Kushal Chakrabarti
Kushal Chakrabarti

Kushal Chakrabarti is stepping down from the educational microloan non-profit Vittana, handing the reins of the organization over to Rebecca Lovell who has been named interim CEO.

“This is a big opportunity for Vittana. The last five years have been incredible. The next five will be epic,” said Chakrabarti, the former Amazon.com employee who founded Vittana in 2007.

Lovell most recently served as chief business officer at GeekWire, and before that led the non-profit Northwest Entrepreneur Network. She was instrumental in the early success of GeekWire, helping to build a series of events and energizing the community around our mission. Lovell planned her move from GeekWire, and worked with us through an extended transition period as we brought on former Seattle Times digital ad sales vet Sarah Camp as our Chief Sales Geek. (More on the changes at GeekWire, including our second anniversary recap, in this post).

Rebecca Lovell
Rebecca Lovell

Lovell said she’s excited about the prospects at Vittana which recently received large donations from venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and Zillow co-founder Rich Barton as part of $3 million fundraising campaign.

“Education has always been close to my heart, and seeing the impact it can have on an entire generation — and generations to come —  is awe-inspiring to say the least,” she said.

In addition to Lovell, Vittana also has named Megan Beck as development vice president. She previously worked at Acumen Fund and Grameen Foundation. Vittana helped facilitate about $5.25 million in microloans for about 8,000 youth around the world last year, more than triple the 2011 totals. Chakrabarti noted that “some huge opportunities are opening up for us” and the new hires will help lay “the organizational foundations for even greater growth.” In a blog post titled “Farewell, Vittana,” Chakrabarti says that it was not an easy decision for him.

“I’m absolutely, heart-burstingly proud of everything we — the core team, our local partners, our global network of friends and supporters — have achieved over my past five years as CEO. But, it’s time for someone new to lead Vittana to the next level,” he writes.

He will remain co-chair of the board, and will assist in a nationwide search for the organization’s permanent CEO.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=94500172 Kyle Kesterson

    This is huge news! I knew Rebecca was up to some good when she stepped away from GW, but this is a pleasant surprise. Given how I’ve seen her operate and her ability to pose and tackle the hard questions at any level of an organization, I think she can help Vittana with their next stage of growth.

    Last last year I made my first student donation and was very satisfied with the whole experience. It is something worth scaling, both for the donor, and the recipient.

    I wish Kushal the absolute best in what’s next to come. I can only imagine how this must have kept him up at night, making the hard decision for something greater than himself. It’s an extremely unselfish way to operate and says loads about his character, whether or not it was 100% initiated by him. It seems there was a realization that Kushal reached a ceiling after putting his heart and soul into the last 5 years into making Vittana something great from nothing.

    It’s something that early-stage founders should always keep in the back of their mind, especially us CEOs, that we have certain strengths for certain stages, and when the organization grows well beyond being just an extension of ourselves, and needs a bigger pond to swim in, we gracefully hand over the reigns with the best intentions. From what I can tell, this transition is exactly that.

    So cheers to those involved, Vittana deserves to be a whale in the ocean that awaits it.

    • http://twitter.com/lovelletters Rebecca Lovell

      Thanks for the support on every front, Kyle! I am so honored to be a part of the Vittana movement, and grateful to Kushal for his vision, passion and tireless efforts. Doing good work with great people who are changing the world is living the dream!!

  • http://www.nosnivelling.com/ daveschappell

    I’m very excited for Vittana, and incredibly proud of what Kushal built. I remember meeting with him when it was just an idea, and he’s muscled it to not only reality, but an industry-creating/changing product and team. I don’t know if I’ve every seen anyone work harder, longer and smarter. At the same time, I know Kushal wrestled with his strengths and weaknesses, and I think this change is another testament to his leadership — he knew the time was right to step aside and begin the search for the leaders that will catapult Vittana forward. I’m excited that Rebecca’s leading that search, and helping guide the team. Onward!

