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Control4 Taps RealNetworks Engineer as New CEO

Founder Will West is now chairman, while Martin Plaehn becomes CEO of home automation firm that is approaching $100 million in revenues.


Martin Plaehn, Control4 CEO
Julie Jacobson · September 30, 2011

Control4 has a new CEO: Martin Plaehn, a former executive at RealNetworks. Control4 announced the new chief yesterday, just a few months after Control4 co-founder Will West said he would retire from his role as CEO to serve as chairman of the home automation company.

Plaehn served for about seven years managing product lines and running business units at RealNetworks, the purveyor of RealPlayer and the once-promising RealDVD, a movie-ripping application that was quashed last year by the MPAA. At Real, Plaehn led the division for delivering audio and video to ISPs, telcos and mobile operators. He also held leadership roles in Real’s gaming and SaaS (software as a service) business units.

As such, he seems like a guy that can help Control4 take its home-control platform to two places it needs to go: high-volume service providers and the cloud.

In addition, Plaehn served as CEO of Bungee Labs, a cloud computing company, and Viewpoint Digital, a creator and licensor of 3D digital content used by professional animators.

We thought Control4 might hire an ivory-tower CEO most notable for taking consumer electronics companies public, but that is not the case.

FLASHBACK 2004: Introducing Control4: Automation Vets Plan ‘Unrivaled’ Product Launch

“The most important thing for us is technical and operational acumen,” says West, who adds that Control4 is already well positioned to go public “if and when that time comes.”

West says, “We had a search committee and went through an extensive process. We looked at both prominent names and names that are less prominent. At the end of the day, we got someone with raw power and a good fit. We think we got a performer.”

Plaehn has a degree in math and experience managing “large groups of engineers,” West says.

After founding Control4 with partner Eric Smith in 2004 and taking the company to almost $100 million in revenues, West is looking forward to handing over the CEO reins.

“It’s wonderful for me,” he says. “I can focus on things I think I’m good at, like looking three or four years ahead. We’ve already done pretty well. The company is growing rapidly, and we’ve reached a significant scale. Now the question is how to get an order of magnitude bigger. I think Martin can get us there.”



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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at julie.jacobson@emeraldexpo.com

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