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Observations and advice on product strategy, product management, innovation, and business culture.

Blame me for Cakewalk being shut down by Gibson

I understand my former colleagues need to point a finger somewhere. It started when we launched Momentum back in October, and apparently it continues, as they have recently taken to gossiping about me and flaming me at trade shows.

Part of me feels betrayed.

I worked my ass off and took on a lot crazy shit from Gibson that undermined our potential for success.

In an effort to turn Cakewalk’s finances around quickly, one of my colleagues and I put together a drastic cost reduction plan that would have made Cakewalk profitable. The plan would have put all the focus on maintaining SONAR and supporting existing customers, and would have ceased all investment in growth.

The plan would have reduced staff by about 50%, including all of upper management, (which meant the two of us as well). Cakewalk/Gibson Management decided not to push this plan up the ladder. Instead, Gibson killed Cakewalk completely. So, rather than shrinking but maintaining the company, the decision was made to have no company at all. I can say with complete confidence that it didn’t have to end like this.

Part of me feels downright insulted.

When I was interviewing for the role, it was clear to me (and everyone I spoke with) that Cakewalk had no vision, no direction and no strategy. The company took on way more than it could handle, and it was trying to gain market share in a ridiculously crowded space, without the resources to do it.

The strategy I employed was to

  1. FOCUS: kill all projects that were not SONAR (which comprised a very large % of the revenue)
  2. Build TRUST: work hard to repair relationships with our customers, which had deteriorated over the years due to previous decisions to make huge cutbacks to support staff,  failures to deliver on promises, and misleading messaging. We needed to earn back their trust.
  3. Invest in NEW MARKETS: we needed to find new markets where we had a chance to lead.

We acted on all of these strategies, and we had some great wins and disappointing losses along the way, as is what happens in the game of business.

But I think the lesson for me, which is why I’m willing to man up and accept blame, is that clearly I didn’t have the support from all of my colleagues on these strategies. I knew we were in a race against time, and I was acting like more of a bulldozer than a collaborator. So that’s on me.

Taking responsibility opens up a another part of me that’s saying, “Ok, if it helps you feel better, then go ahead and blame me. I wish I could have done more.”

Because sometimes, this is exactly what a leader must do.

Alex Westner