Why Heather Matters

TechCrunch CEO Heather Harde announced her departure today.

I’m so angry.

Drift back to the end of 2006. TechCrunch was a year and a half old. My hobby had turned into a business. Federated Media was selling our standard ads and sent a small check every month. Nik Cubrilovic had “invented” the notion of a 125 pixel square ad that we’d sell for a flat rate, which was an unqualified success and was quickly copied by everyone else. We had enough money to have a staff, and things were looking pretty good.

But we had a massive hole in the organization. There was no sales team, and no one to handle all the important parts of a business. I began to recruit Heather Harde, an executive at Fox, to fill that hole. It took months before she agreed, but in March 2007 she was on board.

Heather was a perfect fit at TechCrunch. She’s dogged and ambitious and willing to take massively risky bets when it makes sense. She’s also the most even tempered, thoughtful person I know personally. Think Dalai Lama calm, even in the face of my monthly “the sky is falling” proclamations. No matter how messy things got, Heather just kept on marching, and everyone followed.

What I did right, and this is important, is I hired Heather to be my boss. That gave her the authority she needed to run the company. A lot of our competitors seemed more ego driven, with the blogger demanding to stay CEO. That meant they hired less awesome people, and then those people didn’t have the room to maneuver. As a result, we grew much more quickly than they did.

Revenue was marginal when she joined, maybe $500,000 in 2006. By the time we sold TechCrunch revenue was $10 million a year. And this last year under Aol Heather grew revenue by another 50% or, based on what I’ve seen reported.

Other than dial up, TechCrunch is/was the most profitable and fastest growing business unit inside of Aol.

That, ultimately, is why everything fell apart.

When I jointly announced CrunchFund with Aol a few months ago, everything was humming at TechCrunch. The core writing and business team was intact nearly a year after the acquisition, no small accomplishment. We were crushing our competition. Not just beating them but actually dominating the tech news space.

TechCrunch continued to get so much attention that, I later understood, it chafed Arianna Huffington. Even though TechCrunch reported to her, in her eyes any attention TechCrunch got was just less attention for her.

This became a turf war between me and Arianna Huffington, although I had no idea that there was a war going on until I’d lost it. Arianna made her classic political power move by publicly terminating me without approval or knowledge from Aol, and despite the fact that she’d already approved the CrunchFund announcement. My counter was to just blow the whole situation up and create chaos.

But I was also trying to carve TechCrunch away from Huffington Post via endless conversations with Aol. Give us the freedom to operate on our own, I begged, or sell TechCrunch back to us.

It seemed an easy thing to do. Aol’s multiple conflicting press statements left little doubt that things were a mess. But Aol, above all else, wanted to save face for Arianna. There would be no independence from HuffPo because Arianna would be upset. And TechCrunch was growing too fast, and was too profitable, to sell.

In other words, it makes perfect business sense to sacrifice TechCrunch and let it fall apart. The company has bet everything on Huffington, so anything that challenges her power, real or perceived, has to be destroyed.

If only Heather had slacked off that last year, and tanked the business. If that had happened, TechCrunch would almost certainly be independent and thriving today.

So it never happened. I “decided to move on“. Paul Carr resigned shortly afterward, and was knifed on the way out.

Then MG Siegler left to join me at CrunchFund. Heather and I (now as an outsider) worked hard to keep him at TechCrunch writing full time. But if he’d done that Huffington’s “principled” position on terminating me – that I was now an investor and could’t therefore write blog posts – no longer held water. So he was shuffled to the background, and TechCrunch lost the best tech writer on the planet. Siegler continues to write amazing content on his personal blog. All of that would be on TechCrunch, but for Arianna.

Then Sarah Lacy resigned in a hastily written blog post, afraid her credentials would be turned off like Carr’s were. How ridiculous that the people who built the site were, in the end, forced to run out the back door to preserve some dignity. I spent the last week before she resigned trying to find a way to keep her at TechCrunch.

And now Heather, who for some crazy reason stayed on at TechCrunch, dealing with constant verbal abuse from HuffPo execs (they refer to her by the “c” word over at HuffPo), just because it was the right thing to do.

It’s insane. She could do any job at AOL better than the person currently doing it. She should have been embraced and treasured. But Arianna had to…save face. So today Aol loses one of the only executives left in the company who actually knows how to run a business, profitably. I’d trade 100 Arianna’s for a Heather any day.

