This was my message to Blendle employees earlier today.
This month will be my last month at Blendle. After almost eight years, I’m ready to move on.
I’m not sure yet what’s next. But I knew that I first needed to take the hard step to leave, because I care too much about you and this company to be able to truly think freely about what’s next for me. My curiosity has the tendency to lead me in all kinds of directions. I think I’ll manage less and build new things. But we’ll see.
My heart belongs to Blendle, so quitting is not easy. Even though I’ve been preparing mentally, it’s still a wrench to let go of my baby. It’s also very hard for me to take a couple of steps back and comprehend what I’ve *really* learned over the last years. What I’ve *really* appreciated. What I’ll *really* miss. It’ll take time to fully appreciate the depth of this big adventure.
But I’ll say this.
I’ve felt on top of the world so often in the last couple of years. I confess I experienced impostor syndrome while being driven to the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange to do interviews for American news channels about our company. It was a real privilege being able to discuss journalism and the role of social media platforms, audio and other new uses of technology with great minds at companies like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Nikkei and Axel Springer. It meant a lot to me to see people both in online communities like Hacker News and offline communities like the International Journalism Festival in Perugia respond enthusiastically to our micropayment and subscription business models for news. And, of course, making the cover of the Donald Duck magazine was awesome.
The opposite is also true. As they say: “they put you on the cover on the way up, but on the way down too”. And as Blendle is my baby, I’ve found that things feel extremely personal when they don’t go well. I felt miserable when great people left for other jobs, when a strategy failed, when a publisher stopped believing in our purpose, or when hard work by people I care for didn’t pay off. We were criticized for expanding internationally too quickly, for changing models and strategies too fast or when we didn’t put our users’ interests first. Of course, I learned way more from being challenged than from when things came easily.
Together we’ve built a company with a soul. With an eye for design and with great taste in articles. With an army of quirky and brainy people. With a determination to do big things in machine learning — especially relative to the size of the company. With an idealistic streak, striving to make the world a better place by helping the world of journalism innovate.
I’ve never met a more eager bunch — more willing to try new things, and bouncing back when they don’t work out. It’s ultimately what makes companies great: resilience. And you’ve got it. Last year we combined forces with our biggest international competitor and built the foundations to make Blendle thrive internationally. I could not be more proud of where we’ve brought the company. And with the experienced management team of Willem, Laurent and Ari in place, I feel like I’m leaving Blendle in good hands.
I’m so proud of you (and all the people that have worked for Blendle in the past 👐). You’ve been building trust and credibility with publishers all over the globe, so that they can participate in a unifying platform with the best journalists in the world. You’ve been building trust with our users by working every day (and night!) to manually and algorithmically curate content for them, separating the signals from the noise. You’ve been building apps that feel like a true delight to use. You’ve built a culture where great ideas constantly come from anywhere, and where people speak up when they see something is wrong.
We’ve so often been the talk of the town because of our work in advancing such a great cause. It’s a magical thing. And a privilege to have been able to lead it.
On days like today, you only have to turn on the news to realize: journalism right now is more important than ever. We need it to get out the truth, support our democracies and strengthen our sense of unity. And the worlds of technology and journalism need each other to further this cause. Since Blendle was founded, we have worked to get news from all points of view to as many people as we can. I hope you realize the impact your work is making for so many people in that sense. And how special it is to be able to work for such a cause in these times.
Blendle and Cafeyn will continue to develop. It’s true that the news can be distracting and dividing. But when written and distributed well, when sourced from across the world and the political spectrum, it’s a powerful force for unity. Journalism at its best, helps people see each other’s perspectives. That’s where Blendle has been thriving. The more people you reach with your work, the better. Good luck. And thank you.