After running Ripple for around four years and overseeing the company’s growth through around $94 million in financing, CEO Chris Larsen will be stepping down.
Larsen will become executive chairman of the company — a common move in CEO transitions. But COO Brad Garlinghouse, previously CEO of Hightail as well as a former AOL and Yahoo senior executive, will be taking over the role as CEO. Garlinghouse is also a prolific investor, putting money into companies like Vurb (which was acquired by Snapchat for more than $110 million).
As companies grow up and hit a phase where they need to begin scaling rapidly, CEO transitions are not all that uncommon. In this case, Garlinghouse is well-known as an operational executive, and as Ripple’s goals shift more toward bringing on partners and building out its network, Larsen has an opportunity to hand the reins over to someone with experience doing that.
“We’ve definitely transitioned as an industry from, ok, super. interesting technology, where does it fit, I’ll throw out a bunch of ideas,” Larsen said. “Before you know it you can microwave with it. It’s moved from that, and found actual places where it’s solving real world problems. It’s with problems like the underbanked, billions of people getting data but not being able to act on data with that value. It’s about these 2 billion people that are left out of this ability to engage in e-commerce even though they can see the data.”
So, needless to say, Garlinghouse has played many roles and has overseen a wide array of ideas through his time in Silicon Valley (and is, for better or worse, a Jayhawks fan). He joined Ripple in April last year. He’s also particularly well known as a result of a leaked memo he sent around while at Yahoo about spreading the company’s resources too thinly. It was dubbed The Peanut Butter Manifesto, because he compared it to spreading peanut butter across a wide array of areas. And, also, said he hates peanut butter (either as a metaphor or otherwise).
“I think there are a lot of interesting companies, but there aren’t that many companies that can take their little dent in the universe,” Garlinghouse said. “I think what Ripple is doing is not just, hey, how do we enable banks — it’s a broader effort in how can you enable an Internet of Things and connected devices that are economic actors to pass a couple pennies. Today we fundamentally can’t do that in an efficient way unless I’m handing you 2 pennies. Whether you talk about Africa, or underbanked communities, these are all examples where Ripple can change the way society works.”
Ripple’s goal is to try to make it as easy as possible to transfer money between two stores of value. But for now, the process of moving money from one repository to another — especially overseas and for underbanked individuals — has been incredibly difficult. Larsen, during his tenure, hoped to build infrastructure that could make it easy and cheap to transfer money from service to service, or bank to bank — from PayPal to Bank of America, or anything along those lines.
Indeed, as different money-transfer services begin to proliferate, there’s probably going to be a need for a unifying layer. While Venmo might be a popular service in the United States, there’s still a question as to how to effectively move money from someone who uses Venmo as a standard to a different payments service. The notion of a unifying ledger is not a new one, but it’s one that’s transformed Ripple into a full-fledged company.
“PayPal exists because banks are not interoperable, I can’t efficiently pay you $10 unless I’m giving you a $10 bill,” Garlinghouse said. “So we’re all on PayPal and Venmo, I need interoperability on the same ledger. We want to enable interoperability from across networks, then your bank to my bank, or Visa to Alipay.”
For Garlinghouse, much of the time has been spent on planes and on the phone. But during his time as chief operating officer, Ripple has signed on some of the largest banks in the world to use the company’s products — not to mention raising a $55 million financing round.
“Digital assets were thought of being toxic a few years ago, now you’re seeing banks building products around them,” Larsen said. “That’s a big change, we’re just at the beginning of the Internet of value, there’s gonna be tons to do. And you need someone who can scale that.”
Garlinghouse will take over as CEO on January 1