It’s time to hang up the spurs, Alex.

by alec on April 17, 2012

Last Friday, YouMail released their latest visual voice mail client for BlackBerry.  At the same time, they put up a blog post telling the world that this was end of the line for the BlackBerry customers – no new work would be done on BlackBerry.

I thought it a little bizarre.  As publicity stunts go, it was the equivalent of a drive-by-shooting — guaranteed to generate coverage from gawkers and bystanders. And it sure has. It even made CNN!

The basic premise behind the post is wrong, though.  Although BlackBerry has some challenging times ahead during our BlackBerry 10 transition, our developer efforts are booming. Developers are making money on BlackBerry, and last quarter we recruited 14,000 new developers to the platform, and launched 25,000 new apps.

YouMail’s CEO Alex Quilici and I go way back to 2006 when AOL and iotum inked a deal for iotum’s Relevance Engine to connect up with the AIM Phoneline product.  Shortly after AOL canned the AIM Phoneline product, Alex joined YouMail as their CEO.  So, we’re a couple of voice industry veterans, and guys who’ve been in the CEO chair at voice startups.

YouMail’s flagship product, visual voicemail, isn’t a business anymore – it’s a feature that comes on your phone, and it has been that way since Apple first launched the feature in June 2007 on iPhone.  It’s no surprise, either, that YouMail’s business on BlackBerry is declining.  BlackBerry already provides visual voicemail on most of the major US carriers — TMobile, Verizon, and AT&T… and YouMail is a US only business.  Competing with TMo, Verizon and AT&T is tough! And so YouMail, despite some press characterization of the company as a “top app developer”, simply wasn’t a marquee partner for us at RIM.

I know where Alex is coming from, though, and that’s what makes this post especially difficult to write.   Entrepreneurs are passionate about their products, and they believe that they can solve every business issue in front of them.  I know, because I’ve been there.  Sometimes, though, we’re just not super-heroes.

Alex,  one (former) CEO to another, one entrepreneur to another – I think it’s time to hang up the spurs cowboy.   From where I sit, it looks like YouMail needed to pivot five years ago to remain relevant, and you missed the window.

UPDATE:  I just connected with Alex.  We had a good chat, and I sent him a free pass to the the upcoming #bb10jam.  I wish YouMail and Alex the best.

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