think of Fast Company), he’s got some funding, he’s got the A-list blogger hype machine and he pulls in some old pals to help him. He has advantages that most startups never have (yeah, start again by being a nobody, having a 300 sq ft office, 5 employees who have just been laid off from the last bit of work, Â£10 000 in your personal savings and no clients – you have enough money to pay salaries and taxes for one month and that’s your nest egg gone – now tell me it’s hard work).
So he gives it a go with all of this.
And it’s a disaster.
I’ve yet to finish a Scoble video because halfway through I just click off. Is this attention deficit on my part? I guess I can take the blame?
Tyme White writes about the recent stink with Fast Company, Loren Feldman and Shel Israel:
“The core problem, in my opinion, is that Fast Company picked the wrong people to accomplish their goals. These people are probably â€œgoodâ€ people (nice, kind, considerate, etc.) but they arenâ€™t placed in positions where their strengths would benefit the company. There isnâ€™t a system in place to overcome their weakened positions. It is my opinion if people were placed in positions they were more qualified to fill, these issues would not have happened in the first place and now that they have, they would be mitigated.”
What’s my take? I’m broadly in agreement with Tyme. Robert Scoble is an A-list blogger and he has enough interest from the net to make someone a shedload of money. But why put a ‘producer’ in a ‘manager’ position if not just for the kudos. The recent hubbub with Shel Israel just highlights how Robert isn’t a hiring manager (and Shel doesn’t have a thick enough skin yet to take the criticism that being a public figure buys you.). You want to be an internet sensation, you have to be able to take the hits too. Robert has, for the most part, weathered most hits but it seems inevitable to me that his idle boast of ignoring 17000 people on Twitter is going to bite him in the ass at some point in the future. You can’t manage a company and fulfill the ‘legend’ of Robert Scoble. Not just because there isn’t enough time but because only one person can fulfill that legend and he’s not a manager (yet).
Of course, I’m a classic armchair CEO pointing out the discrepancies in someone else’s work and I’m 100% sure that my own little companies bring in a small percentage of the revenue required to keep FastCompany.tv ticking over so there may be something I’m missing. I know my brand sucks.