On Wednesday we announced that Randy was leaving WhatTheyThink to focus on a hyperlocal business network called Georgia CEO. This has been in the planning stage for some time and the core team at WhatTheyThink (Randy, Eric, Cory and myself) all agreed that the timing was right with the growth that is occurring in the Georgia CEO startup. We had considered releasing this at the beginning of the month. However given our history of April Fools hijinks that timing was quickly scrapped.
I've spent a lot of time since the announcement talking to our sponsors and members. The support has been encouraging. I've also received feedback that our press release did not do a good enough job to position this announcement as a mutual departure and left room for speculation.
I understand that many in our community find Randy's departure sudden which fuels speculation. Lesson learned: anytime you make an announcement like this people will try to read more into it. Speculation is a fun pastime. Some of the blame is ours. Business PR so often uses "other opportunities" as a euphemism to cover up dysfunction. We probably should have been more careful in our word choices.
As I've talked to the community I provided historical context that helps clarify Randy's departure. I'll share that here:
In 2010 Randy started looking at hyperlocal news - at the time this was the latest trend in how to save the local newspaper (the new trend is to be bought by billionaires). Randy's approach to hyperlocal was to focus on local business communities. Business news and information was an area of coverage that many newspapers were abandoning to focus on more profitable sections like sports and general community news and events. To test this idea, he used his hometown of Albany GA with the launch of AlbanyCEO.com
In 2011 Randy, Eric, Cory, Vince, Dr. Joe, and I started working on a larger scale version of the concept with a target of providing coverage in 210 cities across the U.S. We built the technical platform and started seeking funding to scale the operational side of the business. We were unable to secure funding to support the scale we thought was required so we pivoted. That pivot is what Georgia CEO is today.
(Full disclosure: I own shares in Georgia CEO and serve as a paid advisor)
So that brings us to today. Georgia CEO is growing and requires Randy's attention to take it to the next level.
I've been made aware of a campaign to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about the future of WhatTheyThink. Sorry, doubters. We're not going anywhere.
WhatTheyThink has not been just Randy for a long time. One of Randy's biggest accomplishments with WhatTheyThink was bringing together the greatest group of people possible to provide market intelligence on the printing industry (I was fortunate to immediately join WhatTheyThink upon graduation from RIT in 2007). Sure, we've had our ups and downs in the rocky economy of the past few years. Not many in this industry haven't.
Our commitment is to aggressively continue to provide market intelligence the industry can depend on and to continue to innovate as we strive to serve the industry we all love.