Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Bitly Names New CEO, Mark Josephson of and AOL’s Patch

The link-shortening company Bitly is important: It estimates that it cuts down on written characters and provides tracking information for 20 percent to 25 percent of the links shared on Twitter. There are two billion clicks per month on Bitly-shortened links.

But it’s not yet an important business. Today, New York City-based Bitly has just about 350 customers who pay for custom link-shortening URLs and tracking information.

Now it’s filling a leadership gap by hiring Mark Josephson as CEO. He just left AOL’s local media play Patch last week, after joining as CEO of when it was acquired in 2011.

In an interview this morning, Josephson said his strength is being an “editor” of companies — he joined at a similar stage as Bitly is now.

Bitly investors Betaworks, RRE and Khosla Ventures were able to hire him because, “not a lot of startups have the scale that Bitly does,” Josephson said. “They were looking for a CEO to come in and energize it, and I love to do this.”

Bitly has meandered a bit recently. It saw CEO Peter Stern leave four months ago, and its most famous employee, Hilary Mason, just joined VC firm Accel Partners as data scientist in residence.

But the company has raised $28.5 million from investors, about half of it just a year ago, and it still has 40 employees.

Betaworks’ head of corporate development, Sam Mandel, who had served as interim Bitly CEO for the past four months, said the team has just finished the first version of a new audience analytics product, set to come out in October.

“The Bitly data set has always been really robust, and now our focus is on putting an intelligence layer on top,” Mandel said today. The new product will tell publishers and brands what sites users typically visit, and identify bursting content when it attracts a bunch of traffic suddenly, Mandel said. Another future product will likely be content recommendations, kind of like what Outbrain does.

But Bitly has had a “tightening of focus,” Mandel said. The company has resolved not to do ad tech, and it acknowledges that the consumer curation product it launched last year was a failure, he said.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google