New CEO Jeff Glass on Skyhook’s Future and Leaving Bain Capital Ventures

12/7/12Follow @gthuang

The saga of Skyhook is continuing under a new chief executive.

Earlier this week, the Boston mobile software firm said it has appointed Jeff Glass as CEO, succeeding founder and longtime chief Ted Morgan.

Skyhook started in 2003 and helped pioneer location-positioning technology for mobile phones using Wi-Fi signals, GPS, and cellular networks. Its software has been deployed in millions of devices made by Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Dell, and others. But the competitive landscape took a nasty turn in 2010, when Apple and Google started pushing their own in-house location technologies into new devices.

In September of that year, Skyhook filed a pair of crucial lawsuits against Google over the search and advertising giant’s intellectual property and business practices. Those suits are still ongoing. In early 2011, Morgan told me Skyhook was “probably in the first or second inning of a [legal] fight with a company that wants to drag it out as long as possible.”

That’s never good news for a small, innovative company—but Morgan insisted Skyhook’s core strategy around location software was “more sound than ever.” He added, “Google is the only competitor. We own all the intellectual property around it.” [Update: Skyhook filed a new lawsuit against Google in September 2012 alleging infringement on nine U.S. geolocation-related patents. But the first patent trial won't even start until August 2013 at the earliest---Eds.]

Meantime, Skyhook has continued to work to get its software onto new devices, through app developers and other partnerships. A quick check of its funding history shows it has raised $16.8 million from CommonAngels, Bain Capital Ventures, Nokia, Intel, and others, but nothing since 2007. Now, with Morgan stepping down, the company is clearly entering a new phase. (Morgan didn’t respond to a request for comment, but the company says he will remain on its board of directors.)

What does this all mean? Is Skyhook looking to be sold or raise a big round? Is the company in any trouble?

I caught up with incoming Skyhook CEO Jeff Glass this week to ask him about it. Glass (pictured at left) is an interesting story by himself. He’s the former CEO of m-Qube, the mobile software startup bought by Verisign in 2006. He then joined Bain Capital Ventures and has served on the boards of BzzAgent, BuyWithMe, blip.tv, Linkable Networks, and other startups. For now, at least, he’s leaving the world of venture capital, and diving back into CEO-ing.

Here’s a transcript of our e-mail exchange, slightly edited for clarity:

Xconomy: Can you talk about the reasons behind your move? Why leave Bain Capital Ventures—is it contracting?

Jeff Glass: As you know, I have had a duel interest in both being an entrepreneur and investing in entrepreneurs for a long time. When Ted Morgan decided he wanted to bring in some fresh leadership … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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