Blyk's CEO switcheroo points to new trend: You have to 'get it'

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More is emerging about why ad-supported mobile virtual network operator Blyk abruptly let go of its UK chief at the end of last week. Co-founder and current executive director Antti Öhrling (right) replaced Shaun Gregory, who had only been in the role for 14 months, but said he was leaving for “personal reasons.” He’s already been removed from the corporate site. Blyk has now installed Öhrling, who parachutes in from the company’s spiritual home in Finland where many of its former Nokia executives hail from.

The move can’t have been about money. Blyk just raised €40 million Euros in funding last November, aimed at expansion.

So why did Gregory leave? Privately sources close to the company say that although he was “great to work with”, he “just didn’t ‘get it’ “.

It’s hard to interpret that precisely. But the former senior executive at Emap Radio, joined the Telegraph in October 2006 with a brief to expand its online, TV and mobile operations, as director of new media. However then left only a year later for Blyk.

In other words, there appears to be a reversal of the trends during last dotcom boom and bust. Last time around the old hands from big businesses used to producing ‘real’ revenues were often brought in to failing startups. They called them ‘grey hairs’. What’s happening now is that people who don’t “get” interactive media really are being replaced by people who do, whatever their age or notional experience in traditonal media. You now have to have actually been engaged in social media to be able to lead a company involved in it, not just an executive from a traditional media company with a few scout badges.

As for November’s job loses at Blyk, word on the street is that this was not linked to Gregory’s term but more to the state of the company’s need to cut costs. Blyk’s subscriber numbers are now around the 200,000 mark, peanuts in mobile terms, but it retains advertisers including Coca Cola, L’Oreal and Penguin.

  • Sarik

    Good observation, Mike. Or in other words: advice to startups: don´t ever hire a new top manager, who has less than 1.000 followers on Twitter. He won´t get it.


  • martin

    Sarik, that’s just dumb. Twitter is not the meaure of social networking. Your metric is better suited to a product development or marketing bod.

    The best CEOs (and successful) I have worked with have been great at a whole range of things rather than specialists – great at being a leader, great at negotiating, vision, business sense, inspiring.

    These are people who have taken new companies into the Sunday Times top 100 Fast Trackand driven profits.

    Fuck all to do with Twitter.

  • peter

    I agree with Martin, and having done business with Blyk would suggest the ‘don’t get it’ comment came from one of the many hot air merchants in mobile industry who are putting us all at risk with their stupidity.
    Just hope Shaun doesn’t leave the industry as it’s going to need him.

  • Mike Butcher

    Peter – Actually, I have more than one source on the “didn’t get it” line, in and outside the company.

    • peter

      Mike, I believe you but this is the kind of thing that really holds the industry back – Blyk are trying to attract new advertisers into mobile who are likely to be put off when they read this nonsense about a senior figure.

      I have no idea whether or not he ‘gets it’ (I’ve only met the guy a couple of times) it is a question that only his employer can answer; but sniping by disgruntled ex employees, Blyk staff or self-appointed mobile evangelists is really not going to help an industry that needs to throw off the elitist mantle and get more paying advertisers in.

      • Mike Butcher

        Maybe – but neither is making anonymous comments which you aren’t prepared to back up with a full name and web link. If you believe in what you say and want others to, then don’t make anonymous comments. It’s pretty simple.

  • peter

    Mike, I agree.

    So if I provide my full name will you reveal your sources?

    Didn’t think so…..

  • Goliath

    Sticking with Peters pseudonym from the bible, I have gone with Goliath.

    Anyway, I used to work at Blyk and Mike’s words are absolutely fair.

    He is not being maliciously negative but is telling it like it is.

    Shaun did not get it.

    Shaun was not the key decision maker on making people redundant.

    1 +ve, 1 -ve point.

    Which is more telling? You decide.

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