Jonathan Washburn is one of the most intelligent yet modest people I've had the pleasure of meeting in my business career.
His quiet soft-spoken manner makes one listen carefully to what he has to say - and what he says makes sense.
It's therefore sad that ActiveRain has lost Jon's leadership and vision for ActiveRain, but I trust that the ActiveRain Community will be strong enough to express their concerns and wishes to the new leadership.
Jon apologized in his blog below for letting Market Leader gain control of ActiveRain .... but I don't believe he has anything to apologize for. What he has done for ActiveRain and it's members is an enormous achievement, which should not be understated.
"Thank You" Jon - and all the best in your new venture.
I've proactively tried to avoid becoming the cult leader or "celebrity CEO". Not that I was anything special as a leader to deserve that status but because it is easy to be drawn to the limelight in a tight knit community like ActiveRain. I think it is in people's nature to look for someone to lead them; to show them the way.
However, doing that would be contrary to everything I hold dear about the community. This network is about relationships, friendships and learning from each other. i believed that the best I could do would be to put the structures in place to help foster the growth of a healthy and happy community, make sure the bills are paid and then stay out of the way.
Early in my career I read a book called "Good to great". In the book the author described a business archetype called a "Level 5 leader". Jim Collins, the author, says that "Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It's not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious - but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves."
Ever since learning about this leader type I've strived to emulate it. In the back of my mind I always looked to the day that I would not be there to lead ActiveRain; it was always my hope that when that day came ActiveRain would have a strong enough and satisfactorily defined culture that the vision of the company would carry on.
It should be noted here that I didn't create the culture or vision of ActiveRain. It is, was and always has been something derived from the collective contributions of the community and the employees. As far as employees go, Matt Heaton, Caleb Mardini and Rich Jacobson were more than instrumental in establishing the early culture of the network. In fact the idea of a social network based on points was originally Matt's idea. Bob Stewart, Brad Andersohn and then most recently Kerrie Greenhalgh have been true community advocates and keepers of our culture. It was their job to counterbalance the business initiatives of the company with the member's interests. I sometimes pushed them hard to launch an initiative that would help our bottom line but might be compromising to our values. I trusted them to push back harder. They did their job admirably, as testified by the health and happiness of our community. Those six people come to mind as exceptional examples of ActiveRain leadership, but if you've ever been fortunate enough to come in contact with any of the ActiveRain staff over the years you'd know that the vision and culture of the company flows through everyone involved. The people who stick with ActiveRain do it out of love for what the company stands for.
It is true that Market Leader recently acquired enough shares to put them into a controlling position of the company. It was my job to be a steward and shepherd of this very valuable community and I believe that I failed at my post by letting Market Leader gain this position. There were proactive steps I could have taken to prevent it from happening but I mis-stepped. For this I apologize to the community.
However, all of this is history. Today I've come to accept the changes and in fact embrace them. Niki is a very capable leader. He is a shrewd businessman, very smart and someone I definitely would feel comfortable entrusting my company to. I can assure you that the last three weeks have been incredibly challenging for him on essentially every front. He is still here. He is working hard to learn how to lead this community most admirably.
The leadership at Market Leader recognizes the potential of ActiveRain and has shown a readiness to step up and invest in the network to make it first in class like it deserves.
I believe that we will continue to have technology problems for the next few months, but Niki is for the first time in ActiveRain's history investing the significant resources necessary to take the proper steps to ensure that they will soon become a distant and bitter memory.
I am no longer actively involved in deciding the course that ActiveRain will take. Truthfully, it was time. I am sad that this magical part of my life is now a beautiful memory but I am eager and hopeful at where it will go in the next phase of the journey.
P.S. Jorgen Hahn was a loyal and faithful employee. He worked tirelessly for the past few years, oftentimes as the sole developer on this network and was greatly pained every time the site did not perform perfectly for it's members. His greatest passion was to produce beautiful products for the community and have them be enjoyed. I believe his recent post was also done out of loyalty to this community, as honesty and transparency has always flowed through the ActiveRain soul.
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Update: Six amazing years after creating ActiveRain I am no longer CEO. I'm now focusing 100% of my efforts on revolutionizing the daily deals industry through the DailyTicket community. We are taking on Groupon and LivingSocial with our revolutionary business model powered by local franchise business owners and our focus on building strong communities through remarkable experiences.