Doug Ludlow, formerly the CEO of AOL-acquired photosharing startup Hipster, is leaving the company’s mobile team (where he was a senior director) to become the first innovation partner at AOL Ventures.
Since this is a new role, it sounds like a lot of the details are going to be figured out on the job. Ludlow said the position arose from discussions he had with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and AOL Ventures President Jon Brod about “how do you really get some early-stage startup innovation and energy into new, big company products?” (In case you’ve forgotten: AOL is the big company that owns TechCrunch.)
In an email statement, Brod described Ludlow as “a proven entrepreneur who will be a valuable asset to our portfolio companies as well as to our incubation and innovation initiatives.”
Even though he’s now part of AOL Ventures — which invests in startups, as a venture firm does — Ludlow said he’s less focused on working with outside startups (at least for now) and more on finding new ideas within AOL itself, then either incorporating them into existing AOL properties or, when it makes sense, spinning them out into new companies.
“I think what we’re trying to do is not just, how do you throw ideas up on the wall and see what sticks?” he said. “Instead, we want to figure out, how do you build a framework for handling innovation? How do we work to align the incentives of an early-stage entrepreneur and a big company?”
Even though it’s easy to roll your eyes about the idea of AOL as a home for innovation, Ludlow argued that the company has advantages that are worth capitalizing on, like the enormous traffic to its homepage: “A lot of startups I’ve been at during that part of my career would die for the resources that a company like AOL has, the traffic that AOL has.”
Ludlow will continue to be based out of AOL’s Palo Alto office, though he’ll probably be spending more time in New York. He also said he doesn’t have any qualms about leaving the mobile team (where he’s been working on Hipster and a number of other products), because he’s confident that AOL now understands that mobile is important for virtually every product.