Social Ad Targeter LocalResponse Shuffles Leadership

Founder Nihal Mehta Cedes CEO Role to Agency Veteran Kathy Leake, Who Will Shop the Company

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LocalResponse -- the ad tech startup that helps clients Coca-Cola, L'Oreal and Verizon target consumers based upon their social media activity -- has changed its leadership structure. Founder (and now former CEO) Nihal Mehta has transitioned to executive chairman and former president Kathy Leake has assumed CEO duties.

Kathy Leake, LocalResponse CEO
Kathy Leake, LocalResponse CEO Credit: Kathy Leake

Mr. Mehta will continue working for the company, but in a broader, more strategic capacity while Ms. Leake will handle all day-to-day responsibilities. Specifically, Mr. Mehta will be looking at establishing more brand partnerships and "soft-checking the market" for a potential acquisition for the company, Ms. Leake said. She added that there are no immediate plans to sell, and any such exit is more than a year and a half away.

Both said the change was a natural progression given the company's recent growth.

"This is a passing of the baton, essentially," Mr. Mehta said. "I got the company to this place and now Kathy has the experience to take it to the next level."

Ms. Leake joined the company in 2011 when it was Buzzd -- an app that aggregated check-ins conducted via location-based services such as Foursquare and Yelp -- and helped it transition to LocalResponse, a business-to-business ad targeting service.

"One of the reasons I was brought in was to pivot the company to a B-to-B company; take the same data set, turn it into an ad network and monetize all this data but for brands," Ms. Leake said.

Ms. Leake brings ample agency and worldly experience to the CEO role. Her previous work includes stints aat DDB in Los Angeles, Ogilvy in Prague and at Agency.com in London, she said. Prior to joining LocalResponse in 2011, she worked at Media6Degrees.

Her plans for LocalResponse is to strengthen its cross-device targeting capabilities, a potentially lucrative but nascent and imprecise practice, currently.

"We were focused solely on mobile a year ago, and we were able to make the connection between social and desktop and we see cross-platform as a huge opportunity," she said.

LocalResponse helps brands target consumers across devices based upon the "declarative statements" they post on social media such as Facebook posts, Pinterest pins and tweets. If a consumer uses her smartphone to tweet about having poor AT&T service, LocalResponse can help Verizon serve an ad to that consumer when she starts surfing the web on a desktop, for instance. LocalResponse collects data from the Twitter firehose and AddThis, a social media widget provider for more than 14 million Internet domains.

The company's revenue run rate is in the millions and is nearing profitability, Mr. Mehta said. He added that company's revenue has grown 400% from this time last year. In addition to his executive chairman role, Mr. Mehta will continue acting as founding partner at ENIAC Ventures, a venture firm that exclusively invest in mobile tech companies, and helping his wife Reshma Saujani in her campaign for New York City public advocate.

"I've been in mobile for 13 years, and we're in the second inning of mobile advertising," Mr. Mehta said. "One big issue still yet to be solved is ROI and attribution on mobile. There needs to be ways to prove out ROI and attribution. that is the key to unlocking massive mobile ad budgets."