Ad blocking...

Almost two years ago, I was contacted by a friend from Vivendi Universal. He was looking for a CTO for their web-advertisement division, based in Paris. After a short discussion, he mentioned the salary. $200,000 per year, exclusive of all bonuses, extras and stocks.... Yum.
Above a given amount, and even if the first impression is negative, you open your ears, tell your brain to stop saying "no, no" and continue listening. That's what I did.

Basically, this division of VU was just like everything Jean-Marie Messier, the french ex-tycoon, did in the Internet business : too late, too big, too expensive, with the wrong people.

I clearly remember that at some point the CEO interviewing me mentioned WAP content and his great hopes into WAP ads. I answered "hum, I think you are going to face large disillusions because WAP is, from its very beginning, a dead duck." Of course, he asked me why. Of course, I answered that the technical part was lame, the bandwidth was not enough, the customers' expectations were driven by what they see on a PC, and, worse, that people in Europe don't need to spend 5 minutes on the micro-screen and awful keyboard of a cell phone loosing connection three times to buy flowers on-line when there is a flower store around the corner.

His answer was marvelous : "That's not how feel our experts at Vivendi Universal". Read "you are only going to be the CTO, what the hell do you know about the market ?". That reminds you of something ? Not suprising.

Experts. Like during my glorious days at Electricité de France (EDF), when my managers asked me for a technical study and then required a post-validation from some other experts in the company. But I was the only person really working on web underlying techniques there.

Now, Vivendi Universal is in so bad shape that its name is in France a synonym for corporate failure, its web-ads division closed before summer 2002, and the WAP is - as promised - a dead duck.

Oh, and guess what, the experts are still there, of course.