When the fun stops

 ·31 Oct 2012
Broken business dreams

The last few months have seen numerous chief executives leave the company which they started and grew. These departures include Moneyweb CEO, Alec Hogg; World of Avatar and Mxit CEO, Alan Knott-Craig Junior; and Zoopy CEO, Jason Elk.

Last week, news broke that Moneyweb CEO Alec Hogg had resigned from the company with immediate effect. Hogg cited a difference with shareholders for his departure.

“It became clear in the past month that Caxton and I have different values,” Hogg said in an article on his personal blog.

On 18 October, Alan Knott-Craig Jnr unexpectedly stepped down as Mxit CEO and World of Avatar CEO, again, citing differences between himself and his shareholders.

“While the shareholders and I share the same vision, we differ on how to get there. Therefore, I agreed to go my own way. I wish them all the best for the future,” Knott-Craig said in a press statement.

In July Zoopy founder and CEO, Jason Elk said he will be leaving the company. This news come after Vodacom, a 100% shareholder in Zoopy, said that it was planning to sell a significant stake in Zoopy.

Interesting timing

It is interesting to note that all three these entrepreneurs said that the company’s were performing well, and that they were about to turn the corner.

Hogg said that, after a short stint of losses, the company was on track again – under his leadership – to show a profit.

“Moneyweb traded profitably in every year I ran it from inception in 1997 to handing over to Andrew Smith in 2009. We were back in profit during the September quarter. New challenges have emerged, but my plans would have taken us back into the black in the year to June 2013,” said Hogg.

Alan Knott-Craig Jnr

Alan Knott-Craig Jnr

Knott-Craig said that after a dip in revenue in the first few months of 2012 the company had “turned the corner” and was on track to show a profit in 2012.

Elk also said that Zoopy’s new revenue strategies were starting to pay off. “The biggest pity was that several new revenue plans had started to pay off and we were weeks away from launching a brand new aspect of Zoopy that would have added to the South African mobile media space while generating even further revenue,” he said.

Shareholders pulling the strings

Despite the promises by all these executives that their companies were in good hands and on track to make money, shareholders clearly had a different view.

Whether it was a difference on the strategic direction of the company, different values, or a lack of trust in the CEO to make the company work, shareholders had the ultimate say in the matter – which lead to the resignation of all three these entrepreneurs from the companies which they started.

This is, however, nothing new.

Even one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time – Steve Jobs – was fired from Apple. After a power struggle with the board of directors in 1985, Jobs was essentially kicked out of the company which he started.

New beginnings

In a famous speech which Jobs delivered at Stanford University in 2005, he said being fired from Apple was the best thing that could have happened to him.

“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life,” Jobs said.

Hogg is unsurprisingly drawing strongly from Jobs’ 2005 speech to find strength after being booted out of the company which he started and build.

“An old friend and successful tech pioneer, Derek Kreunen sent me a reminder yesterday of Steve Jobs’s Stanford Commencement Speech. We can’t connect the dots going forward, but need to have faith that looking back, they do connect,” said Hogg.

Elk was quick to move to a new challenge, and has joined RightShift as its chief product instigator. RightShift is a social gaming company that designs, builds and supports social web and mobile products that target a global audience.

“In a nutshell, and although I haven’t been here very long, it’s a space that’s hard not to love,” said Elk.

Knott-Craig is, for the moment, less upbeat about the business world. He said that he will take a break from the world of business and will not make any decisions for the next six months.

All these entrepreneurs are likely to have gained a lot of experience and learned valuable business lessons with these ordeals.

The most important point, which Hogg listed at the top of his list of “What have you learned from this?”, may well be “Always keep 50% plus one share in a company you start.”

Related articles

Alec Hogg: Why I resigned – and the next moves

Hogg steps down from ailing Moneyweb

Knott-Craig jnr and Mxit: more details emerge

Alan Knott-Craig Jnr leaves Mxit

What’s next for Zoopy’s Jason Elk?

Zoopy founders leave company

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