Joanna Shields was an EVP and the President of People Networks at AOL. She came to the company through AOL’s acquisition of Bebo. Shields plans to move back to London and pursue other entrepreneurial interests. Shields was President of Bebo at the time of the acquisition.
This announcement comes at a time where AOL is preparing to spin off from Time Warner as an independent, public company. When Bebo was acquired for $850 million, they were a much smaller social network than MySpace and Facebook. MySpace was acquired for $580 million back in July 2005 and Facebook is planning for an IPO several years down the road.
Below is the memo that Joanna left to her team at AOL:
I wanted to let you know that after much deliberation and with a heavy heart I have decided to move on from AOL. I am returning home to London to reunite with my family and pursue my entrepreneurial interests.
It has been a remarkable year and I feel incredibly lucky to have spent this time with you. I have been blessed to be part of many success stories in the past from RealNetworks and Google through to Bebo and my time with you at AOL will go down as one of my proudest.
People Networks was born a year ago to solve some of the toughest problems facing online consumers today. Despite (and perhaps because of) all the innovation we?ve seen in the last few years there are too many online services to monitor, too many profiles to manage and too many ?social graphs? to maintain. The web is an amazing platform for content, community and communications, but these three rarely happen in one place, resulting in online conversations that are fragmented and disconnected. Our vision was to connect people with everyone and everything they care about and through a combination of great talent, hard work and brilliant assets we managed to create some amazing experiences to do just that.
We started with our industry-leading products AIM and ICQ and are now just about ready to re-invent instant messaging as the world knows it to become the default product for both private and public conversations and social and status updates. We leveraged the incredible passion and talent at Bebo, launching numerous innovations and expanding into 7 new countries while maintaining our leadership in user engagement and innovative monetization. And finally, we assembled a small, yet powerful group of entrepreneurs, to build a platform for socializing the web in record time, receiving rave reviews from publishers and partners working with the Socialthing team. I can?t wait for the world to get a glimpse of our new client this summer combined with the evolution of Socialthing as it finally creates a way for conversations and social interactions to happen anywhere on the web.
You should all feel proud of your role in our success.
I wanted to say thank you for everything I?ve learned from you this past year. I loved the fact that we challenged each other every day, from our offsites and product summits to our Thinktanks and day-to-day meetings. In the end we came up with phenomenal products that will make a lasting impact?and we are just on the verge of revealing these plans. I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to think with all of you, to break down the barriers of the old ways, to innovate again and to re-invigorate this company. I believe in you and I am so very proud of you all. Don?t let the constant swirl of changes around you take you off course. Feel confident about the decisions we have made and the path we are on. Stay focused on delivering the products you believe in and I know you will win.
I leave you in capable hands with Tim and I know he will continue to support you. I remain, as always your friend.