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Chartbeat CEO Resigns, Says He’s Looking For a New Challenge

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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 01: Tony Haile speaks onstage at the Buyer Beware! panel during AWXI on October 1, 2014 in New York CityAndrew Toth 2014 Getty Images

Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile, who joined the online-analytics company not long after it was born inside New York-based incubator and venture fund Betaworks in 2009, announced on Monday morning that he has decided to resign as chief executive. Haile says he recommended to the board of directors that COO John Saroff replace him, and the board has agreed to make Saroff the company’s new CEO.

The analytics provider, which was spun off from Betaworks as an independent company in 2010, sells a service to online publishers (including Time Inc., which owns Fortune) that tracks the behavior of readers and website visitors. It not only tracks who visits and from where, but also how long they spend on a page, and even how far down a page they get before leaving. Chartbeat’s competitors include Google Analytics, Omniture and Parsely.

Haile said in an interview with Fortune that his departure has nothing to do with the health or future potential of the company. Chartbeat is privately held, and therefore doesn’t release financial reports, but both Haile and Saroff said it is healthy and growing strongly, and just opened for business in its 65th country. “Revenues have tripled since I joined in 2013,” Saroff said.

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According to Haile, who before joining Chartbeat was a member of an Arctic expedition as well as an around-the-world yacht race (his Twitter handle is @arctictony), the desire to move on from Chartbeat and try something new has been building for some time. He says he will remain a senior advisor to Saroff as CEO and to the board.

“Over the last year, I’ve really been missing the early phases of company building,” Haile said. “So after much thought, I decided to resign and get back to building new things again.” The former Chartbeat CEO said that he felt comfortable leaving because the company has “an incredible executive team” and that he told the board he was confident Chartbeat had the talent internally to handle a transition.

Haile said that Chartbeat’s data-science team and engineering are “doing a kick-ass job, and so I thought this is the time for me to let go, to leave the company in capable hands, and go and build something new.” Haile said Chartbeat recently raised $15 million in financing and still has the majority of those funds in the bank, and is “growing nicely.”

“This is just me saying, after seven years, that I need to move on,” Haile said. “With my background in things like polar expeditions and around-the-world yacht racing, my life has always involved a certain amount of risk, it’s kind of in my DNA. And right now Chartbeat is doing great, but that means a lot of the risks, a lot of the adventure isn’t there in quite the same way.”

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Haile said he doesn’t know what exactly he will do once he leaves Chartbeat, apart from planning a visit to Japan. “I’ve had six million ideas of what I want to do, so I need to work that out,” he said. Josh Stein, a partner at DFJ and a Chartbeat board member since 2012, told Fortune that Haile’s decision to move on was his own, and that the board recognized his desire to start something new. “I think the way he’s handled it has been really admirable,” Stein said.

In addition to running Chartbeat’s business, Haile has also been a major force pushing for new metrics to measure the value of online readers. With many publishers and advertisers still focusing on page views and other antiquated measurements, Haile has tried to get the industry as a whole to pay more attention to metrics that show actual engagement like the amount of time spent on an article.

In a personal blog post, Haile said he built the company around the idea that “if journalists were to see clearly, they would need metrics that usefully reflect reality.” So Chartbeat oriented its products around the idea that publishers should care about audience more than traffic, he said, and created new metrics like engaged time that “endeavored to reward content that did not just attract users but kept them.”