“Two weeks ago, the board notified that my services were no longer required,” wrote Sandie. “[I] will still be a highly invested board member but my role operationally as CEO/President is no longer.”
The Lehigh University graduate that has been the “24/7 face of the company” and CEO of the Bethlehem video startup for six years has now suddenly been forced to confront the next chapter of a startup founder.
We spoke with Technically Philly about the reasons for his departure, his optimism about Viddler’s future and how he now finds happiness in iPhone email alerts.
As always, edited for clarity and length.
At Technically Philly, we don’t know what we’d do if we suddenly weren’t helming the business we started. What’s that been like? What have you been up to this past week or two?
I’ve known longer than two weeks, I’ve been fighting it longer than that. I went through a few phases. One was a pretty upset phase. A kind of “How could they? I’ve put so much into this!” Now I’m distanced a bit, trying to do the best as I can as a board member. There’s so much opportunity out there now because I helped build this company. Maybe it didn’t IPO or sell, but its profitable and is a multi-million dollar company. I’ve just been exploring those opportunities. I’m still passionate about video in an entrepreneurial aspect as a startup or in a bigger company.
I’m exploring both at this time. When you do something out of Bethlehem, PA you can get your head kind of in the ground and you can blind yourself from other opportunities. It’s been eye opening and liberating. I’ve been more pumped up and waking up earlier and more motivated than I’ve been in a long time.
I feel like I’d just want to go on vacation for two months and not be bothered.
There’s a little bit of that, but I feel like I’d drive myself crazy if I didn’t have something to do. I am going down to Ocean City for a bit [laughs].
You mentioned in the last paragraph of your post that the company is being pulled into a bunch of different directions. What is your gut feeling about its future?
I’m hopeful. It clearly wasn’t a graceful transition and there was a better way for it all to go down with a successor that was more bought in and they didn’t really think of that.
As far as keeping Viddler in Bethlehem?
As far as, if you don’t think I’m the guy then let me bring in someone who can do this. I’m told this is a temporary CEO and in a year or so they’ll look for another one. I think it sends the wrong message to the team and the marketplace. But its Bethlehem. It’s a little bit of a custom build and you get custom results.
You have deep ties to the area and we’re afraid that the company will be gone in six months.
It’s probably going to stay. I was probably more of the nomadic spirit, actually more than anyone, including the current guy. My feeling is that they will grow nice and steady. It’s a tough situation, I’d certainly be willing to stay. I think deep down I was building a story about how you can build a company in a location like Bethlehem that was very unique. But clearly I couldn’t hold that together.
I’m going to be fine. I’m hopeful [for Viddler], but anyone that is in the position where they work for something for six years and then get removed instead of supported… especially when we finally got to the point where we can stop thinking three months ahead and think years ahead. Just when we started to think bigger. To be removed at that point is frustrating.
myYearbook just sold yesterday for $100 million in New Hope and some of the national rhetoric was always about this startup outside of the valley doing cool things.
There’s nothing telling that Viddler wont sell for that or more, it may just be more of a challenge.
What does it mean in your day-to-day life to sit on the board of Viddler?
It’s a quarterly deal where I can listen to the new CEO talk about what the company’s doing. It’s more of a guide than doing things. I want to support the team. I won’t be there kind of lingering sending mixed signals to the team, that’s not a healthy thing. If I ended up doing something directly competitive I probably would have to recuse myself in some way.
It’s actually quite liberating. It’s a small thing but now I can turn the iPhone buzzer on when I get email. I’ve filtered out everything that I don’t need. Now I can breathe again and think bigger. I feel like a 1000-pound weight was lifted. It’s not all good, but I think it’s healthy.
What was the reason given for your removal?
Very broadly: they wanted someone to be able to take the company to the next level. The chalked me up as the guy who knew how to create something but they wanted more process-focused leadership as opposed to execution focused. There was a big disagreement over what was better for the company but they were very intent on finding someone who was a little bit more process driven then someone who is on the ground floor.
Maybe that will work out the best for Viddler in the end.
Below, Rob Sandie after a long night of working on Viddler.
[viddler id-fc0b84f h-370 w-420]
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