Rob Leathern, the CEO of Optimal Inc. who sold his company to Brand Networks last year for $35 million, is sailing for new shores. The serial entrepreneur and one-time research analyst told AdExchanger he has started work on a new venture that is aimed at consumers and is not ad-related.
Leathern, whose title was chief product officer, will remain on Brand Networks' board of directors and is a "significant shareholder" in the business.
In a note to AdExchanger, he said, "After a successful six-month transition period after the acquisition, where I tripled the size of our product and product engineering teams, I'm leaving Brand Networks to start work on a new startup. We had a great outcome and after five-and-a-half years building Optimal, getting it profitable and to a top position in both the Facebook and Twitter data and advertising realms, it is time for me to get back to my consumer startup roots."
BN's October acquisition of Optimal combined two early movers in Facebook's Preferred Marketing Developer program. Brand Networks is focused on retailers, while Optimal had developed competency in Facebook's data-enhanced ad products, such as Facebook Exchange and the Custom Audiences CRM-matching program.
Leathern is the second notable ad tech startup guy in recent memory to declare plans to leave the ad industry. AppNexus founding CTO Mike Nolet left last year to pursue an unnamed non-advertising opportunity.