Eons Creates New Chief Product Officer Position, Looks to the Cloud for Some Services

5/6/08Follow @bbuderi

After losing its second chief technology officer in seven months, Eons is looking to revamp the position by creating a new chief product officer job that combines technology and product development responsibilities, according to CEO Jeff Taylor. On a related front, Taylor says the company is eyeing moving some of its storage—so far done on its own equipment—to the cloud, and that he is evaluating services from both Amazon and Google.

Yesterday, we broke the news about CTO Eric Golin’s recent departure in a management split. We couldn’t get hold of Taylor until relatively late in the afternoon. But while not speaking of the particulars of the split, Taylor was forthcoming about the future.

“I have an opening, and we’re looking for a chief product officer,” he told me. “That person is going to combine social networking and customer engagement experience with technology.” He adds, “What we’ve discovered [is] rather than have product people pushing up against developers, we need to have a singular head here.”

Taylor says he is looking far and wide for the new CPO. That’s partially because there aren’t a lot of top people experienced in social networking in New England and he’s had to look more to the West Coast. However, he says, Eons has “a very good pipeline of people that we’re talking to,” and that the company expects to make an announcement before too long.

Whoever the new person is, he or she will be overseeing an Eons technology landscape that will likely tap cloud computing services for a growing portion of its offerings. It’s no surprise that a Web company looking to pare expenses—Eons laid off a third of its staff in September—and get more efficient is looking to the cloud. But this still marks a big departure for Eons, which has previously run its own servers and bought its own storage (which is managed by a colocation provider).

However, Taylor says, the time is right for the cloud, especially with Eons getting close to new product releases encouraging users to store and share more photos and, presumably, other media—activities that require the scalable and reliable services cloud computing promises. Taylor says he has always looked at technology as an important core competency for Web companies. Monster.com, which he also founded, has huge data farms and has found success in managing its own systems, he says. “But that said, it seems like there’s a new world where all of a sudden the [in-house] computing power to run a big branded organization is headed toward zero.” Taylor says Eons is looking at both Google Shared Storage and Amazon S3 (for Simple Storage Service), but our sources indicate Amazon is the likely winner.

Taylor also took a few moments to update me on Eons’ transformation from an over-50 Web portal to a social networking site mainly for baby boomers. The company sparked a mini-user revolt in February when it dropped its over-50 age limit. But Taylor says things have calmed down dramatically. “Our prediction was that we would lose a thousand people that were really kind of steadfast around the idea of 50-plus,” he says. “My estimate would be that about 600 people left and about half of those people have come back.”

He said that people returned as it became more apparent that Eons had not changed its focus on baby boomers, and that by dropping the age limit it facilitated social networking among friends and peers who fall on both sides of 50. “There was an unnatural line in the sand,” he says, adding, “our brand position hasn’t changed.”

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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