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Stella Automotive AI hires Rich Sands as CEO

Stella Automotive AI, a Tampa, Fla., auto retail technology startup funded in part by dealership groups Maroone USA and Pohanka Automotive Group, has hired auto industry consultant Rich Sands as its new CEO.

His hiring, effective May 26 and announced Monday, comes after the company in early May announced it had closed a seed round of financing.

Beyond Geoffrey Pohanka, the 2023 chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association and chairman of his namesake group, and Mike Maroone, CEO of Maroone USA, funding round participants included Czubay Family Enterprises and Presidio Group, a Denver and Atlanta investment banking and advisory firm focused on auto retail and consumer mobility.
Ken Czubay, a partner with Phil Smith Auto Group, told Automotive News that Czubay Family Enterprises is his family’s “small investment vehicle.”

Stella Automotive did not immediately share how much was raised in the round.

Sands, 49, most recently was an automotive sales, digital marketing and data intelligence consultant as founder of True North Enterprises. Prior to that, he was executive director of automotive for JD Power and was an information technology manager at Ford Motor Co., according to his LinkedIn profile. He also worked for Microsoft Corp.

Sands has been and remains a strategic adviser to the Presidio.

Stella Automotive founder Josselyn Boudett, the company’s former CEO, said in a statement that Sands’ knowledge of the auto industry and his expertise in big data will help lead the company through a “hyper growth period.” Boudett is staying on as the company chair.

Telepathy Labs, a Florida developer of interactive voice and chatbot technology for industry and business, launched Stella Automotive as a separate business in 2022, with a focus on conversational artificial intelligence technology for auto retail. The technology is targeted to dealership operations, customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. Stella Automotive has the exclusive license to the Telepathy Labs conversational AI technology.

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