Brian Lesser, the former head of AT&T Xandr advanced advertising unit, has been named chairman and CEO of InfoSum, a customer data platform.
Nicholas Halstead, who had been CEO, will work with Lesser as founder and CTO, focusing on engineering, strategic customer relationships and the vision for customer data. Lesser has been on the InfoSum board and was named executive chairman in September.
Lesser left AT&T when he was passed over for the CEO job at WarnerMedia. Xandr was folded into WarnerMedia and parts of it are reportedly for sale.
“I’m incredibly excited by the limitless potential of InfoSum and its vision to connect the world’s data,” said Lesser. “In any environment where consumer experience would be made better through seamless data collaboration – whether that is content consumption, gaming, advertising, healthcare, financial services, or a range of other consumer products and services, InfoSum will enable better, personalized, more-relevant experiences, through the non-movement of data.”
InfoSum raised $15 million in Series A funding earlier this year led by Upfront Ventures and IA Ventures and supported by strategic partners Ascential, Akamai, Experian, ITV and Xandr.
"I watched Nick build high-volume data sharing with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn so when he told me he invented a new privacy-first database I immediately invested," said Mark Suster, managing partner of Upfront Ventures. "Now having an industry luminary like Brian Lesser join as CEO is huge validation for us. He oversaw data transformations at WPP and AT&T and can bring InfoSum to the enterprise."
Before joining AT&T to build its advanced advertising business, Lesser was board chair of Invidi Technologies and CEO, North America for WPP's GroupM.
Here is a statement from Lesser, upon taking his new post:
I am excited to be joining InfoSum as Chairman and CEO.
Over the course of my career I have had the opportunity to drive significant change in mature industries through the development of new technologies and new businesses. Programmatic advertising fundamentally changed media investment and customer acquisition. Addressable television brought relevance and personalization to the broadest and most-popular medium for advertisers. And converged video – across set-top boxes, connected televisions, mobile devices, and browsers – allowed marketers to engage audiences wherever they happened to be consuming content.
All of these innovations were necessitated by rapidly-changing consumer behaviors. And all of these innovations were, of course, grounded in data and technology. We live in a completely digital and data-driven world. Whether we are shopping, banking, watching, playing, socializing, working, exercising, learning, or just relaxing – our experiences are personalized, optimized, and connected. Data has become the lifeblood of every dominant company in every industry. Data produces insights, which not only drive new products and new experiences, it increasingly determines our health, well-being, and happiness.
Not surprisingly, customer-centric companies cannot get enough access to data, which increasingly comes from data partnerships. A content creator may partner with a content distributor to learn more about viewing behaviors and engagement across devices. A consumer products company may partner with a retailer to learn more about product preferences and consumption. Healthcare companies must increasingly partner with pharmaceutical companies, universities, and governments. Financial services companies must partner with each other to reduce fraud and combat financial crimes.
There is technology and infrastructure to enable these highly-sensitive transfers of customer data between parties. Unfortunately, the vast majority of this infrastructure is made up of a series of intermediaries which move petabytes of personal data between databases. This movement of data introduces security risks, trust issues, low fidelity, operational delays, and high costs. The marketing and advertising business largely uses intermediaries to ‘match’ identity between two parties – doing their best to anonymize data and protect it from bad actors. This industry has also created technologies to act as a match ‘key’ between parties such as cookies or email addresses.
Existing ‘data onboarding’ infrastructure is doing the job for now. But legacy technology, processes, and norms will be increasingly tested by the sheer magnitude of data proliferation, swelling regulation from governments, deprecation of identifiers such as IDFA and cookies, rising walled gardens of media and content, and heightened privacy concerns from consumers.
So why am I so excited about InfoSum?
InfoSum has invented a better way for data-centric companies to collaborate, learn from each other, create better experiences, and protect their consumer data. We call it the ‘non-movement of data,’ because the InfoSum platform never transfers a single data point between parties. Yet, our platform enables partners to create a ‘customer data network,’ within which data can be shared without ever being transferred. Parties within a customer data network own their own identity. They can choose any customer attribute to ‘match’ against, and they can permission each party based on commercial, legal, or regulatory considerations.
We are a fast-growing company based in the US and the UK. Our Founder and CTO, Nick Halstead, has successfully architected some of the largest and most sophisticated data platforms in the world. Our incredibly-talented engineering team developed our patented technology for over four years before taking any product to market. Our go-to-market team has vast and deep experience in data-driven industries ranging from banking, to healthcare, to gaming and content. And our customers, so far, are early adopters and mavericks - determined to own their own identity and develop new products and businesses.
In my career I have been a part of technology businesses that have completely changed industries. I’ve never been more excited, or more optimistic about a company or a platform, than I am about InfoSum. Please contact me directly if you would like to learn more. You will be hearing much more from us soon!
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.