Founders don’t always see a startup all the way through to an “exit”. It happens a lot more often than you realise. In fact, it’s quite often the case in Silicon Valley, despite the mythic status the ‘founder story’ has attained there in recent times. So it’s actually a sign of maturity that founders in Europe are making moves of this nature.
The most recent was George Bevis, founder of startup business bank Tide, who has decided he’d rather find a CEO experienced at scaling a business after the initial startup phase. And today two more UK founders have decided to call it a day and move on.
Alicia Navarro will today step down from the role of CEO of Skimlinks — the commerce monetisation platform for content publishers — handing the reigns to Sebastien Blanc, currently Chief Revenue Officer. Sources say the move has been amicably approved by the Skimlinks board. Both Navarro, and her co-founder Joe Stepniewski who was Chief Product & Strategy Officer, are to now leave the day to day running of the company, although Navarro will become “President” and maintain a role as “founding visionary, client and partner advocate, and board member.” The company will also now go on the hunt for a Chairman.
Under Navarro’s leadership, Skimlinks raised $25 million in venture funding and built a monetisation platform that today includes over 57,000 publisher clients running Skimlinks technology on 4.5 million websites around the world, driving billions in e-commerce sales.
Blanc brings a wealth of experience to the role. In a statement, Navarro said “he has a drive for excellence and a disciplined growth mindset that will take Skimlinks to the next level. As our Chief Revenue Officer for the past two years, Seb was instrumental in driving an acceleration in growth and efficiency that helped Skimlinks reach profitability. Skimlinks’ culture is one of our most important assets. Seb’s deep appreciation for our team, our customers, and our mission make him my natural choice to take over the responsibility of the company I started and led for ten years.”
Blanc has over 15 years experience in the media and advertising industry as an investor, advisor, and senior executive. Prior to joining Skimlinks, Blanc was a director at Quantcast, where he built and led the global media buying operations across five countries and signed the first 3,000 private deals with premium publishers. He joined Quantcast through their acquisition of the UK startup Struq, a programmatic advertising and retargeting specialist, where he launched the US operation and took revenues from $0 to $10 million in 18 months.
Blanc said: “Over the last two years, as CRO of Skimlinks, I have enjoyed working with Alicia and seeing her lead with a level of passion and dedication that only a founder can truly bring. She built a great business and a great team. I am looking forward to building upon what already makes us special, and finding new ways to deliver value for our customers and opportunities for growth to our people.”
He told me: “The main plan is to continue the current strategy of encouraging large content publishers to increase the amount of commerce they do as part of revenue. The goal is to double down and give them better tools to do that. Big publishers have just started working on eCommerce revenue. But most publishers are making very low revenue per user. So “service journalism” and “commerce journalism” can become a real revenue source.”
John Brimacombe, Partner at Sussex Place Ventures and lead investor in Skimlinks’ Series A, will assume the role of interim executive chairman while the company conducts a search for a permanent chairman. Brimacombe commented, “Alicia is a model founder. Along with her co-founder Joe Stepniewski, Alicia took Skimlinks from an idea to more than $50 million in annual revenues. As the company now enters a new chapter of growth, Alicia made the bold decision to find a successor and guide the board through a thoughtful process to select a new CEO. I deeply respect and appreciate all that Alicia and Joe have done, and I’m delighted to work with Seb in his role as CEO.”
Joe Krancki, Partner at Frog Capital commented: “Since we led their Series C, Skimlinks has solidified its position as a lucrative partner to many of the world’s best-known digital publishers, becoming the undisputed leader in the category they created for commerce-related content monetisation. We’re thrilled to have Seb carry Alicia’s vision forward as the new CEO of Skimlinks and continue transforming the way publishers earn revenue from their content.”
So what will Navarro do now?
She plans to help start and build other early-stage companies, mainly in an advisory role, and also public speaking.
“This has not been an easy decision, as you would expect. I am incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved as a team. However, my passion and talents lie in turning an idea into a thriving business,” she says. People will now be able to follow her exploits on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.