Tapjoy CEO Shah resigns, ex-Disney digital chief Wadsworth grabs reins
Tapjoy President and CEO Mihir Shah has abruptly resigned his post, with the mobile advertising and monetization firm naming former Walt Disney Interactive Media President Steve Wadsworth as his replacement.
TechCrunch reports that Mark Leschley, chairman of the Tapjoy board, introduced Wadsworth during an all-hands meeting Tuesday. Wadsworth--also a member of the Tapjoy board--exited Disney in late 2010 after a 17-year stint with the family entertainment giant. During his time at the helm Wadsworth steered the Disney brand into the mobile segment and oversaw the launch of two failed MVNOs, Mobile ESPN and Disney Mobile (both introduced in partnership with Sprint Nextel [NYSE:S]) as well as the acquisitions of gaming startups Tapulous and Playdom.
Shah joined Tapjoy in Sept. 2010, supervising the firm's transition from the Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) platform to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android. Tapjoy enables users to earn virtual rewards in exchange for installing partner applications, watching sponsored videos or subscribing to services. Its platform now spans more than 73,000 apps. After Apple cracked down on incentivized app installs in April 2011, Tapjoy turned its focus to Android and exploring HTML5-based options.
Although the Tapjoy model has drawn fire from some media quarters, Chris Akhavan, the company's vice president and general manager of partnerships and strategic promotions, recently told FierceDeveloper that its platform is designed to avoid the disruptions inherent in traditional in-app advertising approaches. Akhavan describes what Tapjoy offers as "premium content" that gives users a reason for getting involved with an ad.
"There's a lot of inaccurate information out there about the model," he said. "This notion of just generating a lot of volume to get up in the charts? That is very much a two-years-ago thing. The model has evolved beyond a pay-per-install model to something that really has the user's attention. The key thing here is that everyone in the equation is benefiting."
Tapjoy has raised more than $70 million from investors including J.P. Morgan Asset Management, North Bridge Venture Partners, InterWest Partners and D.E. Shaw Ventures. TechCrunch states the company has been in M&A talks with several larger gaming firms including Japanese social gaming giant GREE, although no deal has materialized. Given existing investment in Tapjoy, a reasonable takeover bid would likely total somewhere in the range of $500 million.
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