Livemocha’s New CEO, Michael Schutzler, on Company Challenges, Culture, and the Evolution of Social Networks
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create a free but high-value service for consumers while generating over $1 billion in annual revenues from corporate customers and a premier brand. That lesson will also serve us well at Livemocha. As fun as all those projects were, Real Arcade was the most fun. We served hundreds of millions of people around the world with original games that provided stress relief. We started out thinking we were selling games to young, white American men. Turns out middle aged women from every country were our best customers. Finding our “best” customer at Livemocha and giving them a fantastic, immersive experience will be an exciting challenge.
X: As a CEO coach, what is the best advice you would give to yourself?
MS: Listen. Listen some more. Share my passion openly. Find the best people and help them succeed.
X: Can you talk more broadly about how social networks and online communities have evolved during your career? What are you seeing now in terms of revenue models, strategies, etc., that are interesting or surprising?
MS: I remember sixdegrees.com and about.com in their first implementations. Both were brilliant attempts but way ahead of their time. Both suffered terribly from the Internet advertising implosion in 2000. Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn.com is one of my heroes—he created an experience in which the website served as a match-making host for professionals, set up clear and professional rules of engagement, and let the members teach the company what to build. His patience (and the patience of his VC backers) created one of the few inherently profitable engines in social networking. When Facebook opened its doors in late 2007 to non-college members, I remember thinking, uh-oh, that will require Classmates to retool. Facebook hasn’t figured out how to make money on reunions and re-connections, and Classmates still has some aces up its sleeve. Finally: Twitter. I love Twitter and think there might be an opportunity to work in some innovative ways with the service at Livemocha. It’s only day-two on the job, so we’ll have to see…
X: Last but not least, how will you continue (or improve upon) Livemocha’s noted ping-pong culture? Can you say a few words about what makes the company’s culture unique?
MS: Livemocha is filled with highly intelligent, driven professionals. Yes, we really have a ping-pong table in the boardroom. And an arcade machine in the kitchen. And like many other start-ups, we have way too many people in way too small a space. We will hire the best and brightest to help build Livemocha. We will hire only those who are passionate about our mission. Chances are pretty good we’ll outgrow our ping-pong room, but that just means we’ll have Guitar Hero instead. A start-up that isn’t noisy is soon dead. So we will be making a lot of noise.
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