Stephen R. Collins, a veteran marketing- and advertising-technology executive and venture capitalist, has replaced Lucinda Duncalfe as chief executive of Monetate.
Monetate, the profitable, 150-employee (down from 220 in 2014), Conshohocken-based retailing-software maker that calls itself “the leader in personalization software for consumer-facing brands,” hired True Search of Haddonfield to coordinate the boss-hunt earlier this year. Duncalfe, one of the Philly small-tech scene’s most-visible CEOs, told Monetate chairman Dave Brussin that after two decades running Philly start-ups and tech companies, she plans to move back home to Brooklyn with her husband, Russell Holt, who works for Gabriel Weinberg’s Paoli-based search site DuckDuckGo, and the couple’s teenage daughters.
Brussin was Monetate’s cofounder, with David Bookspan, who now runs Amino Pay.
Duncalfe headed the company since 2014, presiding over layoffs and a reorganization that the company said boosted product offerings and sales to companies including QVC, the North Face, Timberland, and Carnival Cruise Line.

If Duncalfe skippered a turnaround, Collins' job is to reward its long-term investors (led by Boston-based OpenView and Josh Kopelman's First Round Capital and including Philadelphia's Robin Hood Ventures, among others) by scaling it up.

Brussin and the board are "obviously looking for the company to grow more rapidly than it has in recent years," he told me in a phone interview from France, where his youngest just completed high school, leaving her parents free to move home to the U.S. Collins, who briefly lived in North Wales as a child, said he and his wife, Robin, plan to live in Philadelphia, where he hopes to bike to work on the Schuylkill trails.

Collins was recruited to apply for the Monetate job by New York venture capitalist Mitchell Green, who introduced Collins to Adam Marcus, partner at OpenView, who took an active role securing Duncalfe’s replacement. Monetate raised $20 million in the early 2010s from venture investors but aborted plans for an IPO around the time Duncalfe came on board. Collins said Duncalfe was critical in closing the deal for him: “We really got along. I understood her operating approach.” 

What does Monetate hope to offer its big retail customers that other retail-software providers don't? Customer preference data, its early product, "is now a commodity," Collins said. "What is harder, and what Monetate addresses, is helping you understand what your customers enjoy about their [online] experience. It could be as simple as the colors they prefer to see. It could be the products. It may be dynamic [individual] pricing, though we are not there yet." The goal: "a curated, focused, one-to-one experience, consistently, all the time, for every customer. That's what machine learning and artificial intelligence in online shopping is all about. Monetate's capabilities at present are consistent with that scenario."

Before Monetate, Collins’ most recent full-time gig, from 2015 to 2017, was president and chief financial officer at San Francisco-based Quantcast, a programmatic advertising firm. He was also chief executive at Bazaarvoice in Austin, Moontoast LLC, and Juris, Inc.; chief financial officer at DoubleClick; a globe-trotting expat finance officer for Colgate-Palmolive; and an auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Besides his day job, Collins is active as an angel investor and an operating partner at the Austin investing firm BlackWatch Advisors.

Duncalfe's previous companies included Real Food Works, an organic food-delivery firm that secured backing from former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's StartupPHL Fund. Duncalfe said she merged that firm into Monetate, making the city a minor shareholder in the surviving company, with a small stake in Collins' success and Monetate's eventual IPO or sale at a profitable price.

Duncalfe, a Penn grad, was also a boss at Semprae Laboratories Inc., which hoped to develop a "female Viagra"; TurnTide, sold to Symantec in 2004; and Destiny Software, which set up early websites for her own former employer, SEI Investments, and other Philadelphia-area financial companies.