Gemvara CEO Matt Lauzon Steps Down: Thoughts on Startup Legacy and Future
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coming up short on the aggressive projections it needs to satisfy its VC owners. Lauzon wouldn’t comment on specifics, except to say revenues were growing very well.
In any case, the move toward more senior leadership has been in the making for a while. Lauzon has brought on several accomplished veterans in the past year or so. He hired Brian Kalma as chief experience officer; Kalma was one of the first 10 employees of Zappos and also worked at Gilt Groupe. And the company hired Janet Holian to run operations and marketing; she was an 11-year veteran of Vistaprint, serving as president of the company’s European business, executive vice president, and chief marketing officer.
It sounds prescient, but back in February, I asked Lauzon how he had stuck with the CEO slog of managing employees and VCs—the endless meetings and fundraising—all while being a single guy in his mid-20s. He denied that it was a slog, for starters. For him, he said it’s an “opportunity to fundamentally change an industry,” and to “keep pioneering amazing experiences on the Web.” (The “single guy” part is apparently about to change too; Lauzon just got engaged to a Gemvara employee, though I haven’t heard the ring story yet.)
Unlike a lot of business leaders, Lauzon gives the impression of wanting to be understood for who he really is, though his schedule doesn’t really allow it. Perhaps this is a function of being lonely at the top, at a young age.
“I know I tweet too much,” he said. “I would rather everything be upfront and clear than try to hide things.” As he put it, there is a “massive trend toward authenticity” online. Where that impacts Gemvara, he says, is that “brand and culture are becoming the same thing on the Web.”
Lauzon was non-committal today about his future, except to say he’s evaluating a bunch of opportunities. “It’s very likely I will start something new and a couple of Gemvara’s venture investors have expressed interest in backing me, but I have also received interest from other companies and venture firms about other roles. I have loved every aspect of building Gemvara thus far,” he says. “I think I have at least one more company in me.”
I’ve heard all sorts of rumors about what he might do next, and some involve leaving the Boston area to pursue new ventures, which, as I alluded to in the beginning, would be a big loss for the local startup community. To that point he says, “I most likely will stay here, and would love to, but there are definitely some exciting options emerging elsewhere and I am putting everything on the table at this point.”
As far as Gemvara is concerned, it’s always tough when a founder leaves, but this is clearly the next stage in the company’s quest to go big or go home.
One of the last things Lauzon told me about was the mark he wants to leave on the business community. I found this to be one of the most interesting things about his character—and I imagine it’s a big part of why he is popular among the younger set (that and raising $50 million-plus). Lauzon said one of his guiding tenets is, “How many people can I help get to where they want to go in their life?”