Is Monetate going through an identity crisis? - Technical.ly Philly

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Aug. 10, 2015 9:29 am

Is Monetate going through an identity crisis?

Nearly a dozen engineers have left the company in 2015, including longtime engineering leads. CEO Lucinda Duncalfe says it's “a natural and healthy part of the maturation of the company” as it moves out of startup phase and toward a potential IPO.

Changes are afoot at Monetate.

(Photo by Zack Seward)

Several engineers in leadership positions recently left Monetate, including Senior VP of Delivery and Engineering Tom Janofsky and VP of Product Development Bruce Ernst. At least nine other engineers left in 2015.

Janofsky, who is looking for his next venture, declined to comment for this story and Ernst, who now works at Ambler’s LeadiD, did not respond to a request for comment.

The move comes nearly a year after Lucinda Duncalfe was named CEO of the Conshocken e-marketing company, replacing founder David Brussin. In an interview with Technical.ly, Duncalfe said the staffing changes at Monetate were not indicative of a problem. Rather, they’re “a natural and healthy part of the maturation of the company,” she said.

This is a company that’s moving from the startup to the growth phase, she said, adding that she was brought in to steer the company through that change.

Luke Walker, Monetate’s longtime senior director of engineering who recently left for Center City startup PerPay, struck a similar tone, though he described the transition as rocky.

“They’re going through some growing pains right now,” he said. “It’s kind of like puberty. It’s really awkward.”

Walker, who was Monetate’s second employee and did much of the engineering hiring over the years, said the company is working to figure out this central question: Are we a startup or are we a corporation?

That kind of soul-searching is inherently awkward, Walker said, and drives people to consider where they want to work. He stressed that Monetate isn’t necessarily a worse place to work than it was seven years ago — it’s just different.

For Walker, he realized he wanted to be back in an early-stage environment, much like Monetate in its early days, when he first joined the team. That seems to be the case with some of the other engineering leads who are leaving Monetate, like engineering directors Karl Shouler, Elise Wei and Thomas Chandler, who are all moving to local early-stage startups.

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Duncalfe called it a “wonderful thing” for engineers to leave one local startup for another.

“This is what’s supposed to happen,” she said, adding, “This is how the startup community gets going.”

She also mentioned that the company was hiring.

Monetate employs 200, with about three-quarters of that workforce in Conshohocken. The company downsized dramatically: shortly before Duncalfe was named CEO, a spokeswoman said the company aimed to be at 285 by the end of 2014. After Duncalfe joined the company last August, she executed a round of layoffs.

Among the engineering leadership roles who left this summer:

  • Tom Janofsky
  • Bruce Ernst
  • Engineering director Elise Wei is now at Doylestown-based Brief Media.
  • Engineering director Thomas Chandler is also at Brief Media.
  • Engineering director Karl Shouler is now at Center City’s Vistar Media.
  • Senior director of engineering Luke Walker is going to join Center City’s PerPay.

Other engineers that left in 2015 include David Riley, Anne Maiale, Arthur Gorka and Brett Statman. Statman and Maiale both joined Nuix, a cybersecurity firm in Jenkintown.

In other staffing changes, Brussin, the company’s founder and chairman, became Chief Product Officer this summer. Duncalfe said this was part of a decision to invest heavily in product.

When reached for comment, Chandler said: “I left partly because of the incredibly exciting position I’m in now, but in a lot of ways Monetate was no longer the company I loved.” He declined to comment further.

Two engineers who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Monetate had changed in the last 12-18 months and that they weren’t happy under Duncalfe’s leadership. One spoke of morale vacillating, as engineers left one by one, and of a difficult relationship between the product engineering and product management teams.

“When Tom [Janofsky, SVP of Delivery and Engineering] resigned, there was a definite mood shift across the product engineering team,” the engineer wrote. “Without him, they were essentially orphaned in the organization. The head of delivery engineering temporarily took over, but the sense of being a team that wasn’t protected from the demands of product management remained.”

Duncalfe said she is still focused on taking the company public. Not in the immediate future, per se, but “that’s what we’re building toward,” she said.

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