Ben and Mena Trott were not entrepreneurial types

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

Ben and Mena Trott have always fascinated me. There is something a little sad about the way they stumbled into success and then did not know how to handle it. Now their company is disappearing. I posted my thoughts at Hacker News, and dotBen responded:

For me SixApart failed because the founders lacked vision as they were not entrepreneurial types (your outline is spot on) and their success was all very accidental (and somewhat opportunistic by the folks that put money in to the company).

The best thing Ben and Mena had going for them was was that they were normal folks who represented the community, just like Matt Mullenweg over at WordPress. But the money people sidelined them rather than letting them find their own voice.

Switching Movable Type from open source to proprietary and then ultimately back to open source killed the project and in many ways is what made me move over to WordPress.

Very much worth reading, for I think it sums a lot about the way a company like this can fail, is Ben Metcalfe’s post from 2005:

Mena Trott (co-founder and president of Six Apart) gave, in my opinion, a badly toned and way-off-base speech at the Les Blogs conference in which she requested for more civility in the blogosphere. She appealed to bloggers to be kinder in their commenting, and think about the feelings of the person they are communicating with.

I found it very jarring on many levels. For a start, this was a European blogging conference – and one of the underlying challenges I took away from it was how we mediate the different cultural approaches to blogging across the different European countries. And that’s before you factor in the various different American cultures too (there were more Americans at this conference than anyone other than the French!).

…But overall I just found the presentation to be simply ill judged for the audience she was addressing. Sure, it might be a positive aspiration for everyone to be “nicer”, but surely that’s not an issue for the blogosphere? Surely if people don’t relate to each other in a nice way all the time, that’s a matter for society in general?

…It’s is my understanding that Mena has come under for some criticism on the blogosphere – both professional and person. Professional stuff, such as picking over business decisions she/Six Apart has made seems fair game to me – that’s business. Even more so you choose to take a figure-head role in a company pioneering, by definition, a highly opinionated market. If you don’t like it, step down, take yourself out of the limelight, etc.

…I would say that at times it did sound like she was speaking from a very emotional and personal position – clearly upset by what has been said about her. However, she was introduced as “Mena Trott – president of Six Apart” and as such I felt it just wasn’t appropriate to ‘make it personal’ within the environment and context she was addressing.

The Trotts never found the right tone. I like the phrase “startlingly naïve” which Metcalfe quotes. Really, I think the Trotts would have been happier in the suburbs, doing something else. But nothing else offered them the kind of money that commercializing MoveableType offered them.

Post external references

  1. 1
    http://techcrunch.com/2010/09/21/video-egg-will-acquire-six-apart-and-rename-itself-say-media/
  2. 2
    http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1714090
  3. 3
    http://benmetcalfe.com/blog/2005/12/les-blogs-me-mena/
Source