Wiretap: Eric Tilenius is back in the CEO saddle

Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives. Eric Tilenius keeps proving him wrong. Tilenius launched his first company in junior high (building software for Radio Shack TRS-80s!), then after Stanford climbed the rungs at Oracle and Intuit before launching Netcentives in 1995. The company, which helped online shoppers earn frequent flier miles, went public a few years later and at its peak boasted a $3 billion market cap.

Though Netcentives eventually went bankrupt, like a lot of its dot-com ilk, that happened long after Tilenius had departed. He spent much of the next decade as a startup consultant and angel investor before joining Zynga, where he was general manager of the game-maker’s wildly popular Mafia Wars. Then it was on to Scale Venture Partners as an entrepreneur-in-residence, working with late-stage cloud companies like Box and RingCentral.

Which brings us to today: Tilenius is taking the reins at BlueTalon, a Redwood City startup that helps big companies share data securely with a single click. “I keep coming back for more — I’m a glutton for punishment,” Tilenius quipped.

Actually, Tilenius said he’d been getting the itch to jump back into an operating role when former Zynga board member Matt Ocko suggested he consider putting money into BlueTalon; the 1-year-old  startup’s “Virtual Database” already boasts Fortune 500 customers including United Healthcare and Eli Lilly. Founding CEO Pratik Verma surprised Tilenius by acknowledging he’d be open to giving the helm to a more seasoned hand. “I was the one who recruited Eric,” Verma said with a laugh.

Concurrent with the Tilenius news, BlueTalon announced it’s inked a $1.5 million seed round from Ocko’s firm. Verma slides into the president’s role; interestingly, he and I first crossed paths two years ago, when he was looking to raise money for an earlier big-data security company called AgeTak. That effort sort of morphed into BlueTalon, and I suggested to Verma Friday that if he’s looking to keep trying on different hats as an entreprenur, he could learn from one of the masters in Tilenius. (Or for that matter, from his wife, Stephanie Tilenius; the woman once rumored to be the heir-apparent at eBay, then snatched up to lead Google’s payment efforts, is now an EIR at Kleiner Perkins. Knowing how this family operates, though, I reckon there’s another startup or three up her sleeve.)


Tilenius photo courtesy of Scale Venture Partners


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