When I joined the board of Creative Commons in January of 2003, I thought I'd just be "helping Larry out with his cool non-profit." I was a huge Creative Commons fan, but not a law professor and wasn't really sure exactly what I'd be contributing.
As Creative Commons continued to evolve from a very cool idea to a critical part of the sharing infrastructure, the organization continued to grow and thrive and I became more and more involved. In December of 2006, the board appointed me to Chairman of the Board and I worked closely with Larry who was CEO at the time and the board, working on strategy, fund raising and continuing to develop Creative Commons.
In 2008, Larry announced that he wanted to shift his focus to fixing the corruption problem and would continue to serve on the board of and work closely with Creative Commons, but that he wanted a successor for the CEO role. In April of 2008, not being able to find a suitable full-time CEO, I was appointed by the board to be CEO and board member.
The CEO role at Creative Commons has been an extremely exciting, but challenging one. After running my incubator, Neoteny, through the crash of the Internet bubble in Japan, I had vowed not to take operating roles anymore and focus on investing and board positions. Also, I was not sure about my ability to run an organization in San Francisco with my insane travel schedule. Finally, I wasn't completely confident that I would be able to wrangle all of the nuanced complexity that Creative Commons sits at the nexus of.
I took over the role of CEO just as Creative Commons was evolving from a visionary leader and board driven organization to a staff driven organization. The vision of the organization stayed unchanged, but the day-to-day operations of the organization were becoming increasingly complex and voluminous as our adopters began to increase in number, scope and in geography.
Partially due to my lack of physical presence in San Francisco and mostly due to the amazing quality of the Creative Commons team, the staff and management team at Creative Commons picked up the slack and worked with me to build an excellent organization. Because of this, I was able to focus a great deal of my energy on the external and international relationships. While a lot of the work that Creative Commons accomplished were milestone adoptions like Wikipedia, Al Jazeera and The White House, a huge amount of the work that the staff accomplished was expanding our international network of partners and putting together an excellent organization with great teamwork, a solid back office system and a first class work ethic.
I'm really proud to have been a part of this transformation.
However, as the challenges for Creative Commons become even bigger and more exciting and as we begin another chapter in both our strategy and fund raising, my part-time non-resident CEO position was clearly suboptimal.
Cathy Casserly was our program officer at Hewlett, which funded the initial growth of Creative Commons. Cathy is the godmother of the Open Educational Resources movement. After we recruited Cathy to join the Creative Commons board, I have been working closely with her on fund raising, strategy and generally getting her advice on many things. Cathy is strong in all of the areas that I am weak. The added bonus is that she lives in the Bay Area.
Over dinner at the last board meeting, I casually asked her whether she might consider being CEO of Creative Commons. To my surprise and excitement, she said she'd be interested.
Since that initial discussion, we've been working hard trying to figure out how all of this will work. We still have some details to work out, but Cathy will be taking over the CEO role of Creative Commons and work day to day in the Bay Area office.
I will continue to serve Creative Commons as the Chairman of the Board and I think that as a team, Cathy and I can cover many of the bases with the support of the staff, board and our amazing network of affiliates around the world. I will continue to work on international projects, the Middle East and venture innovation and Cathy will bring her deep expertise in education and the foundation work to the organization.
Most importantly, Cathy is an amazingly warm and thoughtful person that I've grown very close to and I'm super-excited to be working with and am sure will be a perfect fit for the staff in the Bay Area and our global network of the brightest and coolest people I know.