CxO’s – Linchpins in Bringing Business to Technology

Since 1996 I have been involved in buying Dell laptops and desktop PC’s, not only for my own use but also helping friends and non-profits acquire PC’s for their personal and business needs. A constant throughout most of that period was that each of these PC’s came with a digital media offering called Musicmatch. Not only an audio player, Musicmatch’s client could also “rip” CD’s and assist in managing your media library. In fact, I even bought a couple of upgrades to their premium service over the years. MusicMatch, Inc. was led by current SightSpeed CEO Peter Csathy. From his SightSpeed bio:

Csathy previously served as president and COO of Musicmatch, Inc., where he was responsible for driving the company’s distribution and content strategies, managing strategic partnerships, and overseeing the company’s business development, sales, legal and finance activities. Yahoo! acquired Musicmatch in 2004.

Aside from selling Musicmatch into what has become the Yahoo black hole of services at an opportune time when Apple’s iPod and iTunes offerings were resetting the business model for music acquisition and playing, Peter developed a network of contacts, business relationship experience and trust at Dell such that coming back to Dell for a SightSpeed partnership with Dell Video Chat was probably “a natural” on both Dell’s and SightSpeed’s part. Getting technology to market is not simply about the technology; it’s about developing trusted business partnerships and executing across the network. Terms and Conditions of this new agreement probably reflect on their previous business experience as much as on the boiler plate lawyers wanted to include. CxO’s are hired not only for their management experience but also for the network of contacts they can bring to the table.

While Phil makes some excellent points about why SightSpeed was able to complete a deal with Dell, I think the overriding factor in SightSpeed’s new Dell partnership is more a result of previous network contacts accompanied by business relationship experience in building a service as opposed to Skype simply “losing” a deal. The challenge for SightSpeed is now to build additional partnerships with other vendors and social networking offerings beyond these legacy relationships. The good news for end users is that there are two different conversation infrastructure offerings out there that can only build consumer awareness of what can be done to bring new real time conversation user experiences when incorporated into consumer businesses with extensive user bases.

Over at Skype we’re starting to see the evolution of Skype as a true business built on the foundation of Skype’s conversation infrastructure software. It’s not a case of just starting with Josh Silverman’s appointment as CEO but his building an experienced CxO management team that can make the operation run smoothly and avoid fiasco’s such as the loss of “0207” numbers in London last fall. Expect to see a seasoned CMO, as effectively called for in my Primer series posts last fall, and, with the complex mix of technology now embedded in Skype as its most critical asset, a CTO at some point in the near future. This is not based on any information from within Skype; it’s the natural evolution of a maturing company now being led by a business savvy Stanford MBA CEO and a Harvard MBA COO who has taken on a much wider range of challenges and experiences in his life than your average CxO.

Ironically, as a prior relationship revealed in Howard Wolinsky’s interview with recently appointed Skype COO Scott Durchslag posted yesterday, it will be interesting to see whether Scott’s previous business relationship at Motorola with Ron Garriques — now President of Dell’s Global Consumer Group — will result in any innovative new initiatives between Skype and Dell in the future. More importantly for Skype, however, would be the wireless carrier relationships Scott had to build in helping to make the Motoroal RAZR the success that it was.

It’s the mix of leadership, management experience, marketing programs, business networks and technology assets, combined with passionate employee teams, that will make both Skype and SightSpeed winners in their respective business and market spheres.

About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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