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Leaving Topix... (but in very good hands)

As has been announced elsewhere, I've stepped down as CEO of Topix, and my longtime friend and co-founder Chris Tolles has been promoted into the top spot.

Topix has been experiencing very strong traffic growth over the past 6 months. We launched a substantial set of improvements to the site in April, and traffic since then has soared. Topix's local forum activity continues to grow at double digit rates per month. Topix is a monster in local community and is growing like a weed.

So why the change, then...? Well, first let me say that this was a change that I personally initiated with our board. I have always seen myself as a product guy first and foremost. And some of the magic tricks I rely on tend to be based on technical architectural advantages, injecting attack products into market holes, and new product boot-up strategies. I have managed medium-sized groups before effectively, and I can certainly hold my own with PR, but at the end of the day if I find myself only doing those things I start to get a little grouchy. Also, the skills Topix needs now are not really based on innovating some new algorithm or launch magic. Rather, marketing, sales, and operations are key to Topix achieving its full potential.

So in looking at who would be best to take Topix to the next level, promoting Chris into this spot was the obvious choice. He has a depth of experience in sales and marketing, has managed successful community products before at Netscape/AOL, and provides great continuity of management with the company. Furthermore, he and I have actually traded positions previously. He's worked for me, and I and other folks on our team have worked for him before, several times ... at Sun, Netscape and AOL. So I know he can do the job, and the passion and experience that he'll bring to the role will be a huge asset for Topix.

Others agree with this assessment. Ben Smith wrote:

Congratulations to Mr. Tolles. Chris is going to do an incredible job making things happen. He is a marketing machine who knows product, can sell and has more passion to win than 90% of the executives in the valley.

This is the perfect opportunity to take what he helped create with Skrenta, Markson and others to the next level.

I will also say for the record that our board, with members from Tribune, Gannett, and Mayfield Fund, have been absolutely outstanding from the very beginning of our partnership with them, throughout this transition. Their advice, vision and support have been essential, and it's been a real pleasure to have had the opportunity to work with them.

I'll be continuing to serve on the board, and provide assistance wherever I can. As I still represent the third largest equity stake in Topix, after Tribune and Gannett, I have every interest in seeing Topix continue to grow and succeed.

Congratulations to Chris, and here's looking forward to Topix's inevitable victory in the local community space. :)

Also check out Mike's thoughts on the transition...

Comments (13)


Now that's a mature, insightful, and self aware decision. Best wishes Rich and enjoy the summer!

Chris, congratulations on your new role. I know you will do very, very well and take Topix to the next level.

congrats! it's been great following you thru your topix experience


I look forward to seeing the rare combination you have of strategic insight with an ability actually build something applied to new problems in the next couple of years.

Wow.... big changes.... congrats.

Take some time off and enjoy. I'd recommend Thailand.

I can suggest a nice beach with wifi if you're interested :)



Please continue blogging! Good luck Rich...

What Gabe said. :-)

You've done an amazing job and I look forward to seeing what is next...

I have enjoyed reading your blog, and I hope you'll take the time to continue publishing it.

Best of luck with whatever you turn to next.

elizabeth osder:

Hey, Congrats, I have always seen you as a first class product guy, glad you are sticking to your sweet spot. We need you to get onto the next invention. I have long been a fan of topix and have always enjoyed our conversations.

cheers, elizabeth osder

Yes, please continue blogging and good luck with your next project/s.

We all love you!

Good luck with your next projects :)

Best regards,
ODP editor nejron

Congratulations Rich. All the very best on next steps.

Mark Skrenta:


It's been an inspiration to watch you develop these ideas over the years. I, as others here, can only imagine what's next.


We were proud to be Topix's first paying customer, and look forward to seeing what you do next.

All best, Dan

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