UPDATE: Tribe Networks has has appointed Jan Gullett, a consumer marketing specialist, to replace CEO Mark Pincus. See more at bottom of extended entry below. Also, note that Craig from Craigslist chimes in, saying it only took him five years to get a decent business going, tops.
PE Week reports that Mark Pincus is stepping down as CEO of Tribe Networks, the San Francisco online classifieds and social networking company. We caught up with Mark, who said he and the company mutually agreed on the move. He said the change would give him better “leverage” on things like strategy and product development. It is similar to what happened at his previous company Support.com, where he left the CEO spot and went on to lead some key strategic deals for the company, including with Excite@Home/SBC. He plans to stay on full-time for six months or so, and probably another six months part-time, and then move on to do what he does best: starting companies. The Tribe CEO replacement will named by the end of April. The move comes at a time when….
…Tribe is attempting to accelerate its growth. Pincus said it is clear that Tribe should continue its focus on “community listings,” and that growth in the number of unique users and listings has been solid over the past year — particularly in the Bay Area. It’s just that Tribe needs to be taken to the next level, he said. “It has good signs, but we havenï¿½t scaled it yet.”
It’s tough to build a classifieds business quickly. It took Craigslist nine years to become a good business, he noted. People might use a classifieds service once or twice a year, and so won’t return for long intervals, he explained. If Tribe provides a user with a great experience, for example helps someone get a job through Tribe’s partnership with Career Builder, the irony is that the user will have found a job and not come back, he said. “It takes a lot of staying power.”
Pincus says new free classified sites like San Mateo’s Oodle are great ideas, but “good luck.” Oodle aggregates the classifieds in a given metro market, and doesn’t charge users for anything — relying only on Google ads to generate revenue. “But how is he (founder Craig Donato) going to get them to come back the next month?”
Regarding his stepping down, Pincus said: “I don’t really enjoy being a day to day manager of people and projects,” he said, “and it’s not something I think I’m particularly good at. Is this a case of another founder being pushed out, kicking and screaming? Thatï¿½s never the case with me.”
(Dislosure: Our parent company, Knight Ridder, has an ownership stake in Tribe)
Also, here’s more: Privately held Tribe is backed by venture capital firm Mayfield, with additional funding from Washington Post Co. and Knight Ridder, the parent company of the Mercury News. Knight Ridder Senior Vice President Hilary Schneider serves on Tribe’s board.
Gullett aims to bring a more consumer marketing focus to Tribe, and his background fits the bill. Early in his career, he rose through the ranks at Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee and PepsiCo. Gullett first came to the Bay Area to work for Broderbund Software and subsequently served short stints leading Planetweb, WebSwap and Bullant. Most recently, he founded consumer electronics company Avantx out of his garage in Tiburon.
Gullett said he was persuaded to take the job after seeing Tribe’s promising business metrics, which included intense use by Tribe’s most loyal users. He also said business had doubled in recent years. “I’m really excited to be here,” he said.
Gullett said he wants to establish stronger revenue streams and reinvest them into more significant marketing efforts but he declined to discuss details of his plans. Gullett also said he wants to raise a round of financing from investors.