The three founders of video advertising startup Unruly have stepped down, almost exactly two years after selling their company to News Corp.
CEO Sarah Wood, her husband and chief strategy officer Scott Button, and CTO Matt Cooke will step down from their full-time executive positions and into advisory roles on Unruly’s board from next year.
Wood will remain chief executive until March 2018 in order to find a replacement, after which she will become chair of Unruly’s board. Button and Cooke will stay on until the end of 2017 to help with the transition.
Unruly’s software development SVP Steve Hayes will replace Cooke as CTO, global business development VP Ken Suh will become COO, and marketing and communications EVP Louise Tullin will become chief marketing officer.
Wood wrote in an email to staffers:
“For those of you who know us well, you’ll also know we’re not ones to look back in nostalgia. One of the secrets to Unruly’s success is our willingness to embrace and inspire change, and now more than ever there is so much to look forward to in the business, so many new opportunities to seize and so many more successes still to come! Over the last 2 years, we’ve generated exponential growth in programmatic video revenues and we’ve built a first-class global leadership team to take the company forward.”
News Corp acquired Unruly in September 2015 for £114 million, as part of a wider effort to drive more video ad revenue to properties such as The Sun and The Times. It seemed like an odd pairing: a long-established media giant, and a London tech darling.
And indeed, when I met News UK’s chief commercial officer Dominic Wood and Unruly’s Sarah Wood a year after the acquisition, Wood suggested integration “hadn’t been felt” by potential advertising partners.
Here’s the full email from Sarah Wood to staff:
I’m writing to let you know that over the next few months myself, Scott and Matt will be moving out of our full-time executive Unruly positions of CEO, CSO (Scott) and CTO (Matt), and will be taking up advisory roles on the Unruly Board.
As you can imagine, after 12 exhilarating years of building a global business and challenging the norms of adtech at every step, we are looking forward to handing the baton to our highly experienced and talented Exec team, whose ambitious vision for Unruly 2020 will ensure that we continue to deliver wow for advertisers and take the lead on transforming advertising for the better, as well as upholding the Unruliness you have all come to expect! As part of the transition, I have made some exciting internal promotions, with Steve Hayes taking on the CTO role, Ken Suh stepping into the role of COO and Louise Tullin becoming CMO.
Scott and Matt will be focused on handover until the end of 2017 and will be taking up Board responsibilities with immediate effect to provide strategic guidance for the Company going forward. I’ll be here until the end of March 2018 as we search for a programmatic superstar to take up the role of Unruly CEO. From April 1, 2018, I’ll take up the role of Chair of the Unruly Board (and will also be stopping by for Friday beers no doubt!).
I know I speak for all three of us when I say that it has been a privilege and a pleasure to play our part in the growth of such an incredible company. There are far too many highlights to mention, but here are a few that really make us smile:
- Flashmobbing the launch event for London’s Tech City with a silent pillow fight (flashmobs were a “thing” back then);
- Nyan cats, Harlem shakes, IceBucket challenges, T-shirts that wink and smile;
- Running the best and most effective XP product development team in the world (fact!);
- Making it into the Guinness Book of World Records — twice! Once for Evian Roller Babies in 2009 and again for Dove Real Beauty Sketches in 2013;
- Raising a Series A and acquiring a brilliant German company called ShareIfYouLike, which catapulted our DE business to the next level and brought an incredible team into the business;
- Watching our Ops team win award after award for delivering the most awesome social video campaigns on the planet;
- Seeing 90% of all Unruly views delivered on comScore 1000 sites, including 43 News titles such as The Wall Street Journal, The Sun, Sunday Times Driving, News.com.au, The Daily Telegraph and The New York Post;
- #SharingTheLove with numerous pro-bono campaigns, consultancy for good causes and charity-matching programme for all Unrulies;
- Being acquired by News exactly 2 years ago in one of UK adtech’s biggest success stories. For Unruly, the deal led to investment in UnrulyX and has turboboosted programmatic revenues beyond all expectations. It also made the Future Home a reality, providing investment for an unforgettable experience that’s wowing advertisers and placing Unruly at the forefront of marketing innovation.
Above all, we’re proud of the incredible global team of Unruly PANDAS. It’s a long time since we were 3 people in a leaky-roofed office in London’s East End, before it was Tech City (and even before it was Silicon Roundabout). There are 300 of us now, and whenever I visit any Unruly office, it’s clear how hard Unrulies everywhere work to #DeliverWow and #ShareTheLove with colleagues, clients and the wider community.
For those of you who know us well, you’ll also know we’re not ones to look back in nostalgia. One of the secrets to Unruly’s success is our willingness to embrace and inspire change, and now more than ever there is so much to look forward to in the business, so many new opportunities to seize and so many more successes still to come! Over the last 2 years, we’ve generated exponential growth in programmatic video revenues and we’ve built a first-class global leadership team to take the company forward.
We have a phenomenal premium media footprint, highly viewable formats and a unique first-party data offering that is truly Unruly, bringing emotional intelligence to programmatic video advertising. We also have the premium media platform and passionate support of News Corp globally. When you combine all these ingredients with the strength of our values and the fierce determination of Unrulies around the world, you have a company with unlimited potential for innovation and impact, where new trails will be blazed and the best is yet to come. Each and every one of you has a critical part to play in encouraging and empowering each other to do your best work and we’re looking forward to cheering you on and contributing in our new roles.
Onwards and upwards!
Sarah, Scott and Matt