The body count at Aol is rising, and too many of these people were casualties of Arianna’s ego. Jon Brod was kicked to the curb for disagreeing with her about how to run the Huffington Post business. Brad Garlinghouse fell out of favor at least partially because he was the only one willing to call bullshit on her power grabs. And there are others.

Aol needs to decide whether it exists for the benefit of stockholders, users and employees, or whether it exists for the greater glorification of Arianna Huffington. She’s waging this political power war inside of Aol against anyone who stands “against” her. But no one’s fighting back because that’s not how they see the world. Instead they just drift off, to create real value at other companies who actually value them.

I’m still a shareholder in Aol (I bought stock earlier this year). I still believe that Tim Armstrong will figure this out and save the day. But the damage keeps piling up. It’s time to lead.

Photo Credit: Scott Beale

125 thoughts on “Why Heather Matters

  1. So when are you hiring her again? 🙂

  2. Sad things started to happened in TC 😦

  3. Incredible people can do supermassive things. TechCrunch is now a name. The builders continue on. All best.

  4. Justin King says:

    So are you saying that she can’t move on to new challenges? Or that just because people decide to leave a company it is always a sinking ship?

    everyone is replaceable, there are 6 billion people on this planet and I’m sure there are other young tech writers or managers looking to take on a challenge at Techcrunch.

    Why not just focus on your stuff and let go. You sold the company and if you hadn’t seen what was coming then your not the visionary I thought you were.

    • Zakaria says:

      Yes and there are a lot of tech blogs out there who tried to hire talented people too. but no one came close to what Techcrunch had (the early days).

      There are 6 billion people. but not one is doing what Steve Jobs did ! Come on dude …

    • @Justin King
      … sorry, dude, but you are clueless…
      TC [with Arrington] was not “just a blog” and you implying that shows how little you know…
      Mike will find a way to come back stronger — I know, I know… he keeps saying that he is “an investor,” he is, but, wait and see. He will lose all those pesky pounds and regain his energy… then, watch out!

      • Justin King says:

        I know I’m clueless 🙂

        I wish Mike would come back and just do something new and not keep on complaining about how a company he sold and profited from is all evil and bad.

        If anyone is to blame for any TC downfall it’s Mike because he sold, it was a profitable company and growing, no need to cash out and then complain when new management want more return on their investment.

        Mike please go and create a new TC with great writers and just move forward not look backward

        • +1 Mike take responsibility for your part in selling your company to AOL in the first place and initiating all this chaos and move on. It’s simple really…

        • Tess says:

          He *is* doing something new. He’s starting a venture fund.

          But any time you pour that much time and energy into something, it’s a shame to see the wheels come off. Yeah, he sold it, so he lost the right to control the outcome, but that doesn’t mean it’s not painful for him

        • I think you are not seeing clearly. When Tom sold MySpace for $500 million, do you think he envisioned the disaster it would become? Nope, it fell because the new owners did not have the vision to make it work. They tried stupid stuff which alienated the core people using it. Mike has moved on, but clearly he sees the obvious, which is AOL brought a good thing and is systematically destroying it by losing the talent that built it. You can replace people, but you cannot replace passion. Arianna is a political person, so why she is even involved in a tech entity has me scratching my head. Oh, and people sell because they think it can become better, and ANY REAL business person does not like to see his vision die needlessly.

    • I have to agree. I understand why Michael may be upset that in his view AOL is screwing up his baby, but the bottom line is that when they crossed his palm with silver, it was no longer his baby and they could do what they wanted for better or most likely worse. He decided to cash in on his work and give up control. The problem is it seems he wanted it both ways. Cash in and maintain control. Unfortunately, life does not work that way. Michael, it is time to move on.

    • George says:

      Seriously? How clueless can you be? If everyone was replaceable, then the hundreds of tech blogs that tried to replicate Techcrunch would have had more success. In fact, I am sure you could easily replicate the work of Techcrunch without much trouble.

  5. Aaron Klein says:

    Look at the bright side, Mike. From her current position, she can only destroy one company. If she had won the gubernatorial recall election in 2003, she could have destroyed the entire California technology industry.

  6. Achshar says:

    I say this again, make unchrunched reincarnation of TC. Rename it if you wish.

