RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser thinks the company has found the right person to lead its business, saying in an interview with GeekWire this afternoon that newly named CEO Thomas Nielsen has the right mix of product expertise and business experience in consumer products and digital media to do well.
Nielsen, most recently an executive at Adobe Systems, has already proven he can multitask, having gotten married just this past weekend — which explains why he wasn’t on the call and isn’t starting at the company until next week.
Glaser, who was CEO until January 2010, had told us after the departure of previous RealNetworks CEO Bob Kimball that he wouldn’t be returning to the position himself. He was true to his word on that front, and he explained today that he continues to like “the intellectual diversity” of his work in venture capital and startups in addition to his ongoing role as RealNetworks chairman.
Continue reading for excerpts from our interview with Glaser.
Will Thomas Nielsen be charting a new course for RealNetworks, or are the pieces in place for him to lead?
Rob Glaser: I would say both. When we did the search, we also did a strategy review, to make sure that we bring in someone who’s reflective of where we all collectively think the company should be going. Thomas’ background in end-user consumer products is a clear reflection of that. So we have a strategic framework in place, but there’s a lot of work to take that strategic framework and map it onto a strategic plan. In the weeks ahead, Thomas will be rolling up his sleeves. In fact, he’s already been having a very active dialogue on that front, and he’s been working to hit the ground running. But there’s work to do anytime you bring someone in. You want them to look at what you’re doing with clear eyes. But we have this strategic framework for Thomas to build on, and we’re very confident he’ll do that.
How much will you be involved in the company?
Glaser: I would hope to give you a Goldilocks answer, which is, just the right amount. Obviously I’m passionate about it. I started the company 17 1/2 years ago, but it was my intent a year and a half ago to pass the baton and I think we’ve got a great person to pass the baton to. It’s a fascinating phenomenon. Sometimes you’ve got to kinda step away before you can have the best perspective. As you know, in addition to having three small kids, I’m now involved with Accel, involved in a couple other startups, and really like the intellectual diversity of what I’m doing. I’m here to help Thomas and the team in any way I can, but Thomas is our CEO and there will be no confusion about that.
RealNetworks has changed so much over the past two years. What exactly is the company today, in your view?
Glaser: While it’s tempting to answer that question, I want to defer that to give Thomas the chance to articulate where we’re going, from his perspective. He has the world’s best excuse for not being on the call today, which is he got married on Saturday. So we’re giving him a week or so to catch his breath. It’s been a very intense week for him, and he’s doing great. Just spoke with him 20 minutes ago. But he’ll be on board on Nov. 9th, and in the weeks ahead he’ll be talking about where the company is going. I think it’s appropriate and healthy for that to come from him.
Here’s how I learned about this news. I was watching my Facebook feed, which had your post linking to your Google+ account. The world has changed.
Glaser: Well, we had a discussion about the right way to sequence it, because we sent the message out to the staff, and I know that most of the staff would get the email, but we thought just for thoroughness let’s put it out there. Everytime you send something to 1,300 people it’s going to be public anyway. I didn’t try to get fancy. It’s interesting, among G+, Twitter, Facebook, I was thinking about where to put the primary document vs. links to it. Because I know that when G+ says public it means public, I just started there. But we love all our social networking partners, so next time maybe I’ll put it on Facebook and link to it on G+.