I’m going to say what most people will think when they read the news that former Ask.com CEO Jim Safka is back in the saddle again.
Did he really leave Ask.com for the stated reason that his brother had died?
Don’t get me wrong–losing a family member is crushing–but at the time, I couldn’t help but wonder if Ask.com was covering up Safka’s real reason for leaving.
It turns out that I don’t have to feel too guilty about my theory. In an interview–that appears to focus more on Ask.com than his new company Chegg–Safka reveals that his brother’s death was not indeed the only reason he left the company.
My reasons for wanting to leave were multifold. I always wanted to work for a company that was at an early stage and closer to my home. (Chegg is based in Santa Clara, Calif, and Ask is about 50 miles north, in Oakland.) It was a little earlier than I expected to leave Ask. But this in my mind was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Is it just me, or does that last sentence practically spell out that Safka left Ask.com to take the Chegg job?
When pressed if he left Ask.com because the company was dead in the water, Safka responded in a way that sounds like he signed a non-disparagement agreement on departure:
Absolutely not. We completely overhauled the technology at Ask. In addition to improving the core search results for customers, we reduced the monetization (by running) fewer ads. So it’s a better user experience. That’s a good long-term move for the franchise. A lot of the metrics at Ask are heading in the right direction.
Again, this is all my speculation, but reading between the lines, I suspect Safka left to focus on a company that had a chance of being #1 in its market. That will never happen with Ask.com.