Life360, a San Francisco-based family safety and coordination service, named Russell Burke its new CFO last week.
Burke, a veteran CFO and former CEO of Weight Watchers Australia and New Zealand, will focus on the business model’s effectiveness and support the company as they move towards the next level of growth.
"Russell's broad experience in the U.S. and Australian markets will be extremely valuable as we continue expanding our product offerings globally," Life360 CEO Chris Hulls said in a press release. "We’re confident that he’ll be a major asset to our team as we redefine how safety is delivered to families around the world."
"I'm looking forward to the challenges in this role [at Life360], because it combines many of the aspects of my previous roles," Burke told CFO Dive in an email. "It's a tech company in rapid growth mode, with the challenge of optimizing the business model and ensuring the infrastructure keeps pace with company growth."
Burke, an experienced financial executive having worked with both public and private companies, has extensive experience in management and business leadership. Most recently, Burke served as CFO of entertainment company Mandalay Media, and held a variety of senior leadership positions at numerous high-growth early stage companies, including digital media subscription service Pressplay, and mixed-reality ecosystem and platform Magic Leap.
In these roles, Burke successfully led international business and finance operations, as well as built high-performing finance, HR, legal and IT teams allowing for international growth and expansion.
In May of last year, Life360 went public on the Australian Securities Exchange, and was its biggest tech IPO in three years. Burke’s role comes with all the governance, regulatory and reporting requirements that go along with being a public company. Additionally, Life360 has a significant international presence; being listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, will mean working with investors and analysts over there, with consequent travel and working partially in a different time zone, Burke said.
"The whole experience of being recruited during a pandemic is a little unusual," Burke said. "All but one of my discussions with Chris Hulls, the Board, and the management team were conducted via video. And the one in-person meeting was done six feet apart!"
Burke said his introduction to the company was through a 100-person virtual all-hands meeting. "It all went smoothly, largely because the company was already geared up for remote working, for everyone from engineers to finance," he said.
Burke said, as part of his own due diligence, he naturally familiarized himself with Life360’s financials while the economy has been in flux.
"I was incredibly impressed with what Chris and team have built, as well as the effectiveness of the 'freemium' business model, which provides great value to our free users and even more to our paid subscribers," he said. "The company is in a great position, with a strong balance sheet flowing from last year’s IPO. And while the current situation will create a pause in growth, our retention has held up well."
For both newcomer CFOs and veteran CFOs alike, Burke offers the same advice. "Planning. And more planning," he said.
"No one can predict exactly the path this will take over the next 12 months, but recognizing the likely range of results, and preparing for those, is key," he said. "Like any change, this will also result in opportunities; some of them unexpected!"
He believes this period of uncertainty makes the role of finance even more important.
"In businesses of every size, there will be stress in the day-to-day, managing all aspects, and especially cash flow," he said. "At the same time, it will be vital for finance leadership to stand back and be proactive in their company’s strategic and tactical planning."