Tag Archives: seesmic

Venture Files

Startup Layoffs — The Unkindest Cut

Watch for RollingHeads.jpgLast week, Seesmic let seven of its 21 employees go — a full third of the company. Were they in a crisis? Depends on how you look at it. CEO Loic LeMeur had raised $12M, a Series B $6M of which came in June. But do the math: 21 employees, fully loaded is around $200k/month. Tack on bandwidth, storage, other hosting costs, legal and other services, marketing expenses, T&E . . . expenses are upwards of $300k/month. And with negligible revenue, that’s pure burn. At that rate, Seesmic would hit the wall in just over a year.

There comes a point in every CEO’s life when they realize that things have turned for the worse. Accompanying that realization — along with a gnawing knot in the stomach — is the stark reality that something needs to be done about it. These are the times that try . . . you know the speech.

CEOs worth their salt — or if they’re rosey-glassed types who prefer to ignore bad news, then the COO realists who watch their backs — keep an eye on the numbers, and know exactly when breakeven’s coming . . . or when the money’s going to run out. What changes things — and probably what changed for Le Meur — is the wellspring drying up. And at that burn rate, in this climate, he would have to start raising another round in six months (it always takes longer than you’d think).

Oh — there’s one other thing. Seesmic’s Series C would probably be at a lower valuation than Series B. You want to see things get complicated (ugly, even), go through a down round. New money makes out all right (it’s called the Alternative Golden Rule), but previous investors get squeezed. (Angels often get squished.) Employee options go underwater, plagues and locusts descend, and there’s a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

So Le Meur did what he had to do.

Letting people go is a miserable experience. And no matter how carefully you plan it, how humanely you handle it, it sucks. Everyone knows startups are risky, but startup hires are the most passionate, dedicated folks around. (Yours aren’t? Sorry — you hired the wrong ones!) Meanwhile, company founders think only of success. They radiate it. And they make promises, explicit or implied, to every employee ‘join us, work hard, and you’ll be rewarded.’ I’ve said those words dozens (really, maybe hundreds) of times. So when it comes down to having to let people go, a promise is broken. To them. And to their families.

Layoffs suck. But they beat the hell out of running out of money.

When all financing options disappear, your world comes crashing down, believe me. Once you’ve been there, you take a far more pragmatic view of letting people go.

I expect in the current climate to see a number of RIF announcements. I hope they’re done right. (There is a way to do it right.) Because on those occasions when they’re not, things are going to be interesting. Unlike the first bubble, today everyone’s voice can be heard — blogging, twittering, commenting, we can expect to read (and hear, if people comment using Seesmic) about some remarkably uncivil behavior, especially on the part of first-time CEOs.

Next post: Layoffs done decent.

Aaron Brazell

How Has Social Software Changed Your Life?

This is an open comments style post, so I want your comments.

The thing about my “beat”, as they’d call it in the newspaper business, is that I’m not really all that interested in “the news”. I’m not trying to cover all the stories, nor am I trying to cover most of them. I’m not trying to “break” anything or peddle products. I want to understand how social software affects my life. And yours.

Text comments will be deleted in this thread as I want video comments. ;) Click on the Sessmic Video comments link below. If you don’t already have one, grab a free account over at Seesmic.com.

This is what I want to know. How has social software benefited you? This is open ended and I want you to define what I mean by this. Some example questions might be:

  1. How you got a job using LinkedIn
  2. How you found an old crush on Facebook
  3. How blogging helped you gain support for a good cause
  4. How you used Flickr to communicate to your family on the other side of the world
  5. How you used Brightkite to track your migration habits
  6. How Twitter made the World Series special for you
  7. How you had a brilliant entrepreneurial idea from a discussion on FriendFeed
  8. How you used VC portfolio companies to attract the attention of a VC and get funded
  9. How you made a career by offering advice on a blog

These are easy examples. I want you to offer your own insight on how, sometime, somewhere, social tools have enhanced your life. Tell us your story on video. If you don’t, I’ll look like a complete idiot for this format – but I’m okay with that. :)

Aaron Brazell

The Internet is Not a Free Speech Zone

It would seem that people, by and large, think that the internet is a free speech zone. We have blogs, these are our personal spaces and we can do whatever the hell we want.

In case you missed the memo, this is not the case.

Sure, you might not go to jail (actually, this increasingly becomes possible) but as bad, if not worse, is the possibility of destroying relationships because of your actions on the internet.

It’s not a free speech zone.

A few days ago, Loic Lemeur, the founder of Seesmic and someone who I have yet to meet in person, put out a very impassioned video calling Kosso (who is my friend and the developer of Phreadz) to task for disseminating private conversation.

