Hearsay Social Hires Its First CFO

Hearsay Social, a Sequoia-backed startup helping finance and insurance companies grow sales through social media, announced today that it has hired its first chief financial officer — William Salisbury (pictured above), who was previously CFO at AVAST Software.

It’s been just a couple of weeks since Hearsay rolled out an expanded product suite for financial advisors. CEO Clara Shih told me that this is going to be a big year for the company (which now has around 200 employees), and it needed a CFO to deal with the expected “host of complexities.” Not only is Hearsay “transitioning from a single product company to now being a multi product suite,” it’s also building its business overseas and building a small services team to help with product adoption in large enterprise customers.

Shih also suggested that the recent launch is just the latest in a series of “pivotal decisions” that seem to come up every 12 to 18 months for Hearsay. The original aim was to help businesses manage the social media presence of their local branches and franchises, but over time, it started to focus on large enterprises, and then specifically on the financial services and insurance industries.

“What happened was, we were spread too thin,” Shih said. By limiting itself to just a couple of industries, Hearsay could better develop machine learning technology focused on the social media needs of its customers. And now, with its latest pivotal decision (which I guess isn’t quite the same as calling them pivots), Hearsay has launched its Predictive Social Suite, going beyond social media tools by helping its clients track customers on their own websites and other channels.

Looking back on those decisions, Shih said, “In each case, we debated it ferociously within the company, which I think great companies do. … In terms of the big bets, I guess by definition they’ve worked out, otherwise we wouldn’t have kept going.”