New Decade, New Chapter, New Role
By Jason Tan /
21 Jan 2021
Last week I sent the following note to our team. To our customers, investors, employees, and everyone who’s helped us along the way – thank you. We’re just getting started on our mission to help everyone trust the internet, and the best is yet to come. We’re hiring!
As mentioned this afternoon at Sift Summit, I’m excited to pass the baton to our current President & COO, Marc Olesen, as our new CEO! I’ll remain actively involved as Founder & Executive Chairman.
I’ve had the privilege and honor of serving as Sift’s CEO for almost 10 years. Over that time, my role has changed with each stage of growth. The skills required today are very different from what was needed 5 or 10 years ago. For example, today’s role is much more focused on operating and scaling a 200-person global organization. While I’ve delegated as much of that responsibility as possible to Marc, ultimately I’m still responsible for the business. But the truth is that I’m an entrepreneur at heart. When we were 10 people I was deep in our technology and product and even shipped code. As we’ve scaled our amazing R&D organization, I’ve shifted my focus to managing and leading all of Sift, as I should, but as a result, I’ve lost touch with the ins and outs of product development. I’m at my best when I can get my hands dirty inventing novel technology solutions to challenging customer problems, and I want to go back to doing this. To put it in musical terms, I was born a jazz musician but today’s Sift needs an orchestra conductor as CEO. Neither is better or worse, they’re just different. Marc has proven to be a world-class conductor and this change frees me up to return to jazz. Together we’re going to #WinAsOneTeam and make sweet, sweet music. I’ve contemplated this change for a while, and after discussion with our board, we believe that we’ve built a strong foundation coming out of 2020, and now is the right time.
Marc has helped us scale tremendously since joining us in June 2018. It’s clear that he’s in his element and it’s awesome. He’s brought sustainability, discipline, clarity, focus, and so much more to how we operate, all while exemplifying our cultural values. The results speak for themselves, and this change is simply a recognition of the excellent job he’s already doing. The board and I have full confidence that Marc will #GetSiftDone in our next chapter and continue fortifying our position as the Digital Trust & Safety leaders.
As Executive Chairman of the Board, I’ll help drive alignment between our board, Marc, and our Leadership Team. I’ll also provide input on our long-term strategy and company direction, including annual planning, mergers & acquisitions, capital raises and allocation, and other strategic initiatives. As Founder, later this year I’ll build a small new team at Sift focused on long-term “moonshots”. Our R&D team is already executing on an innovative roadmap that attacks a compelling set of core problems for our customers. The moonshots team will be highly exploratory in nature and will run high-velocity, high-risk experiments to identify and incubate seeds that could bear fruit in several years. Finally, I’ll serve as a resource for Marc as he and the company needs me, e.g. evangelizing Sift externally with customers and recruits, etc.
I love Lao Tzu’s words, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” It makes me so proud and happy to see all that you’re doing on your own. Since our founding, I’ve dreamed for Sift to be an enduring organization that helps everyone trust the internet for decades. By design, such an organization must outlive any individual, and this succession plan is a significant and wonderful milestone on that journey. I’m energized by this change and Marc is thrilled, which also brings me joy. He’s worked hard for this and it’s well-deserved – please join me in congratulating him!
Of the 64 startups in our Summer 2011 Y Combinator class, ten years later just seven of us remain. We’re well into the bonus round of the startup adventure and I feel a deep sense of pride and gratitude for all that we’ve accomplished. It’s been an honor and privilege to serve as Sift’s CEO and now I’m delighted to hand the reins to Marc and get back to doing what I do best. I’ll always bleed Sift and can’t wait to see what we accomplish in our next decade. Thank you all for riding out a tough 2020… let’s be #EverBetter and #GetSiftDone in 2021!!!
Jason Tan is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Sift. Fueled by a passion for building great products and amazing teams, he's also held leadership and engineering roles at BuzzLabs, Optify, and Zillow.