Farewell to DailyMotion's co-creator Benjamin Bejbaum



Benjamin Bejbaum, the original founder of short-form entertainment site DailyMotion, has withdrawn from day-to-day operations at the company.  Many of you or guessed what is now official news after our PR release.

Ben will remain on the board and I know we will continue to benefit from his input, in particular on product strategy but on all other topics as well.

We (as in Atlas Venture) first identified DailyMotion in March 2003 when one of our guys (Pierre Festal) noticed their traffic uptick.  We did not move immediately (damn) and only proactively re-engaged in June.  I first met Ben at Les Deux Magots in Paris in spring 2005.  He was deeply engaged with two other venture firms and did not want to speak to us.  Through Jeremie Berrebi via Mark Oiknine, we managed to get 20 minutes with him which turned into 3 hours and an interrupted conversation since.

From the get-go I was impressed by a singular product vision that was both personal and credible, and an incredible ability to pitch the DailyMotion mantra and message.  Ben is a born communicator with some radical insights.

From the get-go it was also an astonishing roller-coaster.  I remember we passed top 100 around new-year 06/07, around the same time as the DailyMotion team stole the Xmas tree from our neighbours at Metro (Sapingrerie !).

One of the things that amazed me with Ben is a singular ability to pitch this business to anyone, including some fairly senior folks.  When he was in the zone, it was just a joy to behold.  One other, as I mentioned, was a a very pure and original product vision.

http://ak.static.dailymotion.com/dyn/preview/160x120/7248163.jpg

“Me, I like to share, you know”

Like anyone who has been that intensely involved in a business, I guess it is tough when you do not run anymore.  Ben is a 100% guy and he will be, I am sure, coming back to market shortly with his next disruptive idea.  Sure we had our moments, as with any hypergrowth company, but it certainly was a great kick for me to work with Ben from the early days and see this company evolve.

 

Why it’s so hard being a Founder in France

I know we are going to get a ton of speculation about why he’s leaving and the role of VCs and so on, particularly after the Tariq Affair (or here) so I would rather address this upfront. 

I already see a lot of nonsensical commentary (with all due respect) for example in the comment thread of Ouriel’s post here: “triste nouvelle pour Benjamin“.  Why ?  How do you know ?  Why is it sad to build a great business and pass it on to an experienced guy going forward ?

I had a chat with Mike Butcher on this topic recently who repeated my concerns on the Techcrunch UK blog.  Many folks will tell you that it’s hard doing business in France because of social law or stock option rules.  This is only very partially true and there are workarounds to most issues.  The one big issue that keeps dogging us is that in France, only the boss seems to matter.  In the US, original founders are the real heroes and subsequent management, whilst also lauded, are fundamentally seen as highly competent hired guns.  The real gold dust is the founder.  But then founders often leave when the company grows, especially in highly product focused companies as is typical of Web2.  In France, everyone keeps getting upset when founders have to leave the CEO role.  This puts some kind of moral pressure on everyone and a feeling that somehow it’s a failure on the part of the founder to let the CEO post go.  Let founders do what they are good at.

Let’s repeat what everyone knows:

  • the real value is company creation; that’s the hardest thing to do.  Innovating in hostile environments take raw talent and complete suspension of disbelief.  The founders who make this happen are the heroes of our industry.
  • Unless you are Dell, Jobs or Bezos (or some guys in our portfolio such as Liautaud, Ahlberg, Patel), you just won’t be the right guy to be CEO.  When you are a technically minded founder, is your dream job really to have a queue of people constantly in front of your office complaining about their compensation, lack of resources, why tech isn’t delovering on the roadmap, the necessity to have tighter processes etc.  No !  Of course not !  And guess what, that’s what being the CEO of a larger company is mostly about.  Founders don’t often make great late stage CEOs, let’s get over it.

I urge you to read Ouriel’s great post on this topic, featuring Steve Austin.

Building a company to a large size and then passing it on to experienced managers is great — it’s a mature statement. 

I look forward to seeing Ben’s great new adventure as it emerges.  Ben, just don’t push that RT 1200 too hard huh ?  And thanks again for all the hard work.

 

Memories ….

Above: This is Ben’s orginal profile photo on Daily — boy does he look younger !  4 years of hard startup work later …

Below: Da First Video !  6M video assets later …

 

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