Internet rainbow won't net gold for everyone

There's another round of itchy execs splitting for Internet companies. But how did the first group, the Net exec Class of 1995-1996, fare?

2 min read
Attention Paul Wahl: That glitter at the end of the Internet rainbow may not be gold. Just ask Klaus Besier, your predecessor as CEO of SAP's North America subsidiary.

Wahl shocked the industry last month when he quit SAP, the giant enterprise software firm, to join Silicon Valley start-up TriStrata Security, a network security company targeting the Internet commerce market.

So whatever happened to Klaus Besier? He left SAP in January 1996 to join an Internet start-up called Business@Web. He renamed the company OneWave and focused on packaged software to help large enterprises meld Internet applications with legacy systems.

In June 1997, Besier quit OneWave when an investor group took over the struggling company. Today it's called Primix Solutions, a consulting and services firm doing what OneWave did with packaged software.

Besier landed on his feet--as CEO of FirePond, which markets interactive sales and marketing software for enterprises--but his experience is a cautionary tale for folks like Wahl opting out of big companies for Net start-ups.

CNET News.com has published a spate of similar stories of late: HP executive Richard Wattsjumping to ConvergeNet Technologies; ex-Microsoftie Peter Neupert running online pharmacy DrugStore.com; Palm Pilot leaders Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky leaving 3Com to form a handheld device firm; and former Pacific Bell exec David Dorman going to PointCast.

PointCast and Netscape, still struggling to define what they'll be if they grow up, are now spinning off execs who start companies themselves--ex-PointCaster Jaleh Bishart and former Netscape's VP Danny Shader plan an e-commerce services firm called Emptor.

This isn't the first round of itchy execs splitting for Internet companies. In April 1996, I covered the trend, new then because the Net was just becoming a commercial medium.

So how did the Net exec Class of 1995-1996 fare?

Class valedictorian was Jim Barksdale, recruited from AT&T's McCaw Cellular division to become Netscape's CEO. Two months earlier Paul Gudonis had left a VP job at EDS to become president of BBN Planet, an established ISP since swallowed by GTE. Gudonis now runs GTE Internetworking, the old BBN unit plus GTE's other Internet properties.

Gudonis clearly gained by his move to the Net, but Barksdale's success at Netscape remains arguable.