Jay Sullivan, once one of the more public faces of Firefox browser maker Mozilla and for a while its interim CEO, has surfaced again: he has joined local commerce and daily deals site Groupon as its SVP of consumer product, overseeing all tech products such as Groupon’s mobile apps and its website. He will be based out of Palo Alto and will report to Groupon’s CTO Sri Viswanath.
His appointment is coming in a pair: Groupon is also announcing Carol Campagnolo as its new SVP of human resources.
“Carol and Jay are incredible complements to our strong Groupon senior management team,” said Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky in a statement. “Adding their expertise will help ensure that we have the right people and technologies in place to take our marketplace and company to the next level.”
Sullivan is the latest in what has become a revolving door of sorts for heads of product at Groupon.
Among his recent predecessors: Jeff Holden, who joined Uber to head up product last year; and Parker Barille, who was at Groupon for less than two months (and is currently advising different companies), leaving in October 2014. This, however, may be nothing compared to when the company’s co-founder and CEO Andrew Mason colorfully left the company.
The many executive changes at Groupon (others have included the recent departure of its SVP of global partnerships, the former HR head decamping to Twitter, and its head of mobile leaving) speaks to a bigger challenge: the company saw rapid growth as the king of daily deals — where users were emailed regular discounts for select goods and services.
But as that business growth has slowed down (although still growing; in Q4 gross billings were up 32% year-on-year with revenue up 24% YoY), Groupon has been repositioning itself as a platform for local commerce — targeting offers and listings at people based on more precise locations; and also offering a suite of services (accounting, payments, and more) for physical small retailers to help them transition into the world of online and mobile sales.
The fact that Groupon has been doing this in the midst of being a publicly traded business, and all of the demands of reporting as a result of that, has made the transformation especially difficult at times.
In that regard, Sullivan is joining at an interesting time for the company, which has a very different set of challenges from those faced at Mozilla. The latter has been seeing a gradual decline of usage of Firefox largely at the expense of Google’s Chrome for several years now, and positions itself as a foundation to Groupon’s square focus on profits and shareholder value.
Sullivan himself has an interesting background. At Mozilla, where he worked from 2007 to 2014, he went through a succession of different roles including the foundation’s SVP of product until ending up as interim CEO sandwiched between the lengthy reign of Gary Kovacs and the very short and controversial one of Brendan Eich. Before this, he co-founded a company called PhoneSpots (formerly PocketThis), which was acquired by Call Genie, Inc. in 2007.