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Ex-Uber exec replaces Masters at enterprise blockchain firm Digital Asset

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Yesterday evening Digital Asset announced that CEO Blythe Masters has requested to step down for personal reasons. She will remain as a board member, strategic advisor and shareholder. The enterprise blockchain firm is best known for its work on the Australian Securities Exchange’s replacement clearing system. It plans to extend its high profile in financial services into other verticals such as healthcare and supply chain. The company has raised more than $110 million with the last round in October 2017.

The fact that Masters is not waiting for a replacement means there’s more to come on this story. She’s a battle-hardened Wall Street executive and moved from JP Morgan to lead Digital Asset as CEO in 2015, a year after its founding.

Silicon Valley executive AG Gangadhar (AG) who joined Digital Asset’s board in April, is now the board Chairman and acting CEO until a permanent CEO is named. Previously, the executive was head of core engineering at Uber during the period of Uber’s sexism troubles.

“Digital Asset has evolved from an ambitious idea to a truly global software engineering firm,” said Masters in a statement. “We are fortunate to have a deep bench of accomplished executives on the management team and Board, including AG, who have the requisite experience to take the company to the next level. Having come to know and trust AG as an advisor and Board member, I am convinced that he brings what’s needed to guide the company through its next phase.”

Mike Bodson, President and CEO of DTCC which is also a client, gave the nod to the outgoing CEO: “On behalf of the Digital Asset Board, I would like to thank Blythe for her leadership and vision, which has propelled the company from a promising startup to a globally recognized leader in DLT.”

Acting CEO

Gangadhar has been actively involved in the company’s engineering and product strategy since joining the board. He spent more than five years each at Microsoft and Google. In the latter case, he was Senior Director of Google Infrastructure & Cloud Engineering. Digital Asset’s was the first blockchain technology to be supported by Google Cloud.

“Blythe has built an impressive foundation with incredible progress to date, helping the company emerge as an industry leader,” said Gangadhar. “I’m honored to lead Digital Asset and work alongside the talented management team during this transition until a new CEO is appointed, at which point I will focus on my responsibilities to lead the Board.”

Gangadhar sits on the advisory board of another enterprise blockchain startup, Chronicled, which is behind the MediLedger project that targets the pharmaceuticals industry.

The executive was head of core engineering at Uber for two years, before moving to General Motors as CTO of Cruise Automation for six months. He told Bloomberg that he left the role after disagreements with Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt.

Controversial appointment

The Cruise hiring bothered Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer who wrote the blog post that blew the whistle on Uber’s sexist culture. Talking to Recode about the Cruise appointment she said: “The hire is troubling, and is proof that Silicon Valley still has a very, very long way to go before it can claim it takes culture problems seriously.”

Another female developer who was one of the original three plaintiffs in a class action suit against Uber also expressed displeasure when approached by a Cruise recruiter.

Cruise said it extensively vetted Gangadhar given the Uber issues. “I was cleared of any wrongdoing when others were not,” Gangadhar told Recode. “The culture at Uber is one that I would like to put behind me, but not forget as it will forever influence the professional and personal decisions I make on a daily basis.”

Image Copyright: Digital Asset