Leadpages co-founder Clay Collins will hand his job as chief executive to John Tedesco, a veteran of the Twin Cities tech scene who has served as its chief operating officer for the past two years.
Collins will remain chairman of Leadpages and continue to be involved in product and strategic development at the company, one of the most successful start-ups in the Twin Cities this decade.
The transition, being announced Thursday morning and effective next Tuesday, is a major change for the Minneapolis software-as-a-service firm, which grew from a two-person start-up in 2013 into a $25 million company with 170 employees and a major presence in the business of digital marketing tools.
In a joint interview, Collins and Tedesco said the decision to make the change evolved over recent months and came after more than three years of working together. Tedesco, a former top executive at Sports Ngin (now SportsEngine by NBC Sports) and founder of a three software companies, began consulting with Collins and Leadpages co-founder Tracy Simmons in 2014.
“As far as I can tell, he was the most sought-after start-up leader in the Twin Cities,” Collins said. “That’s how I saw it when we first engaged with him.” They brought him on as an executive the following year.
“Once John was here, and proceeded to turn around every major thing that needed to be turned around, it was very apparent that he needed to be COO,” Collins said. “And once he was COO, he essentially was running the business. You can say whatever you want to me and I’m probably going to ask John what he thinks. ... This whole process has been organic.”
Tedesco said, “We’ve gotten to respect each other’s strengths and complement each other’s weaknesses. That is the best kind of transition, where you feel like you truly know a person through and through.”
The company, which has raised $27 million in venture capital, offers online tools for building websites that generate sales and sales leads. With hundreds of templates, its main product is now used by about 50,000 businesses around the world as the first page on their websites.
Last year, Leadpages expanded with the acquisition of Drip Inc., a maker of marketing automation tools. It has attracted top executives from firms such as GoDaddy, Intuit and Vegas.com in recent months. Tedesco said the company aims to grow to around $100 million in annual recurring revenue over the next three to four years.
“Our goal is to create marketing technology that is available to small- and medium-sized businesses that levels the playing field for them with larger companies,” Collins said.
He said he believed his strengths were in conceiving, building and marketing a product and raising venture capital. “There’s a dichotomy between building the product and building the business that builds the product,” Collins said.
“Where we are now is so much further than I could have ever envisioned, both when we started the company and even up to 18 months after we had founded the company,” Collins also said. “We are so far out into uncharted waters that we’re past the point of a lot of speculation that I had early on.”