The chief executive of struggling Boston AI startup DataRobot has resigned after an employee revolt over his and other top executives’ stock sales and spending on a lavish retreat and use of a private jet.
Dan Wright, who took over for DataRobot cofounder Jeremy Achin as CEO in March 2021, will step down, and chief operating officer Debanjan Saha will take over on an interim basis. Saha joined DataRobot in February after a long tech industry career that included working at Google, Amazon Web Services, and IBM.
“DataRobot’s best years are ahead of it,” Wright said in a statement. “My decision to step down was made easier knowing that we have a visionary technologist of Debanjan’s caliber to guide the company through this next phase.”
Wright’s resignation followed revelations last month that he and four other executives were allowed to sell $32 million worth of stock in the private company at a time when other employees could not. With the company’s growth slowing and 7 percent of jobs cut in May, employees have also been critical of what they perceived as Wright’s excessive corporate spending, including sponsoring a racing team, using a private jet, and holding a retreat in the British Virgin Islands.
Last week, after the Globe reported on the controversy, Ben Taylor, DataRobot’s chief AI strategist, said he was resigning. Under Wright’s tenure, DataRobot had become “aimless” and needed “drastic changes in leadership,” Taylor wrote in a letter to friends and colleagues obtained by the Globe.
The company was founded in 2012 in Boston, where most of its US employees still work, with the goal of making easy-to-use AI software for businesses. DataRobot has raised more than $1 billion in funding and grew to almost 2,000 employees and a $6.3 billion private valuation last year.
The company’s business has since run into turbulence amid the plummeting stock market, war in Ukraine, and worsening economic conditions. The plan for an initial public offering was put on hold and Wright laid off 7 percent of the company in May after it missed its quarterly sales goals several times — despite raising $300 million last year.