    • http://twitter.com/lovelletters Rebecca Lovell

      Well said, Dave! Thanks for your support!

  • Ralph Fascitelli

    Congrats to Rebecca one of the most talented and classiest tech execs around..

    • http://twitter.com/lovelletters Rebecca Lovell

      Thanks so much Ralph– and I so admire the work you do in the community– a great example of turning intention into action. All the best!

  • http://twitter.com/RedRussak Red Russak

    Congrats Rebecca! Excited to watch Vittana grow under your leadership as you’ve done with all of your previous ventures :-) Kushal, looking forward to seeing what you do next to make the world a better place for us all!

    • http://twitter.com/lovelletters Rebecca Lovell

      Thanks so much for the support, Red! Startup Seattle rocked the Geeks Give Back challenge for Vittana and it’s so great to have you in our corner.

  • http://twitter.com/arianna Arianna O’Dell

    Congrats Rebecca! Can’t wait to see the big things you accomplish with Vittana!

    • http://twitter.com/lovelletters Rebecca Lovell

      Thanks Arianna! We have a rockstar team that is growing by leaps and bounds and big things are most definitely in store. Stay tuned and keep doing what you do!!

  • Commenter

    Kushal developed Vittana into an amazing organization. I admire that he stepped away, but I am puzzazz about him putting Rebecca in charge.

    Didn’t she get fired from GeekWire?
    Why didn’t he make her permanent CEO?

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      Just to clear this up: Rebecca’s decision to leave GeekWire was her own, and she was great in working with us through a planned transition period. We have a great relationship, and appreciate all that she did for GeekWire during her time here. We’re glad she’s still part of the community, and it was fun to catch up with her and some of the Vittana crew at the GeekWire Bash last night.

    • http://twitter.com/lovelletters Rebecca Lovell

      Hey there, commenter. Just to echo Todd’s comments, I let my business partners know about my plans to move on from GeekWire several months ago, and I actually recruited and onboarded Sarah (who is awesome!). I am still a huge GeekWire fan and a partner in the business, so a smooth transition was critical to all of us.

      As far as Vittana is concerned, I share your admiration of Kushal and Vittana, and have been a fan of both for years. He is a passionate, inspired visionary, unbelievably talented and smart…I could go on and on! In the coming year, to continue the trajectory we’ve been on and get to scale, we are going to focus on the people (you can see some of the amazing Vittana team in the GW bash pictures from last night) and infrastructure (and Kushal would be the first to tell you he’s passionate about a lot of things– but maybe not so much process). I am lucky enough to be a process geek and also delighted to tap into my recruiting/hiring/mentoring background as we grow this team and this organization– and we’ll be doing a lot of that this year.

      As far as the long-term CEO role is concerned, both Kushal and the board asked for my thoughts about why I wouldn’t throw my own hat into the ring for that. I don’t want to steal our own thunder, but let me tell you what we have in store is huge, and will take a very special combination of traits, including experience at serious scale. My expertise is startup to mid-size, and I’d like to see Vittana’s long-term CEO be one who has already run significantly larger operations. I’m delighted to work with Kushal and the board’s search committee on this nationwide effort (and having a background in executive search I can assure you this will indeed be a serious undertaking). In the meantime, Kushal is co-chair of the board, an incredible resource to the organization and we’re all grateful for his support. And for yours too!

  • http://twitter.com/bcrimmins Bob Crimmins

    I was heartened to read this story. I’m a huge fan of Kushal, Rebecca and Vitanna. I have great respect for Kushal’s courage and wisdom in making such a difficult and important decision. Rebecca’s vitality, smarts and experience are a great fit for Vitanna. I look forward to seeing the next chapter unfold for Vitanna and I wish Kushal the very best in comes next for him.

    • http://twitter.com/lovelletters Rebecca Lovell

      Thanks so much, Bob! Your personal and professional support means a lot to me, and I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for you too!

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