When he starts March 17, Rode faces the challenge of recapturing a market panache that has been lost by the pioneering Web site measurement and auditing firm. At the same time, however, he inherits a company that has managed to hold onto key accounts despite management turmoil and complaints of lousy service.
I/Pro now runs two lines of business crucial for Web publishers that sell ads. One is to count the number of visitors to pages within Web sites because advertisers are charged based on how many times their banners are seen. I/Pro's auditing business verifies counts kept by the sites themselves or by other measurement firms.
In August, I/Pro began a series of layoffs that cut its rolls from 108 to 50 today. Mark Ashida, brought in early last year to run day-to-day operations, stepped down in December under fire over handling of the downsizing. Founder Ariel Poler in September withdrew from daily operations but remains on the board.
Interim CEO Woody Hobbs, a former Charles Schwab chief technology officer originally brought in as a consultant to streamline back-office operations, has automated many functions and cut the backlog of reports from months to weeks.
"We will be introducing new services, and the emphasis will be on comparative analysis of classes of Web sites," Rode said. "That is very, very important because there are a lot of apples-and-oranges comparisons."
The company is also developing a service to detect the demographic characteristics of site visitors--the Holy Grail of Web marketers. "Now we're looking to hire at a number of spots," Rode said.
One is to head sales and marketing, a position being vacated by senior vice president Bob Ivins, one of I/Pro's first five employees. Ivins will join NetROI, an Internet market research firm.
In picking Rode, I/Pro's board opted for a technologist with a strong background in operations, rather than a CEO from a market research or advertising background. That makes the choice of Ivins's successor a strategically important move.
Rode said I/Pro counts 16 of the top 20 ad-supported Web sites as clients, and the company contends that its customers garner 80 percent of Web ad revenue.
"Customers will see a level of professionalism from I/Pro that departs from the last 18 months and will set standards for the industry," vowed Rode, who had been senior vice president for core technology at Tibco, a division of Reuters that provides real-time financial data to brokerages and other clients.