  7. Josh Lehman says:

    People don’t fight back at companies like AOL because it usually has no effect other than forcing you our on someone else’s terms. So, that doesn’t surprise me.

    • Sadly this is true. They are under the illusion that all are replaceable. The fact they referred to Heather as the “c” word shows their lack of respect. Also, remember, Apple fired Steve Jobs only to have to rehire him when they were about to go down the toilet. They are replaced the man, but could not replace the vision and passion.

  8. It’s kinda the same thing that happened to Engadget after AOL acquisition. You guys should do like Joshua Topolsky and others, create another great site, like they did with The Verge.

    AOL look’s like Borgs, resistance is futile, you’ll be assimilated no matter what (by Arianna LOL).

    • Austin Poff says:

      I was just going to mention this myself. Engadget fell prey to Arianna Huffington in the same fashion. Joshua, Paul, and Nilay didn’t take it sitting down. They reassembled their dream team and are having amazing success at The Verge.

  9. brygy says:

    The time that Techcrunch remains a subscribed feed in google reader is running out very quickly. The posts that I browse through TC anymore are not much more than glorified press releases. The reason I had liked TC in the beginning was because of the opinion, strong, biased, demented, or otherwise, I wanted someones feelings about the story. I wanted it loud enough that I didn’t have to guess which way the blogger was leaning. I wanted it to be clear. That’s what they used to have.

    So Mike, put your team back together and bring back what was great about TC before HuffPo played her power trip games.

  10. Jackie D says:

    Sounds like Aol needs Heather Harde more than she needs them. Good for her. Her star will only continue to rise, she has unparalleled respect in the industry, and can sleep with a clean conscience. Sounds like she’s got all the spoils here.

  11. Mark Sigal says:

    It’s the unfortunate truth about why most M&A fails.

    As opposed to a 1+1=3 mindset, where the focus is on maintaining AND extracting the secret sauce of the acquired company; PLUS keeping the top team members engaged and onboard long-term, instead it becomes about ego and assimilation, the consummate 1+1=<2.


  12. Peter Mullen says:

    The sad truth about corporate America is that talent too often gives way to politics and brilliant people like Heather are forced out as a result. Fortunately, we now have the means to counter such bullshit with blogs, Twitter and of course, the truth. Thanks for the post; I suspect not easy to write.

  13. I’ve called Arianna worse names http://seekingalpha.com/article/313803-the-big-lie-killing-aol

    Basically she pretends to be a 99% while acting like a Koch sister. Reminds me of an old “Law & Order” villain who said upon being taken down “I could always use a friend.” Response: “That was your problem.”

  14. Hey Mike, thanks for writing this.

    There aren’t many founders who have made such an important hire like you did. I think a lot of us would love to hear any other details you can share about what the process was like for you.

    Any chance you’d be up for a follow-up post on it? Or at least sharing how you met Heather in 2006?

  15. Waqas Ali says:

    Just posted this on twitter:
    @ariannahuff Thnx for falling apart @TechCrunch as it would’ve taken longer to see the real u, @arrington & @heatherharde ‘re at better now.

  16. Sorry you said you owned stock in AOL at the end. It’s not time to “lead.” It’s time to sell and not lose any more money.

  17. Obed says:

    Mike, I agree with everything you say. But at the end, you sold TechCrunch to Aol. You have to remember that. In my opinion, the people still have the talent (MG, Sarah, Paul, Heather, etc.), but the scumbag execs (like Arianna) are shitting their own bed, and are obviously leading down TechCrunch to the ground. The current writers are bad, Alexia Tsotsis is a bad writer (she doesn’t write from the heart, she copy’s writing styles), and a lot of other examples could be made. I think that if you had the power and will of starting something new and relevant before, you can do it again.

  18. Justin King says:

    Has anyone considered that Heather might be leaving for other reasons:

    * Better offer at a new company
    * Have a family / Spend more time with family
    * Want to just take a break

    Why is it that when people leave that everyone thinks the worst?

    What is the average a person stays at a job? 2 years, 3 years? She was at 5 years and probably looking for change.

    Personally I think you should have written this post with a comment from Heather herself considering you know her so well.

