Frank Gruber, one the most popular Washington, DC tech figures and a product manager of AOL’s Lifestream Platform, has revealed on his blog, Somewhat Frank, that he is leaving AOL to pursue new interests.
Saying that his New Year’s resolution “is to be bold”, Gruber writes that he will devote much of his time to growing TECH Cocktail, which he started with Eric Olson in 2006, prior to joining AOL three years ago. TECH Cocktail is a community building startup that offers events and community-powered projects open to bloggers, technology enthusiasts, entrepreneurs & professionals interested in technology in under-served technology communities.
In addition to TECH Cocktail, Gruber writes that he has “co-founded Shiny Heart Ventures, a startup focused on building products that remind us of the joys of life.” The company’s first product was Thankfulfor, “a social gratitude journal which launched in September” and according to Gruber, “has been growing into a strong community.” Last month the company also lunched Shiny Maine Lobster which is designed to “help bring a family business online for fresh lobster” that can be shipped direct by mail.
Gruber writes in his blog, “I have racked up a lot of airline miles bouncing between DC and the West Coast. It has been a good run and a great learning experience working in a large organization and I have met so many great people along the way. I am proud of our accomplishments at Aol. As anyone who has ever worked at a large company can attest, it is not easy to launch a product in a big organization and I did it a few times in just three years.”
In his blog, Gruber thanks AOL for the opportunity to work for them and bring new products to millions of people across the world. He said, “I am so proud of our accomplishments and look forward to Aol doing it’s own start-up thing in 2010.”
AOL’s board officially approved layoffs of approximately 7,000 workers (about 1/3 the company’s total workforce) yesterday. The company had announced the layoffs previously, but this was the first official act by the board since AOL became a separate company from Time Warner a few weeks ago.
The news pushed AOL’s stock higher in the NYSE this past week, however, AOL faces a number of challenges as seeks to stand on its own two-feet.
Namely, AOL was the only top 5 web property in the US to have year over year declines in visitors to its web sites. In fact, AOL has suffered a 28% year over year decline in its subscriber base.
Despite the layoffs and some declines in subscribers, AOL continues to adapt and reshape itself. A recent Wall Street Journal report noted that the company was in talks to sell its ICQ instant-messaging service in a deal that could inject some fresh capital into the company – ranging from $175 million to $300 million.
Today marks the last day that AOL will have a corporate connection to Time Warner. The two companies officially separate on December 10 and a “new” AOL will emerge on the New York Stock Exchange listed as a separate company.
Over the last several weeks, AOL has been aggressively moving to put the merger with Time Warner behind them. To accomplish this AOL has partnered with Wolff Olins, a brand management consulting firm, to give the company a more creative image – one with expression. Though the official transfer of AOL’s logo occurs tomorrow, the new imagery was unveiled last month (click here to see AOL’s new brand identity video), and demonstrates that the company is setting out on a course to redefine itself as more of a unique media and global web services company.
As part of this process, AOL has announced layoffs of roughly 2,500 employees across all its divisions, and began hiring more journalists and media professionals to help build staff for its new content management platform and media properties.
One such hire occurred yesterday as Saul Hansell, a former technology reporter and editor for The New York Times, joined AOL. He will be programming director for AOL’s Seed.com, a content management platform expected to be launched this month. Hansell will work to leverage Seed’s content throughout AOL’s media platforms. Seed, which is a platform for freelance journalists, photographers and videographers, is designed to give AOL’s media properties more of an edge in displaying fresh and dynamic content – as opposed to relying on just internal staff to cover content production for all its units. Seed has a few thousand freelancers and determines payment terms and edits content.
More information about AOL’s new independence is expected over the coming days. Many industry observers will be watching Chairman and CEO, Tim Armstrong, who is speaking this afternoon at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference at 12:00 noon, Eastern. AOL is providing an audio webcast online at http://ir.aol.com. According to AOL, to listen to the live webcast, go to: http://ir.aol.com and click on the “UBS Global Media and Communications Conference” link under “Events and Presentations.” AOL urges people to visit the site 15 minutes prior to ensure you can register and download any applicable software prior to Armstrong’s remarks.
This post also has appeared on the Local Media Blog at: http://blog.kelseygroup.com/index.php/2009/12/09/aol-set-to-stand-on-its-own-and-unveil-its-new-identity/