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Eric Benhamou: The Saga Of Palm (Part 7)

Posted on Tuesday, Sep 18th 2007

SM: I want to ask about some of these aspects. I think operationally you managed to turn the company around, but where was the marketing vision, the juice, coming from? Who was the visionary? EB: We still had Jeff, who had envisioned the Treo. It was his brainchild, just like the initial PalmPilot. He was injecting all of the visionary thinking, but he was not doing it with the same intensity as he did in the past.

He had other things to do as well. He and Donna had started a brain research company on the side. He was not operating in the same full time occupation as he was before. What we found was that there was still a cultural mismatch between the Handspring team and the Palm team. Palm had become a very business-like company, closer to Dell in culture. Handspring was closer to Apple in culture. In fact, the culture of Apple as a startup, meaning they really focused on product ideas and creativity.

Meanwhile we were confronted with the task of having to satisfy not only the consumers themselves, but the carriers who were the only real channel to consumers. When you are in the smartphone business, you do not sell your phones through Best Buy. You sell them through AT&T, Orange, and so on. You must go through the carrier machine, and you must meet all of their requirements. Their supply and cost expectations, and so on.

This requires a lot of discipline. Palm was struggling to find a balance between these two cultures; operational discipline versus a creative, innovative mentality. Todd was struggling trying to integrate the two. Ultimately he left and found a great job at HP, and has become extremely successful there demonstrating he was truly a world class executive. We decided to give the reigns to Ed Colligan who was the third founder of Palm. He was with Jeff and Donna at every stage.

SM: He remained with Palm rather than moving to Handspring though, correct? EB: Yes, he stayed with us and he was basically the number two, so in essence he just moved up to number 1.

[To Be Continued]

[Part 6]
[Part 5]
[Part 4]
[Part 3]
[Part 2]
[Part 1]

This segment is part 7 in the series : Eric Benhamou: The Saga Of Palm
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