    • What are you clueless? No self respecting woman would keep working for a company where she is referred to as the “c’ word. The signs are there. Regardless of the reason, loss for AOL, win for Heather. She’s nicer than me, because I would have clocked the person calling names in a business environment for no reason but jealousy.

  19. Andrew Solomon says:

    I think Mike you should build a new tech blog twice as big as tech crunch for your own satisfaction.

  20. Andrew Solomon says:

    and the satisfaction of all who loves your invention

  21. J. Peterson says:

    Serves you right for selling the business to AOL in the first place. Surely you’d done enough tech coverage by then to *know* no corporation can ever keep the “hands off” promise. Things change. The person doing the promising may not keep their job.

    The only person who can keep that promise is the founder – i.e., you.

    It reminds me of when Roy Horn was mauled doing his last show. An animal behavior expert interviewed about it said “The tiger was just being a tiger”.

  22. williamle8300 says:

    I see the point in your invective.. “Aol needs to decide whether it exists for […] the glorification of Arianna…” Though I think that Huffington Post is more powerful than you might think and has the wide appeal that comports with AOL’s editorial brand. This is the leverage that Huffington Post has in AOL and allows it to essentially make the decisions for the parent company. I don’t think AOL is vainly trying to glorify Arianna… but the execs at AOL have their hands tied and probably couldn’t have even helped you or Heather even if they wanted. The problem was that neither AOL or TechCrunch did enough research before they considered adding Huffington Post to the company and underestimated how much inane editorial content really holds sway on the internet.

    That said, I’m glad you and the important people at TechCrunch have left AOL. I know that you guys will prove that genuine, thoughtful content will always trump inane content feeding holes like Huffington Post. You guys are on the right track; you just need to stay on it. And hopefully be able to set an example that the rest of the news/blog sites can follow and hopefully lead to the demise of AOL/Huffington Post. To you, your new venture with Heather, and Crunchfund!

  23. It’s interesting. The other day I realized how little I actually read TC these days, despite being very much interested in the space as a whole. TC alone just feels like a shell of its former self. I certainly didn’t agree with you guys all the time, but I nonetheless found your team’s output to be relevant and at least interesting.

    With TC these days, it’s not that it’s bad, it just that other sources have become far more interesting and important in my daily viewing. If it weren’t for the reader feed I’ve set up, I imagine I’d read TC articles even less so.

    Best of luck to Heather going forward. Hope you guys can get the band back together. I’d totally listen to your music…err, writing.

  24. Jebb Dykstra says:

    Like Michael said, time to lead Mr. Armstrong.

  25. John Best says:

    Regardless of the reasons, losing Heather is a massive deal for TC and AOL. I’ll join with everyone in wishing her all the best in future endeavours.
    I think we’d all love to see what Sarah and Heather could do with her new publication.

  26. Tal says:

    Mike, M&A is somewhat like marriage. In the beginning it seems like everything you dreamed about, but after a while both sides have to work hard to make it work, or someone leaves. You did not “marry” Arriana, you married Tim. Arriana is like that mother-in-law that you didn’t expect. As your “spouse”, Tim, who you believe in so much, should have fixed this for you.

  27. Gin Clear says:

    You and Heather should go reinvent Earthlink and take AOL down.

  28. Lol says:

    Eh lot of words boring mostly I did LOL about MG being “the best tech writer on the planet”

    More like biggest fag douce ever created by god.

    • . says:

      Yeah. I’m still at TechCrunch a few times every day & expect it’s still crushing its competition. And it’s as good as ever as far as I’m concerned. I miss Michael’s writing there (why I’m here now), but do NOT miss MG or Sarah or Carr. I found them all pompous. Love Kincaid, Biggs, the way Alexia is developing, Wauters.

  29. Sam Crow says:

    What a pathetic state tech journalism is in these days.

    Glad I’m out of it.

  30. I was sad to see Heather leave FIM at the time (although I myself had left a few months earlier in 2006). She seemed like one of the most promising senior execs in what was then an exciting new arm of a sprawling global media empire. Fox’s loss turned out to be TC’s gain for the next five years. No doubt she’ll move on to more extraordinary accomplishments.

  31. TechCrunch used to be part of my daily browsing, something I looked forward to. Sadly, those days are gone. I now resort to multiple daily visits to techmeme and hacker news. I cant remember the last time i type the techcrunch url. 😦

    At one point TechCrunch was the sh*t. If Heather was the person responsible for building and operating that amazing source of geekness, what a huge mistake to let her leave. Hopefully Leo Laporte will swoop on in and make her an offer she can’t refuse.

