Widget Firm Names ValueClick Vet Yovanno to CEO Spot

Less than a month after securing an $11 million venture capital infusion, social networking widget and content sharing platform Gigya has snagged former ValueClick COO David Yovanno as its new CEO.

The 37-year-old former U.S. Navy officer, who joined ValueClick in 2000 as one of that company’s first employees, said he felt a “strong chemistry” with Gigya executives, including co-founder and former CEO Eyal Magen.

“There was really no impetus in leaving ValueClick other than the opportunity at Gigya,” said Yovanno, who said there are parallels between Gigya now and ValueClick eight years ago. For one, he said he joined ValueClick a month before the company went public and right before the Internet bubble burst.

“We came out (with the IPO) on a Friday. Our stock went to $21 and the market basically fell apart over the weekend,” recalled Yovanno. “In a few months, we were down to $2 or $3. We were one of the last companies to make it out [before startup funding evaporated]. We’d raised $100 million.”

The comparisons to the current economic situation can’t be ignored, and Yovanno asserted Gigya was likely “one of the last” young companies to get VC money before investors started closing their wallets. “Gigya is well-funded,” said Yovanno. “Access to cash for Gigya is a non-issue. What’s more important is that we have a sustainable model here.”

Gigya’s publisher and advertiser clients include CNET, DoubleClick, Electronic Arts, Toyota and Walmart.

Yovanno said advertisers are “so hungry to figure out social media marketing” and they’re not satisfied with the results of search and display ads. He cited a recent Jack Meyers report that said online video, widget and social-net advertising will grow 70 percent next year while display will “stagnate.”

While Yovanno is optimistic about Gigya’s ability to thrive despite the economic turmoil, he said he expects to see many startups “with no value” go out of business. He also believes there will be significant withdrawals by large, established Internet companies such as Yahoo.

“They’re going to be pulling back and innovation is going to be stifled,” predicted Yovanno. “But start-ups like Gigya, that offer real value, will innovate and outpace the rest of the industry by very significant amounts in terms of growth-rate.”

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