WeTransfer’s founder leaves CEO role, ex-Amazon exec steps in for commercial push

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Some changes are underway at WeTransfer, the European startup that competes against the likes of Dropbox and Box by providing a cloud-based platform to share and swap files with others. The company has announced that effective January, its co-founder Bas Beerens is stepping down as CEO, with a new CEO, Gordon Willoughby, coming in.

Beerens will move to a role as executive chairman from next month.

gordon-willoughbyWilloughby is a long-time e-commerce veteran who most recently was at Amazon eight years, and before that eBay. The change is that it’s a sign of how WeTransfer — which to date has only raised one round of funding, $25 million from Highland Europe — looking to take a more commercial and aggressive approach to its business as it hits a new milestone in size: WeTransfer says that over 1 billion files are now sent by 100 million users each month.

The company specifically now wants to grow bigger on Dropbox’s and Box’s turf in the U.S. and it’s also recently rebuilt its whole platform as it gears up to add more features.

For years, WeTransfer has positioned itself as the quirky Dutch rival to its more straight-laced Silicon Valley counterparts, doing things like providing users with colourful artwork as background wallpaper to personalise their use of the platform. It hands over 30% of all of its background wallpaper space to designers and others in the creative industries as a space to show off and experiment with new work.

At the same time, though, it’s been different from its far-flung, and far more heavily capitalised, rivals in another way: it’s primarily aimed to run itself as a profitable, bootstrapped operation, and has largely succeeded in doing so. (WeTransfer makes money both by selling ads — 70% of those colorful backgrounds are actually paid commercial billboards — and by selling a premium version with features like larger file transfers and more customization.

“I’m really excited to be joining WeTransfer, which is an amazing company with a clear vision of what it wants to achieve and a great user-focused culture,” said Willoughby in a statement. “I have huge admiration for everything the founders Bas and [his co-founder Nalden who remains as CIO] have done to establish a company that is growing fast and profitably and look forward to working closely with them to introduce WeTransfer to more users across the world.”

Recently, WeTransfer opened up an office in Los Angeles to complement its headquarters in Amsterdam, and now it’s looking to move up to the next level of its business — whatever that might be.

Beerens, who describes himself as “a creative at heart,” says that the startup now needs someone leading it who can be more of a businessperson.

“In Gordon, WeTransfer has found a great match for the company, as it looks to scale up. Gordon has experience of working for one of the world’s biggest tech companies in Amazon, as well as with traditional creative and media businesses at the Financial Times,” he noted in a statement. “Gordon’s reputation as a team builder helped him stand out amongst candidates for the job. Having worked for several global companies, he has a great understanding of international business.”