  32. Kudos, Mike for honestly stating your opinions about AOL in an era when most of the media is a press release. More companies should be taken to task for their bad decisions while they’re being made instead of giving in to the “circle the wagons” mentality.

  33. cliveboulton says:

    Fire in the AOL

  34. Mike Hale says:

    I just don’t understand how TechCrunch could let itself be acquired by AOL (I’d type that in double-caps for emphasis if possible) and not expect things to end badly? It is AOL.

  35. Let’s get Techcrunch back! Entrepreneurs made it possible. We can take it back.

  36. Pursuitist says:

    This is extremely disappointing. One of the best tech blogs ever, destroyed within a year. It was a must-read — not, I rarely check the site.

  37. Sameer says:

    How was Paul Carr knifed? Give me a break, after Paul’s “Last Post” Erick’s reply was mild to say the least. (Last Post at http://techcrunch.com/2011/09/16/last-post/)

  38. You’re a shareholder in AOL. Mobilize a base, use your proxy, and give the powers that be a dose of OWS grass roots capitalist outrage. Isn’t it time for the lessons of bottom-up, smart mob non-violent action to apply in the financial sector? Just sayin’ . . .If nothing else it would make for a great socio-capitalist experiment; and if successful, could put Boards on notice that Wall Street takeover kings may not be the only thing they have to fear.

  39. I just love Arianna. She is doing the everything-is-me leadership model and it’s absolutely amazing. #donthateslave

  40. Arianna Huffington is the only problem with AOL?

  41. Benevolent Dictator says:

    If I am not mistaken, AOL Autos was/is a bigger business unit than TC. Unlike with TC, Arianna didn’t wait to blow out everyone there who built the business. It will be interesting to see if the combined annual $40M or so in revenue from these two units continues to rise under Arianna’s demonic stewardship.

  42. Austin Storm says:

    A touching tribute!

  43. Bernard Moon says:

    “I’d trade 100 Arianna’s for a Heather any day.”

    A few soon-to-be classic shots in this post.

  44. John Silva says:

    Did you ever think you might be responsible for insisting to both write and invest? So what if they were on board originally? Yes they were hugely mistaken to let you create the fund but ultimately it’s your fault for being greedy in the face of every warning sign and common sense. You got greedy (or scared that without your blogging clout you’d be a less efective VC) and it killed your baby, and think it’s everyone’s fault but your own.

  45. Gavin says:

    What, exactly, did you expect was going to happen when you sold out to AOL?

    • DaveP says:

      That’s exactly what I was going to ask. The fact things turned badly so quickly suggests this was a huge error of judgment. So why did you sell to AOL in the first place?

  46. Greg Wood says:

    My partner has first hand experience on how AOL buys and then destroys. He was VP – Sales at Third Screen Media and watched how they took the then leader in mobile ads and ran it into the ground. I think you are missing the bigger picture. It’s not Arianna who effed this up, it’s Aol. The entire Aol: it’s culture, it’s leadership, it’s desperate hope to be relevant again. Aol is a sinking ship and it sinks great companies that make the bad decision to sell to them. This is a sad story, but from this lessons are learned. Don’t sell to the highest bidder. Sell to the company that will understand how to make your great company greater.

  47. Maaaaaaan, that sucks. I reported to Heather for 3x TC Disrupt hackathons and she was such a class act all the way through. Just such a pro in the trenches! I haven’t seen that kind leadership much. What a loss for TC.

  48. Paul.. says:

    Nicely done – a very generous post to Heather and the rest of the former gang. Shame to see TC lose its way so badly and so quickly, but this does bear out what seemed to be the prevailing view when the acquisition happened. A ripe opportunity for a bit of disruption methinks ..

  49. John Davidson says:

    Why the fuck are you a shareholder at AOL? Not to be crass, but that stands out more than anything else here.

  50. John Davidson says:

    Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think you don’t intentionally own any AOL stock.

  51. bob says:

    AOL is apparently pretty good at running out all the best talent. Between TechCrunch and Engadget they’ve rid their most profitable business of all the talent.

