Departures

Bitly CEO Peter Stern Bounces for ‘Other Interests’ [UPDATED]

Like what, exactly?
Peter Stern, Bitly's CEO (linkedin.com)

Peter Stern, Bitly’s (now-former) CEO. (linkedin.com)

Sometimes Silicon Alley can make your head spin: out of the blue, in a terse blog post, Bitly just announced  that CEO Peter Stern has resigned in order to “pursue other interests.”

Say what?

The announcement, which clocked in at a mere 61 words, had just this to say about Mr. Stern’s tenure:

“Peter has been a key leader and contributor to the Company,” said Bitly Board member Sam Mandel. “In particular he has been instrumental in transforming Bitly into a successful business while growing its unparalleled data set. We are very happy that he will remain a shareholder and supporter.”

After a lengthy effort to raise funds, the company announced a $15 million round from Khosla Ventures in July, bringing its total raised to $28.5 million.

When Twitter got into the link-shortening business, Bitly insisted its strength was really in metadata. Concurrent with fund-raising, the company was working on a revamp that focused more on getting consumers to subscribe.

This January, Bitly debuted three new social data APIs and better search functionality. Chief data scientist Hilary Mason promised: “You can expect to see much better stats for consumers that will draw off of this data, as well as better discovery tools on the enterprise side and audience analysis tools.” The company’s revenue depends on selling insights from consumers to enterprise clients.

We’ve reached out to Mr. Stern for comment and will update if we learn anything more.

UPDATE: Betabeat has heard that the reason for Mr. Stern’s departure was related to a difference of opinion. According to a source familiar with the company, Mr. Stern was interested in moving Bitly more toward an ad-tech business. There are a number of ad-tech companies interested in using insights about sharing and consumer intention as an extra edge in arbitraging data sets.

However, Bitly’s management team and board felt that approach ignored Bitly’s growing data trove and its potential as a social media platform for data analysis. As Bitly noted in a blog post just yesterday, the company has been “nearly 100 billion human beings clicking on bitly-powered links.”

Mr. Mandel, a longtime Bitly board member and former EVP of business operations at Tweetdeck, will act as interim president, with Ms. Mason and Peter Miron, SVP of engineering at Bitly, rounding out the company’s key players. They will move forward in trying to monetize the metadata Bitly collects in a way that makes sense for consumers and brands. Their goal will also be to accelerate launching new products.

According to the source, Bitly sees itself as part of the social infrastructure in large part because of its 20,000 to 30,000 API partners, like The New York Times, Amazon, Foursquare, and even the U.S. government.