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.
was: Skype’s director of strategy; one of the company’s first 10 employees
now: CEO, TransferWise.
was: Skype co-founder and strategy director
now: co-founder, Rdio
was: Skype’s original COO
now: managing partner at Luxembourg-based VC firm Mangrove Capital Partners, an early Skype investor
was: Skype’s VP of marketing
now: partner at London-based VC firm Index Ventures, another Skype investor
was: director of hardware and mobile business development at Skype
now: CEO, Memolane
was: Skype director of product
now: founder and CEO, stealth-mode startup Remby.com
was: Skype’s San Francisco-based business development head
now: angel investor; recently departed CEO at Hi-Media USA
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