  52. Moksh says:

    Hey Mike,
    Only a few big companies will allow the bought out company to function in the way they are suppose to. The way I see it, if all the people who created Tech Crunch are now thrown out. May be it time to regroup and show Huff Po & AOL how it is done. Beat them in there ( thats what they think) game. You have the funds now, the backing if more funds are required. Go for it and GOD speed.


  53. Without cool content from sites like techcrunch and writers like you there is no AOL. Now we just site back and watch their meteoric descent to mediocrity while you start the next big site…

  54. charlieisaacs says:

    Here’s my video response to the Heather departure: http://t.co/egdHOhJ

  55. Y.Tadesse says:

    I read this with mixed emotion, on one end, I feel like this is just another post in a string of posts about Aol that comes off as bitter, childish, and irresponsible. A tribute to an outstanding former-CEO is one thing, but using that as a trojan horse to take more shots at a company which *you* selected to sell your company to is another.

    Mike, you and millions of others out there leave companies under rather “not so good” terms. Be professional about it. You may not feel you have to given the clout which you have in the industry but I’m sure there are many observers (readers, business partners, potential investment opportunities, etc…) out there who are going form a correlation between posts like this and negative traits such as irrationality, being uncontrollable, etc… That would be fine if you were solely focused on blogging but it’s dangerous if you’re asking others to trust you with their business – re:CrunchFund.

    That being said, I can see where you’re coming from. The fact that you believe(d) in TechCrunch and what it stands/stood for is evident in everything you do. Your passion for it oozes out of your carefully crafted paragraphs like blood through a fresh wound. I can’t fault you for wanting the best for the site and those that helped bring it to what it is today. I respect that a lot. All I’m saying is be professional about it and you will stand to reap the benefits.

    Wish ya the best,

    Y.Tadesse (@ytadesse)

  56. This is very sad. I had some interaction with Heather and i can totally confirm that she’s one of the most amazing manager i have ever met. Super pro, super nice and super sharp.

    I would work with her again anytime.

    Ouriel Ohayon

  57. It’s sad to hear that Heather decided to leave TC as well. Mike – I always felt that hiring her was the best move you ever made for TechCrunch. Most entrepreneurs (myself included) are more visionaries then CEOs and could benefit greatly from a Heather. TechCrunch clearly did. She will me missed.

    • Max says:

      “It’s sad to hear that Heather decided to leave TC”.. sad? what the fuck? why on earth would you say such a thing? its not sad.. she was just another employee in another large company. se left. so what. so why is so “sad” about that?

  58. tundey says:

    I think the one question Arrington has to answer is why did you sell to AOL? This is AOL. This is what they do. They have the anti-midas touch and for anyone covering the tech scene not to know that is unbelievable. So the question is was it worth the money to sell to the worst company in the world? Was AOL the only suitor that came calling? If TechCrunch was bringing in $10 million per year, why sell at the time you did? And why to f**king AOL? That’ll be like Google selling Android to Apple and bitching that Steve Jobs killed Android. It’s inevitable that anything AOL touches turn to sh!t.

    Until you publicly answers these questions, you are never gonna get public sympathy for any rotten treatment AOL metes out to TechCrunch. Ariana could piss in your Christmas party punch and my first question would still be “Why did you sell to AOL?”

  59. tundey says:

    Also, MG Siegler the best tech writer on the planet. He might be the best Apple PR writer, one that can see no wrong coming from Apple but he’s definitely not the best tech writer.

  60. Max says:

    Look, you are all just ass holes. you all try to fuck over each other all of the time. why the fuck should anyone care about you douches. get over it and write another twitter story or shut the fuck up.

  61. Solomon Engel says:

    Many folks don’t realize what they have until its too late. Although I never worked with Heather, its obvious her role at TC proved to be a significant success for the company.

    Aol should not be built on glorifying Arianna Huffington. Power freaks are generally not good leaders because their decisions can be derived by personal interest and not necessarily the interest of the organization.

    I know several exec folks personally that left Aol since the Huffington Post acquisition. I would hate to see the company deteriorate due to an out of control power freak. Hopefully things are going to change before its too late.

  62. Nithin says:

    Just one question. Why did you sell to AOL, no, really?

  63. Dang well done AOL, you show how (big business) publishers can’t handle web business that sthrive with creatives talent.

