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Summary:

Skype, the web’s telephone and video chat pioneer, has seen a lot since its inception eight years ago. But it’s real legacy is its people. The well-connected network of alums reads like a Silicon Valley who’s who.

skype_wallpaper_by_msttmz

Skype, the web’s telephone and video chat pioneer, has seen a lot since its inception eight years ago: Explosive initial growth, a blockbuster $2.6 billion sale to eBay in 2005, spinning back out of eBay in 2009, filing to go public in 2010 as a standalone firm, the delay of said IPO in 2011.

But Skype’s real legacy in the tech industry has nothing to do with its corporate ups and downs. It’s the people.

The power of the ex-Skyper network quickly becomes apparent to anyone involved in today’s web landscape. Once you start working your way up, it isn’t long before you bump into an influential ex-Skyper. Which will likely lead to an introduction to another ex-Skyper, who’s launching a startup; which is funded by a VC firm; which is run by another ex-Skyper; who is on the board of directors of a startup founded by… you get the idea. The Skype of today may have its problems, but the ex-Skyper network is active, dynamic, successful, and seemingly everywhere.

The ex-Skyper network is remarkable for how closely knit it is to this day, nearly four years after the company’s initial 2007 exodus. I’m told that a surprising number of former Skypers keep in touch on a monthly or even weekly basis– often through Skype.

Ex-Skypers cite two predominant reasons for their enduring ties:

  • Skype’s early days as an underdog fighting against the established telco giants.
    “Skype in the early days was an atmosphere of passion,” one former Skype executive told me. “It was essentially a David and Goliath situation, so we all really bonded together.”
  • Skype’s founders had a knack for hiring people who clicked– personally and professionally.
    “Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis did a great job of hiring people who were like-minded and driven,” another former Skype exec told me. “The Skype team was a bunch of great people who really enjoyed each other. That’s not something that ever disappears.”

To help illustrate my point, I’ve pulled together a rough list of who’s who in the ex-Skyper network and what they’re doing now. Feel free to chime in in the comments if you notice anyone, or anything, I’ve left out.

Carter Adamson
was: Skype’s head of product
now: CEO, Rdio; boardmember, GrowsUp

Taavet Hinrikus
was: Skype’s director of strategy; one of the company’s first 10 employees
now: CEO, TransferWise.

Janus Friis
was: Skype co-founder and strategy director
now: co-founder, Rdio

Michael Jackson
was: Skype’s original COO
now: managing partner at Luxembourg-based VC firm Mangrove Capital Partners, an early Skype investor

Saul Klein
was: Skype’s VP of marketing
now: partner at London-based VC firm Index Ventures, another Skype investor

Eric Lagier
was: director of hardware and mobile business development at Skype
now: CEO, Memolane

Stefan Öberg
was: Skype director of product
now: founder and CEO, stealth-mode startup Remby.com

Pooj Preena
was: Skype’s San Francisco-based business development head
now: angel investor; recently departed CEO at Hi-Media USA

Stephanie Robesky
was: early product manager at Skype
now: founder, GrowsUp

Michael van Swaaij
was: Skype interim CEO, post-eBay acquisition
now: angel investor in TransferWise and others

Niklas Zennström
was: Skype’s co-founder and CEO
now: CEO of London-based VC firm Atomico Investments, which invests in ex-Skyper startups Rdio, GrowsUp, Memolane, and others

Pooj Preena image courtesy of Flickr user ThomasHawk

  1. Hi Colleen,

    Is the Joltid transaction a hangman’s noose around Skype’s neck?

    For example:

    Skype and Joltid agreed not to assert any claims against the other party and its customers and distributors under any patents with an application date prior to the fifth anniversary of the Skype Acquisition, which closed on November 19, 2009.

    Skype acquired from Joltid (a) ownership of Joltid’s intellectual property rights in the Global Index software provided to Skype, subject to the license-back to Joltid of certain rights, and (b) co-ownership with Joltid of patents covering database systems that are distributed across multiple computers for enhanced data storage and retrieval, which is a technology that Skype uses in connection with the peer-to-peer architecture enabled by our software.

    Skype granted to Joltid a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free license to use, distribute, sublicense and otherwise exploit, solely outside the Skype Exclusive Field, the Global Index software that Skype acquired from Joltid.

    Skype agreed not to license others to use the Global Index software outside of the Skype Exclusive Field.

    Skype agreed that for a period extending until November 19, 2011, Skype will not provide, other than with Rdio, or engage others to provide, services for the broadcast of professionally-produced music that is accessible by computer, mobile device, television set-top box, or other device that is capable of accessing the Internet.

    Skype agreed that, until May 19, 2012, Skype will not provide, or engage others to provide, services for the broadcast of professionally-produced cable television, network television, feature films and similar content, in each case, that is accessible by computer, mobile device, television set-top box or other device that is capable of accessing the Internet.

    Under the terms of the sublicense agreement, Joltid may sublicense these patents to (a) end users and (b) third parties to use, distribute, sublicense and otherwise exploit, in both cases only in connection with the software-based products and services that Joltid and, to the extent they interface with Joltid’s products and services, Joltid’s licensees make commercially available for use by or on behalf of Joltid.

    Sincerely,

    Brad Reese

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