Saul Hansell Departs AOL to Be EIR at Betaworks
Saul Hansell, the prominent former New York Times tech reporter who went to AOL several years ago to head one of its content efforts called Seed, will leave the company to become an entrepreneur in residence at Betaworks.
The move to the New York venture firm is the right one now, said Hansell in an interview today.
“I have been watching people go starts thing for a long time and now I want to go start things,” he said. “I’ve got some ideas around news that I want to explore.”
Hansell, in a blog post, did try to not paint the move as as anti-AOL one:
“I know my friends in the technology press well enough to suspect some of them will see my move as part of a broader trend at AOL. I’m not sure the easy take is the right one. Based on my experience, I am more bullish on [AOL CEO] Tim Armstrong’s clear vision of a company built from the ground up for online journalism and the potential of AOL’s assets to achieve that vision.”
Hansell joined AOL the day after it split from Time Warner to run what he jokingly calls the “free-range, organic content farm” of Seed and has remained through its many iterations, including the purchase of the Huffington Post.
He is currently the “Big News” editor in that unit, which centers around topics.
Here’s Hansell’s blog post on the move:
Heading into the workshop.
Two years ago, when I explained to my children why I left the New York Times, one of the greatest spots ever to be a reporter and writer, I told them that I wanted to be an inventor. Since then, I’ve had the thrilling experience of being part of AOL, which is doing more than nearly anyone else to rethink the way that news is gathered, presented and paid for.
Now it’s time to strike out on my own and seek my fortune as an inventor. I’ve left AOL, and Monday I started as an entrepreneur in residence at Betaworks. If you’re not familiar with it, Betaworks has started and invested in a number of companies that are on the vanguard of real-time social experiences — several of which relate to news and publishing — including Bit.ly, ChartBeat, TweetDeck, and News.Me. It’s run by John Bortwick, whom I first met in 1997 when he sold his startup, Total New York, to America Online. We’ve become friends, and I couldn’t think of a more fertile environment in which to germinate a new idea than the bustle of creativity bursting out of the Betaworks loft in the meat packing district.
I know my friends in the technology press well enough to suspect some of them will see my move as part of a broader trend at AOL. I’m not sure the easy take is the right one. Based on my experience, I am more bullish on Tim Armstrong’s clear vision of a company built from the ground up for online journalism and the potential of AOL’s assets to achieve that vision. At AOL, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the smartest and most dedicated journalists, engineers and product executives I’ve ever met. And the brilliant acquisition of the Huffington Post brought in many more people who have been outpacing the industry through journalistic innovation.
I will always be grateful to Tim for giving me the chance to prove that I had more to contribute to a journalistic organization than simply articles and to Arianna for inviting me to join the HuffPost team. And I’m in debt to so many who offered so much advice –some of which I ignored to my own detriment — on the nuances of technology, product design, PowerPoint, and the ways of big companies. Yet as AOL continues to refine its organization, it became clear that this was the time for me to try my hand at starting a company.
It’s too soon to say much about what I’m doing. But I think there is a lot left to invent around both how to present news to people that takes advantage of the technology available today.
I expect you’ll see a lot more soon.