Brad Garlinghouse, Tony Conrad, and Jason Shellen

President of the Applications and Commerce Group in AOL, Founder of about.me, and Head of AOL’s AIM team

David, Meet Goliath: Infusing Startup Culture
17 minutes, 8.1mb, recorded 2011-10-11
Brad Garlinghouse, Jason Shellen, Tony Conrad

Why do good companies go bad?  Surely, this is one of the most perplexing problems in business.  One of the hottest solutions to this problem is trying to revive the culture of a startup within a large company. In this panel discussion, AOL executives Brad Garlinghouse, Tony Conrad, and Jason Shellen discuss their experiences in keeping the startup spirit alive in AOL.

The two most common strategies to this solution are: (a) buying a smaller company with innovative products and people; (b) establishing new organizational structures that help replicate the culture and attitudes that reign in a technology startup.

In the first approach, the challenge for the acquiring company is to keep the passion that helped the startup succeed, while attempting to leverage the company's resources to propel the startup team to more innovation and success.  The panelists share their personal experiences and provide some very practical insight.

In the second approach, a large company must strive to create an atmosphere that allows established product teams emulate a startup.  For these "internal startups," obtaining the speed, agility, integrity and risk-taking of an independent venture is crucial.  In both approaches, the panelists agreed there is one key ingredient to success.


Anil Dash is an entrepreneur, technologist and writer acknowledged as a “blogging pioneer” by the New Yorker for having started his site Dashes.com in 1999 as one of the earliest and most influential blogs on the Internet.

Today his work focuses on applying the pioneering techniques and technologies of the startup world in order to transform major institutions in government, media and culture. To achieve these goals, Dash founded Expert Labs in 2009 to enable citizens to connect with government policy makers through social networks, and co-founded Activate in 2009 to help the world’s major media and technology companies reinvent their business strategies.

Brad Garlinghouse is president of the Applications and Commerce Group of AOL’s Silicon Valley operations. He currently leads the charge around AOL’s renewed focus on innovation and most importantly, the consumer. This includes the company’s efforts to expand the global reach of its communications products such as AOL Mail and AIM as well as reinvigorate the company’s mobile and social strategy and its legacy client and toolbar products.

Prior to joining AOL in 2009, Brad was a Senior Advisor at Silver Lake Partners, serving as an in-house counselor on a variety of potential acquisitions. Before that, Brad spent nearly six years at Yahoo! most recently serving as SVP of Communications and Communities.

Tony Conrad is founder of about.me, which was acquired by AOL in December 2010. In this role, he provides oversight of the development of the product and it’s integration with other AOL properties. Prior to about.me, Tony co-founded Sphere (acquired by AOL in 2008) with Toni Schneider. Tony is also a founding member & Venture Partner at True Ventures.

Early in his career, Tony spent nine years abroad, working in India, France, and Indonesia with Groupe Danone, focusing on brand extension opportunities through mergers and acquisitions in Southeast Asia. He then joined VSP as a general partner where he led consumer-tech and marketing software and services investments in Oddpost (acquired by Yahoo!), Iconoculture (acquired by Corporate Executive Board), MusicNow (acquired by Circuit City), and Centive (acquired by Xactly).

Jason Shellen is head of AOL’s AIM team, Jason oversees the growth and development of the AIM suite of products. Under his leadership, the team most recently launched a new offering, AIM AV, which enables users to instantly launch a video chat with up to four people without the need to download anything or sign-up for a service.

Jason joined AOL in September 2010 after the company acquired Thing Labs (makers of Brizzly), which he founded in 2007. Prior to Thing Labs, Jason worked with Blogger which was acquired by Google in 2003. While at Google, Shellen started the Google Reader project and became the founding product manager.

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