Did-it Hires New CEO Away from Ask Jeeves

Search engine marketing firm Did-it.com named a new CEO today, tapping former MaxOnline exec Bill Wise. Wise takes the reins from co-founder Kevin Lee, who moves into the executive chairman role.

“With our lead solidifying within the SEM community, we needed to build out a top notch team that can take us to the next level,” Lee said. “You can only stretch an executive team so thin.”

Lee spends much of his time evangelizing the SEM industry. He is a frequent speaker at industry events, writes a column for ClickZ Experts, and is on the board of the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO). He also spends time each week working with key client accounts.

“We went through an exhaustive search for someone who has a strong background in interactive marketing as well as strong operational skills. Bill Wise has been in the industry for a long time. He’s really the perfect candidate that we were looking for to fill out the team,” Lee said.

Most recently, Wise was head of strategy and integration for Ask Jeeves’ sales division, AJinteractive. Prior to that, he was chief operating officer for MaxOnline, which was acquired by Ask Jeeves in April 2004. Wise also held executive positions with DoubleClick Media before MaxOnline acquired it in July 2002.

This is the second high-level executive appointment in as many months for Did-it. The company hired former Wahlstrom Interactive search guru Kevin Ryan to be executive VP of client services in early January. The two join an executive team of Lee, co-founding partner and COO Dave Pasternak, and CTO Craig Wood.

Wise has been tasked by Lee with facilitating the continued growth of Did-it, and extending Did-it’s lead as a search marketing firm both in the technology, operations and strategic areas.

“Did-it clients deserve an unfair advantage in the search engine marketing wars and Bill Wise will make sure that Did-it delivers. Further, Bill’s relationships with both the financial and media world make him a valuable asset to the company,” Lee said.

Wise’s finance background and public-company experience could lead some to speculate that this move was made in preparation for venture capital funding or to ready Did-it for an acquisition. But Lee said that Did-it has turned down venture capital funding several times in the past, and does not intend to take any now. He would not rule out the potential for Did-it to be acquired, though he said there are no immediate plans in that direction.

“We don’t need any money. People have been trying to give us money for a long time. We’re lucky enough to be in a position where we don’t need to take it,” Lee said. “But if you look at what’s happening, companies that are reaching a certain size are getting acquired. We have no plans as far as acquisitions go, but we do have plans to grow very large.”

In general, there are a few valid reasons for a company founder to step away from day-to-day operations and bring in a more seasoned executive, said Seth Alpert, managing director of AdMedia Partners, an investment banking and strategic advisory firm specializing in the advertising and marketing services, media and publishing, and interactive industries.

“It could be as simple as they need the help of a professional manager. Or, they could be interested in having someone who is familiar with dealing with investors that could help them raise money or achieve a better outcome in a sale somewhere down the line,” Alpert said.

Rival search marketing firm iProspect was sold for $50 million to UK-based Aegis Group in December.

“From an M&A [mergers and acquisitions] perspective and a funding perspective, there’s a tremendous amount of attention on search marketing right now. There are investors who are actively seeking companies to invest in, and there are buyers who are actively seeking companies to acquire,” Alpert said. “Did-it is well-regarded, and has a well-recognized brand name, so I’m sure they’re getting calls.”

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