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Yola boss Vinny Lingham steps down to launch new startup

Well-known Silicon Valley-based South African web entrepreneur Vinny Lingham has resigned as the CEO of Yola, the internet startup he founded about five years ago, to launch a new venture.

The new venture — Gyft — promises “to change the way you think about gift cards”. It plans to launch in May this year and is offering an early sign up for members. There is no indication of who is backing the venture (but Memeburn will find this out soon).

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Yola says that Lingham will retain his board seat and shares at the company and will “continue to provide vision and leadership as a non-executive”.

The US-based service plays in the difficult free website-building service space. But Memeburn sources say that Yola has over time effectively evolved into a hosting business. In 2009, Yola claimed it had over a million users.

The privately-held company is backed by the Swiss-based Reinet Fund to the tune of about $25-million. It has been the recipient of numerous industry accolades including Business Week’s 50 Best Tech Start-ups, The Industry Standard 100, and Fast Company’s Fast 50 Reader Favorites.

The business started out under the name SynthaSite, raising a $5-million round of financing from Columbus Venture Capital and launched the beta version of the product. Two years later SynthaSite announced $20-million in Series B funding from the Reinet fund. The company was later renamed Yola.

New CEO takes over
Yola says that the company’s current President and Chief Operating Officer Trevor Harries-Jones will take over as CEO. Harries-Jones has been at the company since 2008.

“The board expresses its sincerest appreciation to Vinny in his critical role of founding Yola and growing the company to become a leading website building and hosting provider. We wish Vinny great success in his new venture and look forward to his continued insight and guidance as part of Yola’s board,” says Jason Young, Chairman of the Yola board.

“I am very enthusiastic about the continued strong growth and prospects for Yola,” says Harries-Jones.

Harries-Jones says that his immediate focus will be to complete the release of Yola’s new suite of “exciting, high-quality, next generation” products to its customer base.

The new Yola head says he will also focus on managing and expanding the company’s distribution partner platform.

Yola competes with other web hosting and creation such as Weebly, Lifeyo, Jimdo, Cif2.net, Webs, uCoz, Wix and Webnode.

People without programming skills and a limited knowledge of HTML and graphic design can make websites using Yola. Its drag and drop system allows users to incorporate widgets without knowing HTML. Yola also integrates e-commerce and blog software and acts as a domain registrar.

Lingham continues entrepreneurial activities
With Gyft, Lingham continues his series of entrepreneurial activities which include the co-founding of Silicon Cape — an NGO based in South Africa that aims to turn Cape Town into a technology hub — and the founding of global search marketing firm incuBeta and its subsidiary Clicks2Customers.

Lingham still serves as a board member at Yola and previously served on the boards of both Personera and ChessCube. He also served on marketing advisory boards for Nasdaq-listed companies such as ValueClick and Yahoo!

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