I find this video very honest and transparent. Loic apologizes for direct comments that may have been inappropriate. From Kosso’s standpoint, he explains in a very coherent way why the whole thing is very awkward:

Now, if you’ve made it this far and watched the videos, you can understand that the politics of the web is a very delicate thing. It’s easy for people to get twisted up, but there’s always two sides to every conversation.

A few months ago, Loren Feldman started a series of parody videos mocking Shel Israel’s videos at FastCompany.tv. Quite a number of people took offense to these videos and that particular conversation got downright nasty. What some people don’t understand is that the internet is not a free speech zone and, if Loren wanted to, he could destroy their lives, businesses, client relationships, etc.

Does that make Loren a bad guy? No, I hardly think so. I personally think that Loren is one of the nicest and most honest guys on the internet. But I know he could destroy me.

That in itself doesn’t keep me from stepping into that fray, but it’s a healthy respect valve.

So to everyone I have bitten harshly in this internet world, accept my apologies. There have been a lot of them, but to name a few: Tyme White, Mike Rundle, Kris Smith, John Havens, David Krug, Robert Scoble, Mike Arrington, Jason Calacanis and others.

Life’s too short.

Aaron Brazell

More of the Same in 2008; Or: We ain't no Seesmic

It’s Monday morning and I’m sitting here at Reagan National Airport awaiting a flight to Toronto. This is my last business trip of 2007 and… when I return home on Wednesday, I’m only looking at another two business days before I entirely knock off for the year. I’ll probably blog, but no b5media (if I can help it), none of my “mini-gigs”, and generally, no social media. I say that now, of course.

I figured it was a good time to look at what you can expect from this blog, and more specifically me, in 2008.

More Travel

I traveled more than I ever did before in 2007. Met some great people from the social media community. Reacquainted myself with others. Engaged in my first public speaking engagements. In essence, 2007 for me was about a definite maturing in my professional profile. I haven’t always executed well. Some people may not like me. Others might think I don’t like them. But, I’m happy with where 2007 has taken me.

In 2008, I expect more travel and that means more of an opportunity to meet you somewhere. Though nothing is definite yet, I’m hoping to make it to Future of Web Apps Miami and New Media Expo as well as near definite appearances at SXSWi, WordCamp Dallas, WordCamp San Francisco, Gnomedex 8 and Blog World Expo 2008.

There’s also rumor of b5media doing a cross country tour, but I can neither confirm nor deny that possibility. ;-)


One of the new buzzwords getting thrown around the Web 2.0-a-sphere is “hyperlocal” – the focus on local/regional services, community and communications. While 2007 has been critical for me in developing my reach internationally and nationally, I have neglected my profile here at home. In the words of Jesus, “A prophet is not without honor save in his own country,” and while I don’t claim to be a prophet, I did predict the Ravens loss to the Miami Dolphins this past Sunday.

In 2008, I plan to cultivate the relationships that I have begun to develop in the Baltimore/Washington region more throughly. For instance, Geoff Livingston and I will be launching a Blog Talk Radio show surrounding the social media and communications environment in the Washington, D.C. area entitled “District of Corruption”. This will begin at 2pm on Tuesday, January 8.

Other potential alliances exist between myself and Nick O’Neill of Social Times and All Facebook, Mike Brenner who is looking to launch Refresh Baltimore, Ann Bernard and Keith Casey at Why Go Solo, NewMediaJim, Frank Gruber of AOL and co-founder of TECH Cocktail, Greg Cangialosi of Blue Sky Factory… and others. In the new year, I’ll be focusing a lot of my time and energy in these areas and with these people and maybe something cool will come of it.

More Original Non-English Content

Carlos Granier-Phelps has been doing a smash up job producing original Spanish language content for Technosailor.com. I’ve learned from early mistakes and provided a separate Spanish feed for this content and I expect to learn more from the experiment. I say experiment because I did this not knowing what to expect. A month and a half in and I’m seeing definite signs of traction. It’s always hard to build a new audience, so I’m grateful to Carlos for helping to spearhead this under the Technosailor banner. Social media and business is not exclusive to English speakers and so I don’t want to ignore that demographic.

In an ideal world, I’d love to see the new year bring original French and, I don’t know, Japanese content as well. We’ll see. Certainly, let me know if you’re interested in reading or writing here.

We Ain’t Seesmic

Finally, you can expect more of the same from me. In the past year, I’ve recognized that it dilutes content to force a quota on myself. I used to force myself to write once a day at least and now I only write when inspired. As a result, my content is better and more original. Traffic has shot through the roof and my subscriber count has more than doubled. Unlike Seesmic, I’m not too concerned with what critics say. ;-)

Time to get going, the plane boards soon.