Tuesday, August 13, 2013

BLiNQ | Tough times for keeping top tech talent

Old Line companies everywhere struggle to find and keep whip-smart technology talent. After all, who wants to leave the hothouse of start-ups, where they create cool stuff for big bucks through IPOs -- all while bringing Fido to the office?

Plus, companies like Gannett are bloated with layers of bureaucracy that slow innovation to a crawl. Remember GCI's much-ballyhooded research and development lab, The DIG? Exactly.

Indeed, the word "innovation" appears only four three times in the latest Annual Report to shareholders. "Dividend," on the other hand, is mentioned 39 times. Start-ups don't pay dividends because they reinvest any profits back into R&D.

Consider Chris Saridakis, the company's first chief digital officer in 2008. Then-CEO Craig Dubow said Saridakis would "use his talent and ability to move rapidly in further developing Gannett into a digital powerhouse."

Yet, he quit in 2010 after just two years over slow-mo decision-making. (His high-profile exit was so embarrassing, Corporate disclosed it only in a relatively obscure regulatory filing. Saridakis, 44, is now running an eBay division.)

This brings me to BLiNQ Media, a social media advertising company GCI bought a year ago for as much as $92 million, published reports said. At the time, I wondered how long CEO and Founder David Williams would last inside the 31,000-employee GCI, where he was to report to Vikram Sharma, chief of Gannett Digital Marketing Services.

Turns out, just nine months, according to his LinkedIn profile.

When it announced the BLiNQ deal, GCI didn't disclose terms, including the purchase price. But TechCrunch, which broke the news, said GCI would pay eight figures over a period of three to four years, with a quarter of that, $23 million, coming up front.

This month, BLiNQ said it had promoted Luis Caballero to replace Williams; Caballero had been chief operating officer. In a press release, the company said only that Williams had left the company "to pursue other opportunities."

Williams is now a start-up advisor and investor, according to LinkedIn.

Corporate sure must hope for stability in BLiNQ's leadership -- unlike the revolving door at ad services subsidiary PointRoll. Saridakis was CEO there when he got promoted to the chief digital officer's job. Counting him, PointRoll has had four chief executives over the past 5½ years.


  1. "Old Line companies everywhere struggle to find and keep whip-smart technology talent."

    Actually, that's not quite true. It would be more accurate to say that companies like Gannett struggle to find and keep technology talent, period. Gannett certainly ain't competing at the "whip-smart" echelons, or anywhere in the vicinity.

    Nor does that necessarily matter. As critical as technology is, it is a secondary issue to the lack of a viable business model, let alone a growth strategy.

  2. You are missing the bigger story on this shake-up.

    1. The "I know something you don't know" taunt is way worn out.


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