WhoWhere loses its head over Lycos

As a rule, I don't date readers.

4 min read
As a rule, I don't date readers. But last night, after a long and increasingly torrid correspondence with a leggy blond from the great state of Washington, I relented and took my visiting emailamour to see Chicago. The show was playing at the Golden Gate Theater, which is one of the city's most important theatrical venues, and which bears an unfortunate resemblance to a high school auditorium. I was somewhat embarrassed as my date and I settled into our lumpy upholstered steel seats, and I mused that a paltry hundred million or so from some local tech bon vivant could do wonders for the place. There are worse names for a theater than "The Oracle."

My date either didn't notice or didn't mind the shabby setting (perhaps Redmond has nothing better to offer its residents). But her deep sensitivity became apparent at a certain point later in the evening when I declined to remove my trenchcoat and fedora.

"What are you, some kind of pervert?" she cried. "Stand back--I know kick-boxing!"

I guess some long distance romances are better left in pixels than in person. And some such romances are better called off altogether, as the recent drama at WhoWhere shows. As of yesterday, Dale Fuller, once CEO of WhoWhere and--since the directory's August acquisition by Lycos--a vice president and general manager of the WhoWhere division, is walking out the portal door.

Following the acquisition, Fuller had waxed optimistic about the future under Waltham, Massachusetts-based Lycos. "We saw the strength of management that Lycos had, compared with all the other portals that were out there, and the fiscal responsibility they had, and a shared vision very similar to ours," Fuller said way back when.

But that shared vision seems to have gotten a little blurry over the subsequent three months, according to a Skinformant familiar with the departure (which was announced to teary staffers yesterday). Life under Lycos, which has been compared to immersion in a jar of mayonnaise, evidently didn't suit Fuller.

"Lycos is the stereotypical East Coast company," opined my source. "If you take a bunch of people out of DEC and Lotus and Wang and turn it into a company, that isn't necessarily going to mesh very well with a West Coast firm like WhoWhere.

"Dale basically didn't see a role for himself at Lycos," he continued. "He's much more of an evangelist, and the folks at Lycos couldn't see him playing that role over Bob Davis."

From what we know of Davis's evangelical fervor, it may be true that there wasn't enough room for Fuller and him in the same mayonnaise jar, even 3000 miles apart.

Meanwhile, one wonders what Lycos's buttoned-down East Coast establishment types are going to think when they discover some of the treasures they've acquired along with their other left coast purchase.

The funny thing about this cozy trio of Lycos, WhoWhere, and Wired Digital is that WhoWhere and Wired are rumored to have been getting that urge to merge before Lycos swiped WhoWhere.

Speaking of corporate romance, some venture capitalists apparently are moonlighting as executive matchmakers. One of the hottest start-ups to hit the Valley in years is an online security software firm called TriStrata. How hot is it? Until recently, founder and chairman John Atalla was fighting off hot-and-heavy VCs who wanted in on the goods. The lucky suitor wound up being Benchmark Capital, for the sole reason that Benchmark general partner David Beirne also happens to be chairman of executive matchmakers Ramsey Beirne Associates, according to Skindustry scuttlebutt.

(Rumors that Beirne moonlights as an art-pop singer are false.)

The story is that Benchmark's winning strategy involved un petit quid pro quo: Benchmark got to make the $8 million investment if Beirne could bring former SAP America CEO Paul Wahl to the altar as TriStrata's CEO. Just a rumor, folks--but so far, from all accounts, the honeymoon is going nicely.

What isn't going nicely is the situation over at PointCast. A report floated in that the departure s of Jaleh Bisharat and Doug Boake had been followed by the departure of the architect and technical lead of the company's next-generation client.

While confirming the departure, PointCast PR laughed off the idea that it was part of a trend and minimized the importance of the dearly departed.

"He was absolutely not the architect of next generation client," averred a PointCast flack. "Nobody here has that title. He was the Client 3.x manager. This guy was manager-level, with a number of levels of management above him. He certainly was not some sort of dream child in charge of the client."

Whatever the responsibilities of the erstwhile engineer, our source reports that company morale is in the proverbial can. After this week's dating debacle, I can relate. You can cry me a river, but quite frankly I'd prefer it if you'd just send me a rumor.