From Starbucks to Startups: Rob Grady’s Take on What Coffee and Web 2.0 Have in Common

1/29/09Follow @gthuang

Coffee is so last year. Just ask Rob Grady, the former Starbucks executive who joined Seattle-based social publishing startup Wetpaint as senior vice president of marketing earlier this month. OK, Grady still enjoys a triple tall Americano or a double tall nonfat caramel macchiato from time to time—his new favorite Starbucks is in the Wells Fargo building in downtown Seattle—but he’s moving on to a different kind of challenge now, and last week he told me why.

Grady was Starbucks’ vice president of global beverage (one of the best titles ever, in my opinion). His team was nearly 100 strong and produced several billion dollars in revenue. But the past year or so has been a time of great change at Starbucks, what with declining sales, the economic downturn, and Howard Schultz’s return as CEO. Grady didn’t point to any of those as reasons for leaving, but it sounds like he wanted to move on to bigger challenges.

“Two things have threaded my career,” Grady says. “Working for a company that can make a difference in the world from a social perspective. And creating a great consumer experience.”

Which is where Wetpaint enters the picture. It’s a startup, backed by $40 million in venture capital, that helps customers generate all sorts of new online content to turn business websites into Web 2.0 social-networking beehives (among other things). “Social publishing is the largest content-creation platform going forward,” says Grady. “Anyone on the Internet with a passion has a way to organize and galvanize around a cause…Online social publishing has great economic promise because it enables content creation that has much lower cost, but has great value.”

Matt Hulett, the chairman and CEO of Mpire (maker of Widgetbucks), has some valuable outside perspective on Grady’s move. He worked with Grady at RealNetworks back in the 1990s, and has known him for 14-plus years. “Rob is a powerful mix of analytic thinking, strong leadership, and a real passion for building creative products and solutions,” Hulett says. “If a guy like Rob is going to Wetpaint, … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://iguanabio.com IguanaBio

    I don’t get it. $40M in VC money? How is this site different from Ning, Crowdvine, etc?