The Washington Post

Leadership shuffle at Clearspring as data firm prepares for further growth

Last week brought a shake-up in leadership at McLean-based Clearspring Technologies as the data analytics company looks to make the leap from a startup with a vision to a big business with a market stronghold.

Hooman Radfar relinquished the chief executive title he has held since founding the company in 2004 and will oversee products and marketing as executive chairman. Ex-Yahoo executive Ramsey McGrory will orchestrate daily operations as the new CEO.

The change comes at a time of rapid growth for Clearspring. The company’s AddThis widget now lives on millions of Web pages to track the content visitors share on social networks and other sites. It relays that information to publishers and advertisers that want to reach specific audiences.

Radfar said the company could see its staff double and revenue triple by the end of the year, and there are plans to make acquisitions after securing a $20 million investment in May. The board agreed the business needed a leader with the know-how to execute.

“We’ve been looking for the right partner for Hooman to help scale the business from an execution standpoint,” said investor and board member Tige Savage.

That opportunity came when the board of directors added Bill Wise, chief executive of New York-based MediaBank, to its ranks. Wise had worked with McGrory at Right Media when it was sold to Yahoo in 2007, and they both remained at the Internet giant.

“My career has been one of going into chaotic and exciting environments and creating order and action,” McGrory said in an interview. “So I think of this as another great adventure where you have great people, great underlying assets and really interesting market conditions where I can help Clearspring expand.”

McGrory said taking Clearspring public or looking for a sale isn’t front of mind as he looks a year or two into the firm’s future. But with consolidation in the online advertising and data space, there’s always the possibility that Clearspring will get rolled up in the process.

Still, McGrory sees potential for a standalone business. There are applications for the company’s technology beyond just Internet content and ads, he said. For example, it could help movie studios use Web chatter about an upcoming film to predict box office sales.

Hooman said that the company’s relevance will depend on both growth and innovation, the latter of which will become his primary focus as executive chairman. He assumes the title from AOL co-founder and business mogul Ted Leonsis, who remains on the board.

“For me, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to focus a little bit more,” he said. “I’m excited to take the platform and the assets we build today and drive the next level of innovation.”

Pinpointing the opportunities will be part of the challenge.

“We all have only so much capital, only so many resources and really only so much time, so we have to be thoughtful about where the market is going, what we’re offering, [and] the timing and capabilities of what we’re offering,” McGrory said.

Steven Overly is a national reporter covering federal technology and energy policy with a focus on Capitol Hill. He previously covered the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital.
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