And, yes, I purposefully chose the words "did for."
Granted, Pincus made out like a bandit on ZNGA's IPO and opportunistic secondary offering. I ripped him for that. And, as a somewhat socially awkward public speaker, he presented his company uncomfortably, if not poorly, on several occasions. I took him to task for that as well.
But just because the guy's loaded and, like the rest of us, let ego, his perception of himself and his abilities -- whatever the case may be -- lead to mistakes doesn't mean he deserves no credit for what could be a turnaround at the company he founded.During the tumult at Zynga, I urged Pincus to step down as CEO:
Neither of these guys (Pincus and Netflix (NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings) should leave their company. They should be fired as CEO and, for shareholders and the greater good, officially titled "Founder and Chief Strategy Officer."
They're both sharp visionaries. They're both brilliant guys. Pincus, for example, should spend hours each day sitting under a tree -- alone -- in the middle of a beautiful college campus thinking. Then he should run back to Zynga headquarters as quickly as he can and engage a small team meeting to brainstorm that vision he just had.While I can't claim he took my advice -- his departure from that role was likely inevitable -- I do hope he considered the parallel I drew between him and Pandora (P - Get Report) co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Tim Westergren. Westergren has never officially been CEO of Pandora, not in the company's early days or since outgoing CEO Joe Kennedy came up with the idea to disrupt traditional radio. Unlike many founders, Westergren actually strikes me as the type that could probably handle the CEO gig. He's a great public speaker. He's humble (almost to a fault). He understands how to best maximize group dynamics. He's well-liked. And he would seek the right type of help for the parts of the job that wind up over his head. Instead, he opts not to. And this decision, which means he gives up a little bit of glory, has everything to do with Pandora's odds-beating success. Related back to the last paragraph, all I know about Pincus is that he's not a great public speaker, at least not in the context of having to present a public company's message. I have never met him in person, interacting with him only in quick, but friendly Twitter bursts. So I can't offer a take on his personality as it suits being a CEO. It would all be hearsay. That said, it's pretty apparent that, once the honeymoon ended, the Mark Pincus-as-CEO experiment didn't work out well at Zynga. It's not that he's not "smart" enough for the job (Pincus is actually brilliant), it's just that he's probably not cut out for it.