IAC announced yesterday a management shake up that sees Ask.com CEO Jim Lanzone leaving the company. Jim Safka, who will retain his position as CEO of IAC’s investment arm, Primal Ventures, will be taking over as Ask.com boss. Lanzone is going to Redpoint Ventures, a VC firm where he’ll be entrepreneur-in-residence, but during his time at Ask.com he led forward-thinking initiatives, like privacy-protecting AskEraser. And it looks like Safka is ready to take over. From the press release:
Mr. Safka, 39, served as CEO of Match.com from 2004 to 2006. Under his leadership, the company grew revenue and operating income before amortization at an annual rate of 25% and 52% respectively. Today, Match.com has more than 15 million members in 35 countries…
“Jim Lanzone was the principal executive responsible for Ask.com’s turnaround over the last two years. His passion for innovation and his every day dedication to the business and its people have been everything anyone could ask for,” said Mr. Diller. “He is a superb executive and leader and I’m hopeful we can be associated in the future.”
Silicon Alley Insider reported what sounded like frustration about Ask.com’s relative lack of market share from IAC head Barry Diller when he spoke at a press conference Tuesday. Diller said, “We certainly have not bitten an inch out of the hide of Google…I’ve been daunted by the progress of that.” Indeed, Diller rightfully noted that the challenge Ask.com faces is getting users to give it a chance. Could Safka’s Match.com experience help find a way to convert Google users?
It’s clear from the rest of Diller’s statements during Tuesday’s press conference that IAC is aiming to make Ask.com its crown jewel. So 2008 could very well be the year that Ask.com proves it’s the little engine that could.