clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Scott McNealy is stepping down from the CEO job you didn't know he had

The former Sun Microsystems chief has been quietly running a Colorado-based social marketing company.

Asa Mathat

During his many years at the helm of Sun Microsystems, Scott McNealy was known as one of the brashest voices in technology, railing on the evils of Microsoft and anything else that raised his ire.

Yet McNealy has flown almost entirely under the radar for the past five years, quietly helping run a Colorado-based mobile marketing company called Wayin, most recently serving as its CEO. Now, McNealy plans to step down from that post.

Wayin is acquiring rival EngageSciences, and that company’s CEO — Richard Jones — will take over as chief executive of the combined company.

“They have a real CEO,” said McNealy in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “We had an old washed-up CEO. It all made sense. I’m back where I belong as chairman and chief cheerleader.” Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is basically being structured as a stock deal of two roughly equal companies.

McNealy officially launched Wayin back in October 2011, inviting reporters to his house to talk about the service on the evening of Oct. 5 — which turned out to be the same day that Apple CEO Steve Jobs died. McNealy spent most of the time as the company’s executive chairman, but took over as CEO the past year following the departure of the company’s last CEO.

When it launched, Wayin was a way for users to quickly post photos and engage in polls from their mobile phones. As Instagram and Twitter took off, though, Wayin shifted to become a “social intelligence company,” helping big brands interact with their customers via those social networks. McNealy said Wayin quickly realized that “we’re not going to be the network, but we can still build out our engagement platform on top of all the others.”

EngageSciences, meanwhile, is a 44-person U.K.-based company that has built a system advertisers can use to create marketing campaigns across apps, the web and other displays, such as stadium scoreboards. Jones said that the company’s campaigns have already reached 500 million people, or one in 14 people on the planet. With the addition of Wayin, the company hopes to double that reach.

As for what’s next for McNealy, he said he plans to stick to business efforts, with no plan to wade into politics, as some other former tech executives have done.

“I don’t think there’s enough Kevlar around to keep me alive if I ran for office,” he said. “I’m very happy just being a capitalist.”

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.