I has been nearly six years since I first fell in love with Skype. It was a tiny little company with a buggy software and a few thousand users. I liked it so much that I started forcing my friends to sign up for it. Many of them resisted, but I persisted. It was clear to me that Skype was going to be one monster company. It had the viral effect working for ut long before folks knew what being viral was all about. It had no infrastructure and more importantly it was free. It was simple and easy to use. I knew it was possible for this company to become the voice of the Internet.
I went to my Business 2.0 editor, Josh Quittner and pitched him on the idea. It took some convincing, but he did trust my instincts. I wanted to go to Estonia and write about this revolutionary service and profile Niklas and Janus – the Skype co-founders. I was negotiating with the sole press relations person for Skype. But as luck would have it, Fortune, the big sister of Business 2.0 got there first. I moped around for weeks for missing my opportunity. In many ways I am still mad for losing that story.
I swore to myself, I would not let that happen again. While I never got to spend time with the founders, I developed sources inside the company, many of them using Skype itself to stay in touch using assumed identities. As luck would have it, eBay bought the company and Skype became a richer source of material for me. Even then I missed out on the big story. I got beaten to the punch.
It just made mad, but I kept writing about Skype. As executives left the original Skype, devastated by eBay’s meddling ways, I wrote post after post, chronicling the tumultuous saga of Skype. I wrote about the intellectual issues around JoltID and how eBay had blown an opportunity to own that key technology. I would later write about legal issues around Skype and the problems with the 2009 spinout from eBay. But I still was missing my defining Skype story.
Somehow, somewhere, Skype became more than just a story.
Pooj Preena was one Skyper who I had never met him or even talked about him, but when I heard about him leaving, I penned a post. I have no idea why, except that is how you followed news on blogs. While in traditional media, a story is limited to the deadline and constrained by the physical space, on blogs, stories are a continuum, sometimes to the annoyance of readers. I had no idea how that post would turn out to be a life changer.
A few months later he met me for coffee, and we became instant friends. On December 28, 2007, when I had my heart attack, it was Pooj who convinced me to go to the hospital and get myself checked out. He came with me to the hospital. At that moment he became family and the man who saved my life.
Howard Hartnebaum, one of the earliest investors in Skype once gave me advise about fund raising, startups and relationships that has proved to be invaluable in more ways then one. Howard (in rather colorful terms) told me: “You need to show them where you were going to take them, if you want them to join you in your startup.” There are several others who have left Skype and I count them as friends. When I visit London or other parts of Europe, I know a Skyper was only a Skype call away.
Even during the tumultous times I met amazing people at Skype. I started out berating Josh Silverman who took over as Skype’s big boss. But in the end, I learned to get him to answer my questions. I was reminded of his work when Skype was sold one more time — this time to Microsoft for $8.5 billion.
Microsoft’s biggest acquisition is the biggest scoop of my working life. It is a special feeling — for six years later, I finally got my story.