From Voki Product Manager to just one of many passionate Voki users... leaving Oddcast and looking for challenges, opportunities, and conversations

Softball is often a metaphor for life.

Seriously, hear me out.

I play on and manage two teams.  When it comes to writing up the lineups, I always pencil everyone else in at their positions first, and then play wherever we’re missing anyone.  Sometimes it means the outfield, sometimes first.  Last night, I found myself at shortstop for an inning.  I can pretty much hold my own almost anywhere in the field.

I’ve always been like that—playing where the team needed me.  I enjoy new challenges and try to take a very systematic and thoughtful approach.  I may not play the most graceful first base, for example, but I grew up watching my best friend playing it quite well and I’m always learning, taking notes…  studying the game.

So when I started at Oddcast about a year ago as Director of Consumer Products—Voki employee #1 (before it even had a name, and yes, the name is my doing, or my fault, depending on what you think of it)—I played the role of utility player for quite some time.  Sometimes it meant working on product specifications, other times consulting on design and UI, and then I also found myself in marketing and business meetings.  It was an exciting opportunity not only to cut my teeth on product work, but also participate in all of the various aspects of the operational side.

In time, we filled out the Voki team around me…  Business Development, Product, Marketing.  As we got closer to launch, internal folks started converging and helping to push things forward.  That was great for the product, but not as great for the larger opportunity that I wanted for my career.  Essentially, if we're keeping with my metaphor, I started to DH, since all of our positions in the field were being filled.  That may have been the most logical move for the team, but I knew deep down that I had the ability to make a bigger impact.

Was it a desired outcome?  To be honest, not really, but it’s also no one’s fault and there are no hard feelings.  I initiated the conversation about transition about a month and a half ago.  I thanked Adi, our founder, for believing in me enough to bring me here in the first place and providing a fantastic experience.  I talked about my desire to make the biggest impact possible in this social media/startup world we’re in and we came to the mutual conclusion that Voki was in good hands with the team we had put in place.  At that point, we set a timetable that would allow me to explore some other opportunities that came up without leaving the team shorthanded.  In fact, I will continue to work with Oddcast in a part time role over the next month or so and specifically focus on a couple of product and business development projects that I really want to see through to conclusion. 

In an organization moving from a service business to more of a product business, there are bound to be disagreements, changing roles, and tough decisions, but I have to say that, down to a person, I enjoyed working with and respect every single employee here at Oddcast. 

So, what’s next for me?   Well, I’m not completely done with the sports analogy.  Consider this my declaration of free agency.  There have been some very compelling opportunities that have come through the grapevine (it was hard to completely keep it a secret that I was leaving) and I’m going to explore those.  Frankly, I’m looking forward to having the time and the focus to give every opportunity I have its deserved attention.  Trying to think about the next job while still working is hard.  In the past, I took a weekend off before I started as an analyst at Union Square Ventures, and with Oddcast, I started working here on weekends even before I left USV.  I’m definitely not going to do that again! 

As you probably know from this blog, I have an exciting cross country trip planned for the first two and a half weeks of July and will take that time to think about what’s next and where I can make the most out of what I have to offer.

So what do I have to offer?

I’ve been exposed to quite a lot in a very short amount of time…  getting more involved in venture capital from the LP side in 2004—the beginning of what people consider to be Web 2.0, jumping to a top tier venture firm in 2005 and seeing just about everything in the space for a year and a half, and then rolling up my sleeves and launching a social web application at a portfolio company that has thousands of users after just a few weeks of its Alpha launch.  I’m extremely interested in product work, but also how the social media world has left a very thin line between product, marketing, and business development (see Facebook apps).  I’ve been a technically savvy non-developer since 1987, when my dad first game home with our PS/2, and while I understand and believe in the power of “Web 2.0”.  But, that goes for a lot of folks my age.  What I think separates me is that I also have my feet firmly grounded in a Finance major and Economics/Accounting minors and can help companies take a very rational and effective approach to social media, versus just playing “follow the buzz”. 

What could I do with all that?  Well, I’m willing to have a conversation with just about anyone in the space and I’m considering everything from being employee #2, employee #8, working at ad agencies, venture firms, incubators, big media companies and maybe even just teaching fulltime.  So, if you know of anyone interesting that I should be talking to, please, by all means feel free to make an introduction.  My e-mail is charlie (dot) odonnell (at) gmail.com.

In the meantime, I do have a little bit of time on my hands, so if there are any interesting consulting projects or speaking engagements, I think it’s a great opportunity to get to know people I might want to work with and for others to get to know my capabilities.  I’ve had a unique opportunity to connect to so many great people… 3 great employers, 2,000 blog readers, 900+ nextNYers, 500+ LinkedIn connections… and I’ve learned such a great deal from them that I always enjoy sharing it, especially with relative newcomers to the social media space, which is why I teach at Fordham’s grad and undergrad programs as well.

In closing, I want to thank everyone at Oddcast for making my time here incredibly educational and helping to lay the groundwork to make Voki successful, particularly Oddcast’s founders Adi & Gil Sideman, Adam G., who Voki could not have come to fruition without and I learned a ton about the technical side of product management from, our tech “hat trick” in Sergey, Dave, and Jon, our VP of Biz Dev Shaival, Hannah the Instigator, Annette, Craig, Yuni, Daphne, James, Cory, Tony, Erez, Gally, Isak, Oren, and Riv.