  64. eshowoman says:

    After Arrington’s ignorant display on CNN, I am tickled by these events. I guess meritocracy has is downside too.

  65. outsider looking in says:

    Take a look at AOL’s ad revenues pre- and post-HuffPo acquisition. They lost a massive amount of ad revs as a result of shutting down a number of sites (joystiq, etc.) and consolidating as much as possible under the huffpo brand. What i think you’ll find is ad revenues are up at huffpo but flat or close to flat overall, which is not exactly a shareholder-friendly return on $315mm. What goes around will come around to Arianna and Armstrong. Just wait.

    Yours is an excellent case study for every entrepreneur: Don’t be surprised after you take the check when they start acting like they own the place. Should’ve asked Calacanis.

  66. Peter says:

    Hey Michael,

    1. You’ve been covering startups for years and didn’t know most buyouts end up in a huge mess because of corporate politics and stupid upper management? Seriously, what were you expecting?

    2. As some other commenters already pointed out, enough with the drama. Stop being a crybaby, be professional about this.

    3. Not sure what it was like before, but by the time I started reading Techcrunch it has become a parade of glorified bullshit startups that were destined to fail right from the start, meanwhile tons of proper services and businesses were ignored. This has always pissed me off.

    If you really believe in what you do, stop licking your wounds and make a damn site that does the right thing.

  67. I don’t see why Michael doesn’t call the old gang together for a drink and talk about the next chapter and one-up AOL.

  68. Craig Aberle says:

    If revenue was $10 million when you sold TechCrunch, and still growing nicely, why did you sell? As I recall the sale price was about $30 million. That’s not a big multiple and what could you do with $30 million that you couldn’t do with what you were spinning off in cash flow (besides blow it foolishly) ?
    As for being an AOL shareholder, others have made relevant comments, like why would you ever do that? But I’m guessing you got some stock for the sale and some of it is locked up for periods of time.
    So they’re trashing your company, you feel? Maybe you should study tech history a little more closely. This is an old story. No sympathy for you or the staff.

  69. William says:

    AOL damn near destroyed Time Warner so it doesn’t surprise me that this is happening. Then you add Arianna…that’s like Megatron hiring Serpenter. Bad things are bound to happen.

  70. Jonathan Lerner says:

    Nothing lasts forever.

  71. None of this is a shock to people who blog about politics. The Huffington Post effectively killed what little meritocracy there was in blogging before President Obama got elected. If you follow her career, everyone who gets in her way or shines brighter than she does has to be destroyed, no matter what.

  72. Casey Kazan says:

    AOL could exist for another 300 years and never come close to earning back the $300+ million in cash Arianna scammed Tim Armstrong into paying. She totally suckered the poor dude.

  73. Random Dude (well large downstairs) says:

    You is not interacting with your readers. That is well lame, Mikey dude

  74. Vince Caruso says:


    Not a day goes by I don’t miss the TC of old. And I by no means begrudge you the success you have enjoyed, or the money you made by selling to AOL. But you couldn’t possibly have been naive enough to believe that Arianna wouldn’t screw with the operation.

    It’s not about what’s best for AOL, the stockholders, etc. It’s about her. All about her. Every second of every minute of every day. And anything that gets in her way she destroys the, and feasts on the carcass. She’s two steps beyond vindictive.

    Heather is a uniquely talented individual. Folks like her don’t come along very often. It’s AOL’s loss that she’s finally had enough of AOL’s corporate Kool-Aid and/or Arianna’s shenanigans. When Heather’s ready she’ll land at the right place. People like her don’t have to look for opportunities. They will find her.

  75. Scott says:

    I think they should rename “TechCrunch” to “DramaCrunch” and air it on one of the Discovery channels…

  76. christian says:

    Huffington is one of the most craven media hustlers out there. Her conversion from GOP to “progressive” was as calculated as a buy-out.

  77. Dan says:

    I’m with you, Mike. I don’t know about any internals, neither of TC nor AOL. But you were never afraid of telling something that had to be said. You don’t care much about political correctness. And you’ve earned your credibility.

  78. 88dolphins says:

    never read techcrunch any more…used to read it daily.

    so that tells me a lot…the spark is gone

  79. Cory says:

    What is the “c” word? CEO?

  80. consentorderwatch says:

    OT: This is a great picture and says it all. You look much healthier without AOL, so the program is obviously working!

