You may have seen the announcement today about my recent decision and move to join the new leadership team at Aol. To some of my friends in the Technorati, and most specifically the Valley, this move probably seems very contrarian. Having built some of the largest cloud infrastructure’s in the world, re-aligning operational processes at massive scale, Aol at first stroke may seem an odd choice. I have worked in some of the largest multi-national companies in the world, I have successfully (and unsuccessfully) launched start-ups, have been a cost center and carried a P&L. I think I have a pretty good understanding of the range and complexity of challenges (especially from a technology perspective) from small business to large. Across the spectrum of these types and sized companies you get a different feel. Different cultures. Different attitudes. Different Vibes.
Aol is aggressively moving to redefine itself in the industry, to significantly transform and morph itself into a world that Aol itself helped create and define over 25 years ago. There is no arguing that the first true scale challenges in dealing with the Internet at large were experienced by those first AOL’ers as they had to deal with numbers of users never before seen in our industry. They pushed the boundaries of technology, they pushed the boundary of operations, they created whole new paradigms. To reinvent itself in a market with such competition, such diversity is a huge challenge.
One of the most surprising things to me is that Vibe-thing I talked about a few moements ago. When walking around the company you cannot help but notice that definitely has more of a technology start-up feel to it. Its palpable. One of the folks I ran into called it a start-around. A combination of a Start-up and a Turn-around. Perhaps thats the best description I have to describe that vibe. Sure things have been tough, sure there is alot of legacy to work through, but the level of commitment to those folks that are here is incredible. Moreso than that. Its a culture of beleivers. Its all the self-sacrafice and personal investment you find in a startup, but with a team of seasoned veterans. Its quite unique in my experience.
As I mentioned, Aol has long held a place of respect in terms of Operational best practices at scale, and a culture that recognized the importance of technology in the delivery of its mission. Tim Armstrong, the CEO and Google veteran, has built an incredible team of passionate technology veterans from places like Google, Microsoft, and others. The mission is focused. The mission is deliberate. The mission is clear. The mission is hard. Its a huge challenge. Its the kind of challenge I love. If you think its impossible you are only encouraging my energy more. I could have taken a safe bet. But where is the excitement? Where is the challenge? As the saying goes, “A ship is safe in the harbour, but thats not what ships are for!” This ship is setting sail and my commitment is that not only will we find a new world, we will define it!
In the coming days/weeks/months, I hope to share many of the exciting things we will be endeavoring to accomplish and give you a real taste of some of the big changes I will be attempting. As always, technology and operational processes will be key to the success of the mission the company is on and I have some very definite ideas on how we can leap frog current thinking in this space and ensure that our technology and operational approach is no only a strategic value to the business, but also industry leading in execution.