Ben T. Smith IV, the co-founder and former CEO of MerchantCircle, is moving back into an operational role by taking the chief executive job’s at ShopCo, the company said Monday.
Smith will also keep his hand in investing as venture partner at the seed firm Accelerator Ventures.
Smith has been a regular contributor to peHUB, and I had a chance to speak with him this morning following the announcement. He said he expects to keep up his one deal a month investment pace at Accelerator where he works alongside Managing Director Alexander Lloyd. The firm has a focus on the mobile and e-commerce spaces and a portfolio that includes Zynga, Tapulous, Zappos.com and Nutanix. Smith has been a venture partner since December.
At ShopCo, his job will be to figure out how to bring the Sunday and daily advertising circulars that newspapers traditionally stuff into their printed news sections to the Web. ShopCo has had some success already, but there is plenty of room for innovation, he says.
ShopCo is a partnership backed by a long list of newspaper companies, including The Washington Post Co., the McClatchy Company, Hearst Corporation, MediaNews Group, Gannett Co., Cox Media, E.W. Scripps Company and others. Last year, it bought Travidia and its Find n Save shopping search site.
To harness the innovation of Silicon Valley, Smith said he plans to establish the company’s headquarters in the valley and look to acquisitions and partnerships with companies such as eBay and Google. Opportunities exist to customize online content for individual readers and to introduce social components.
“I think you’ll see social be a big part of what we do,” says Smith.
Newspapers have had a difficult time moving their business models from the offline to the online worlds. We look forward to Smith’s updates from the field.
Photo of Ben Smith courtesy of Ben Smith.