  81. Mushtaq Bhat says:

    Much of the stuff here is new to me. But I am intrigued. Tadessee has thoughtfully reminded you to pay attention to your professional standing, which is true in a way; but at the same time Dan has praised you precisely for that thing _ for your lack of political correctness!

    My personal opinion is accordingly still a bit skeptical. But I must admit, your style of writing is refreshingly straightforward and fully in tune with the from-many-bloggers (including me) implicitly expected ethos of a personal blog.

    However Arrianna appears to be here like a classical villain, perhaps also a scape goat or whatever. And although apparently no visitor here so far has typed in a few words in her favor, I would very much doubt if she were the main cause cause of the ”mis-development“ of TC or independent Tech-Blogging per se! Certainly not the root cause.

    Therefore it would be very welcome, if you would blog about all the reasons for selling TC in the first place. It would be interesting and could also shed light on, the dynamics of corporate acquisitions of our age.

    The fact that I am requesting it or that I am at all interested in hearing about your version, is because you have somehow won my credibility. Otherwise I would not request it.

    Quite often I have asked myself: Why do they consent to be bought? Especially when their survival is not jeopardized?

    And did you consult your staff? Who made the decision? And did any one else also influence your decision?

    After all, at the time of selling, the enterprise is more often than not in a better position compared to when it may have begun and although it is going positively forward, it falls prey to a potential conglomerate! Perhaps your blog could reveal some other dimensions of this wide spread phenomenon of our age and also shed light on the economic and socio-political givens of our age??? More so, when it is written as a emotionally- rather than politically-correct personal blog, perhaps a kind of mile-stone in a society that is turning increasingly transparent…

    Thank you…

  82. Ironically, in other circumstances, there was a title “TC has just joined the deadpool”.

  83. Patrick Phelan says:

    Long live the Authentic TechCrunch Team! Hope to have a chance to meet up with you guys one day. Also…loved the supporting video with Frank D.

  84. For me the rot set in when you moved TechCruch out of Palo Alto. Downhill from then . . .

  85. Swamykant says:

    It is very bad to see how the founder and key bloggers of a site are treated @ AOL.

  86. Funkie Johnson says:

    I was wondering why those jokes I forwarded to at marrington@aol.com have been bouncing recently.

    Not to mention Heather looks like a fresh grape while Ariana looks like a raisin.

  87. Moooo Coooww says:

    Awwwwwwwweeeeeee….the whiney little babbby misssessss Arieanna’s nipppplllleeeeeeessss. Yea i know, they’re black as night, sized as silver dollars and squirting like a fracked well in North Dakota, but Duddde Get the Fuck Over yourself.

  88. maybe the only choices is the creative destruction,

    maybe, maybe aol needs to get more and more screwed up by ariana, till their stock
    ie become like 0

    maybe the best way for you mike is to short aol to 0, gather all hedge funds like peter
    thiel who is a great bear, or john paulson or david einhorn have them make bearish presentation in seeking alpha

    Then after all burned down in aol , you just create new aol company with new techcrunch
    with heather harde as the CEO , and re-capture the market in new ways

    sorry for the evil hypothetical plots, but In silicon valley sometimes the best innovation
    always come from creative-destruction cycle

  89. Wow, I didn’t realize ‘Jon Brod’, who works for Aol as a senior executive, was the same ‘Jon Brod’ from IAC/InterActiveCorp (and Focus Interactive Media, prior to the Ask Jeeves buyout) and the same ‘Jon Brod’ that would always answer my customer service e-mails regarding Excite.com and MyWay.com.

    I remember thinking, “wow, this is definitely run on a ‘shoestring budget’, it seems like this guy is the sole employee and manager of this division.” Impressive rise!

    Doug M.

    P.S. I haven’t read TechCrunch for months – it’s no longer focused on new startup profiles and ‘inside’ business information. As a reader of TechCrunch since its founding (including the signature ‘red and white’ logo), I’ve moved on to reading AllThingsD occasionally or out of ‘tech news’ entirely by reading Canadian Press and Associated Press articles on Yahoo! News.

  90. Fido says:

    Great personality, sad to let let her go. That”s life…

  91. TechCrunch matters thanks to the hard work its founders put into building it. Ownership changes matter less if the brand image remains.

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