Mark Pincus has just taken back the helm at San Francisco social networking company, Tribe
. We heard about this months ago, but Mark would never say anything publicly, so we just kept waiting.
We just talked with Mark, shortly after he declared on a Tribe site: "...as of today jan and the board are gone. i've taken over tribe and you're going to see big changes fast like getting rid of this big stupid masthead and returning tribe to the users where it belongs."
Tribe has struggled of late. Like Friendster, it was early to the game, and struggled to find a business model. We wrote about the challenges here when Mark left last year, handing over the reins to someone else.
Mark says he is the only board member, and is in full control and will be taking Tribe in "a new direction." He said there are many real "communities" of people that reside on Tribe, and it is important to him that they be served. Like Friendster, Tribe will focus on grownups, in contrast to the teens on MySpace. "Tribe has always been an alternative place for grownups to network," he said. He said Tribe "hasn't innovated on that concept in a year and a half." Still, Mark is holding his cards close to his chest. He and six engineers have worked on a business plan since May. He doesn't have any marketing, sales or administration folks.
Before Mark came back into the picture a few months ago, Tribe's previous chief exec Jan Gullet and board were trying to sell the company. Big media companies all wanted their own social media platform, but Tribe never got the deal it wanted. Investors at Friendster reportedly did the same, trying to sell for $18 million or so, before throwing the towel, restarting, and now doing quite well.
Mark left open the possibility of a "recap," or a recapitalization, which is when a new investor marches in, and pumps in more money into the company after resetting its value to zero.
Will Mark be able to turnaround Tribe? Stay tuned.
Another long time tribe member here. A social networking site is a little bit like a party, and sometimes it's hard to keep a good party going. Jan seemed to be a lot more concerned with the money than the party, and that's why tribe stalled.
I think Mark will revitalize tribe, and once the party cranks back up, the money will come naturally. Hundreds of thousands of eyeballs has to be worth something, but you have to give those eyeballs something compelling to keep them coming back. Tribe used to have that, and it still has a lot of committed members, great features, and lot of people rooting for it. I certainly think Mark is the only CEO type who understands tribe well enough to turn it around.
Crossing my fingers.