Today is my last day of work for coComment, the end of almost eleven months of hard and passionate work on one of the most exciting projects of my professional life.
It is both unsurprising and… surprising!
Since May my mission was to take care of coComment during the transition between a 100% Swisscom owned project and a fully independent company. I moved the project to Geneva, rebuilt a team, and focused all our energy on the relaunch. I was still an external consultant, and my official title was “Interim CEO”, so there was a sense changes were looming on the horizon.
On the other hand, Nicolas, Marco and me (aka the “founders”) tried hard to be part of the future of coComment and strike a deal with Swisscom on the establishment of a new company. Unfortunately we could not agree on satisfactory terms for all parties involved. Spin offs are really hard to do as anybody with experience in that kind of situation will tell you. So, as it stands, I will not be back on the project when I return from holidays.
coComment has been such a wild ride. It all started on an email from Nicolas Dengler, who was then working for Swisscom Innovations (the R&D arm of our national telco). He was asking for my opinion on an idea he had, a kind of Third Voice with a twist of Web 2.0.
I was immediately seduced by the project and its potential, and promptly joined as a consultant. My role was to help refine the concept, and make it fit the different constraints we had (budget, development capacity, location, etc…). By the end of 2005 I had logged countless hours of commuting between Geneva and Bern, where the project was then being developed in-house at Swisscom by Peter Balsiger and his team.
I stepped down a little in early 2006 to put the final touch on the organization of the conference I founded and that some of you attended; on February 2 and 3 LIFT was here, and on the ensuing week-end I ended up showing the small web project I was working on to some bloggers, among them Robert Scoble.
A-listers are magicians: they can transform your private alpha in public beta. It is both a good and a bad thing. If it happens, just be sure you have more than your development server when they start talking about you 😉
So one of the craziest weeks of my life started. From the Swiss chalet of my friend Pierre Devos – where we had taken all the LIFT speakers who had no plans for the week-end – coComment spread all over the web: second most bookmarked site on delicious, fourth most searched term on technorati, articles all over the press, most notably in Wired, tens of thousands of people trying to reach the site. The buzz was completely overwhelming. Solve a problem for passionate internet users out there and they will reward you with a free buzz surpassing your wildest dreams. As Don Dogde said:
We now live in a meritocracy. Money, VCs, and the press no longer decide what will be successful. Great products/services with intuitive designs that solve a real problem win.
So my post-conference vacation turned into helping deal with all the craziness that started in February and just ended this week.
I met thousands of passionate and interesting people, went to the silicon valley, got introduced to the world of venture capitalists, held meetings in more than 10 cities (let’s see: Zurich, Bern, Paris, Bucharest, London, Munich, Boston, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Tokyo, Barcelona, Zaragossa), managed a great team to deliver the best ever version of what I believe is an indispensable service for all those participating in the global conversation… What a ride.
As of today, coComment is a successful web service used by thousands of people, hosting hundreds of thousands of comments, making global conversation useful and helping individuals deal with a growing problem: managing their participation all over the web.
One day I will go into more details about all this, and maybe even write a book about that whole story as Bruno once suggested 😉
But now is finally my turn for a bit of rest.
Before I publish this post and head to Brittany for three weeks of well deserved disconnection, I want to thank all those involved in this adventure, starting with the great team who worked with me for the last three months (ben, chris, christophe, guillaume, hugh, juan-luis, leif, nicholas, pierre-alexandre, raph, steph, steven, the namahn folks and the netage folks); all our users, friends and coworkers who provided advice, ideas and challenges; and last but not least my two “co-founders” Nicolas Dengler and Marco Chong, two people with whom I think we were forming a very balanced, creative, and effective team. It is really a shame we built that chemistry on a consulting project 😉
I will be back with a fresh mind in September, working on the preparation of LIFT07 and looking for a few new challenges (maybe even in the commentosphere… who knows…), . Enjoy your month of August folks, see you soon 🙂