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Twitter's former 'Mr. Fixit' takes over analytics start-up Mixpanel as 29-year-old CEO steps down

Key Points
  • Suhail Doshi co-founded Mixpanel when he was 20, and seven years later he was running a company worth close to $1 billion.
  • He's stepping back to become chairman, handing over the CEO role to Amir Movafaghi, a former Twitter executive.
  • Movafaghi said the company is in the "ZIP code of $100 million" in revenue.
Suhail Doshi and Amir Movafaghi

Suhail Doshi started software developer Mixpanel in 2009 after dropping his studies at Arizona State University to join the Y Combinator accelerator program. He was 20 years old.

Now, after more than nine years running the data analytics company and dealing with the many highs and lows of Silicon Valley entrepreneur life, Doshi is taking a step back.

On Tuesday, Doshi is informing Mixpanel's 300 employees at a companywide meeting that he's handing over the CEO role to Amir Movafaghi, the company's head of finance and operations. Doshi will become chairman of the board.

"I just need a break," Doshi told CNBC. "It's been a marathon."

With the help of an executive search firm, Doshi went looking for his successor, and in the end decided to promote Movafaghi, who joined the company last year. Prior to Mixpanel, Movafaghi was CFO at software company Spiceworks and before that spent five years at Twitter in finance and global operations.

Doshi said the one reference call he made before hiring Movafaghi was to former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. At Twitter, Movafaghi was Costolo's right-hand man.

"He was the Mr. Fixit at Twitter when there were a whole bunch of problems that others weren't willing to fix," Doshi said. "He's the perfect person to lead Mixpanel into the future."

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Mixpanel isn't confronting the kind of high-profile challenges Costolo faced at Twitter, which ranged from an abundance of bots and online bullying to slowing user growth and mounting losses. But the company has had its own set of hurdles.

In 2014, when venture capitalists were throwing cash at anything with momentum, Mixpanel raised a big financing round from Andreessen Horowitz at a valuation of over $800 million. At the time, Mixpanel was primarily serving small and medium-sized businesses and other Y Combinator grads with analytics software that helped them understand their customers' behavior so they could get them to stick around for longer periods of time.

But Mixpanel realized what so many business software start-ups eventually discover: The big money is in the enterprise. So in 2016, the company cut 19 jobs, or close to 10 percent of its workforce, almost exclusively in sales, and started to refocus on selling to bigger clients.

The company has also dealt with incidents of data leaks. Most recently, TechCrunch reported in February that some people using sites monitored by Mixpanel had their passwords "mistakenly pulled into its software."

Movafaghi said Mixpanel is "in the ZIP code" of $100 million in annual revenue after beating its internal fourth-quarter target by 54 percent. Close to half of its revenue now comes from companies with more than 1,000 employees, including BMW, Intuit, Samsung and Uber. Still, it's competing in a fragmented market against big companies like Google and Adobe as well as a host of start-ups.

"Companies were overcapitalized"

Of the $77 million Mixpanel has raised in venture funding, $60 million is still in the bank, Movafaghi said. Additional private capital is a possibility but Movafaghi said he's in no rush to raise money just because it's readily available.

"One of the lessons learned over the last few years is companies were overcapitalized," he said. "That has come back to really hurt a lot of businesses in the Valley."

Among Movafaghi's upcoming tasks is finding a CFO to replace him. Doshi, meanwhile, plans to take some time off and then return to Mixpanel in the role of executive director, which could include working on products and helping with recruiting.

Doshi said he wasn't under any pressure from the board to step down, and that "there were multiple moments when they asked me if I was sure." The company's board includes Affirm CEO and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, whom Doshi calls one of his mentors.

Doshi said he plans to spend more time tinkering around with side projects and getting back to programming. On Twitter, he often chimes in about his latest hobby — cryptocurrencies — though he's not ready to say if that will be part of his next gig.

"I do plan to code a lot," he said. "But I'm not sure if it's crypto."