Skype's Chief Development Officer Leaves Amid TechCrunch Comment Fiasco

Madhu Yarlagadda, who joined Skype as Chief Development Officer last month, has left the company. Generally speaking executives don’t leave a startup as it jumps into the IPO process, and they certainly don’t leave after just a month on the job. Yarlagadda was previously a VP Engineering, Messenger, at Yahoo.

The New York Times says he left after scathing comments on TechCrunch about his new role at Skype came to the attention of Skype executives. The post they’re referring to has dozens of extremely detailed negative comments about Yarlagadda, although we’ve deleted the worst of them. That level of uniform negativity was unprecedented in our experience.

In the past we’ve occasionally wholesale deleted negative comments about an individual, particularly since most of these comments tend to be anonymous. But in this case we were threatened with legal action by his wife almost immediately as the comments started flowing:

One of your blog has total misinformation/lies that are being fed on a daily basis since July 6th, it will likely warrant legal action. We want to get in touch with your contact person before the situation escalates further.

That freezes us as our attorneys get involved, and at that point we contacted Skype for their position on the situation. Yarlagadda backed off though, and I was planning on eventually quietly deleting the negative anonymous comments.

But then Yarlagadda made another mistake – he reached out to former colleagues and asked them to write positive comments to counteract the negative ones. Some positive comments came in, but others simply pointed out his request. Said one commenter “Like many others, I received an email from Madhu yesterday pleading for me to write a positive testimony of his work on this website. I never liked him and am surprised he didn’t pick that up in our interactions. Maybe he just emailed everyone he still knows at Yahoo! I can’t say we had many negative interactions together but his reputation as a politicker was well known and so I stayed far away from him.”

I’m not very pleased that any of this happened. We spend a lot of time moderating comments and generally try to remove random negative stuff about individuals. But in this case the outpouring of negativity was detailed and overwhelming. And the threat of legal action ensured that we weren’t going to do anything very quickly about it. It’s just a bad situation all around.