Meet the Ex-Googlers Running Facebook
The Burson-Marsteler debacle -- Facebook's disastrous attempt at an anti-Google smear campaign -- is an example of how heated things have become between the search giant and the social network. Indeed, this is Silicon Valley's new big rivalry, and we see it playing out on many fronts.
What makes this contest especially interesting -- and fit for a "Knots Landing" script -- is that almost all the key executives running Facebook used to work at Google. And now they want to crush Google. A quick search on LinkedIn (admittedly, not 100% accurate) shows that 358 current Facebook employees used to work at Google. (Facebook's new campus fits 3,600 people.)
Why is talent leaving Google for Facebook? There is the perception that Google has peaked and is headed for decline. Really, what more can it do with search? And -- barring a miracle -- it pretty much failed at social. Google's 26,000-person workforce creates the kind of bureaucratic slog that deprives creative minds of oxygen, forcing entrepreneurial execs to run for a breath of fresh air.
In response, Google has been forking over enormous pay packages to get key folks to stay. But the top ex-Googlers at Facebook have already made mountains of cash at the search engine; now they're positioned for another windfall with Facebook's mega IPO on the horizon.
Silicon Valley has a long history of tectonic rivalries -- Google vs. Microsoft, Intel vs. Apple. Big difference? The Googlers who run Facebook know the enemy all too well. Know any other key ex-Googlers working at Facebook? Let us know in comments.
When Sheryl Sandberg first got to Facebook, she was described by some as the "grown up" hired to make sure the company turned a profit. Ms. Sandberg, 41, is definitely a grown up when compared to Mark Zuckerberg, 27. She's been an economist at the World Bank, a chief of staff at the U.S. Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton, and instrumental in launching Google.org during her Googleplex time. Mr. Zuckerberg didn't even finish college. The two did attend the same school (Harvard). But besides being an adult with an impressive curriculum vitae, Ms. Sandberg comes to Facebook with Google's secrets in her pocket. After all, she worked there for almost a decade. As COO, Ms. Sandberg makes the decisions that bring in the cash. She often points out that the kind of advertising potential that exists on Facebook is many times larger than search/display performance marketing.
Bret Taylor didn't just work at Google, he co-created and launched Google Maps and started Google's first developer conference, Google I/O. And when he left Google, he didn't just create a startup, he founded FriendFeed. Mr. Zuckerberg wanted Mr. Taylor to work at Facebook so bad that he bought his company (for a reported $50 million) and created the CTO role just for him. Some go so far as to credit Mr. Taylor with inventing the "Like," since back in 2009 FriendFeed had an "I like this" button that Facebook supposedly cloned. Once at the company, Mr. Taylor played a key role in building out the Facebook platform, including the Open Graph. In 2006, Mr. Taylor received the Founders' Award, the highest honor given to a Google employee. Et tu, Bret?
Here's where the Facebook/Google connection gets extra fun. Not only did David Fischer work with Ms. Sandberg at Google, they also worked together as policy wonks in Washington. Ms. Sandberg was Mr. Fischer's boss when they worked at the Treasury Department. Some of the best Mad Men started out as journalists, and Mr. Fischer is one of these gifted ones -- he covered the 1996 presidential election as the associate editor of U.S. News and World Report. During his seven years at Google, he helped build Google's online advertising network into the largest in the world. Recently, Mr. Fischer spoke to Ad Age about his ever-changing role at Facebook, saying: "People, really, is the operating system that drives all of our behaviors. It's the organizing principal that drives us. I'm seeing that come to life via Facebook. That's why I came here."
Elliot Schrage's move from Google to Facebook was so scrutinized that Mr. Schrage's job interview ended up an item on Gawker-owned Valleywag. With Facebook's growing public-policy problems (then as now), the social network needed a communications flack who was more than the usual Silicon Valley player. And here's the Sheryl Sandberg connection again -- she recruited Mr. Schrage to Google from the Council on Foreign Relations. Looks like the same trick worked twice. Mr. Schrage's China experience -- he testified on behalf of Google in front of Congress on the matter -- is coming in handy as Facebook looks to establish a presence there. It's not clear whether Mr. Schrage signed off on the Google smear campaign, but as the person in charge of all communications he had to know something was up. A year ago, Mr. Schrage's Q&A about privacy with The New York Times caused quite an uproar and Pulizter Prize-winning reporter John McQuaid called him "infuriating" and "condescending." Mr. Schrage earned -- count 'em -- three degrees from Harvard and served as an adjunct professor at Columbia University and Columbia Law School. But before locking him up in the Ivory Tower, let's not forget he also worked at The Gap.
At Facebook, Barry Schnitt has had to deal with breastfeeding, the Holocaust and, of course, privacy -- just a few fires put out by him as head of corporate communications. With Facebook constantly in the public eye, Mr. Schnitt's responsibility "for protecting the company's reputation" keeps him busy -- a search for his name comes up with tons of quotes by him, defending and explaining Facebook's moves. Mr. Schnitt worked at Google at the same time as Mr. Fischer, Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Schrage -- the big bosses at Facebook. And like those big bosses, Mr. Schnitt also has a background in politics -- earlier in his career, he was a legislative aide to California State Senator Byron D. Sher.
Sometimes described in the press as Ms. Sandberg's protege, Emily White was Google employee No. 230 when she joined the company in 2001 with an art degree from Vanderbilt University. AdWords had just been launched -- and it was her job to figure out the advertising and sales strategy. Clearly, Ms. White did an incredible job. She went from AdWords to running ad sales for the Asia, Pacific and Latin America regions, and before her departure was director of emerging business. Her job hop from Google to Facebook undoubtedly had a lot to do with Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Fischer, who were Ms. White's bosses at Google and are again her bosses at Facebook. Ms. White is in charge of local directives at Facebook, and has already launched Deals, Check-ins and Places -- products competing with Foursquare, LivingSocial and Groupon.
With Google's fitful efforts in all things social media, it's no surprise Ethan Beard ended up at Facebook -- being social media director at Google must have been understandably frustrating. Facebook gave him wings to fly. Mr. Beard is a major force in Facebook Connect, which spread throughout the internet like wildfire. And even though Mr. Beard started out as a Wharton School of Business graduate structuring derivatives at Bank of America -- which sounds pretty square -- he also worked at MTV . Mr. Beard works closely with the Facebook Developer Network, so he's a well known name on the Developer Blog.
Lexa Pope worked directly with Ms. White at Google, running North America's online sales operation for almost 3 years. Altogether, she worked at Google for the better part of a decade -- the same time frame that includes many of the recent converts to Facebook. Ms. Pope didn't leave Google directly for Facebook, but consulted at Mixer Labs (co-founded by ex-Googler Elad Gil), which was bought by Twitter for $5.17 million in stock. Mr. Fischer's recommendation of Ms. Pope on LinkedIn states that "she would be an extraordinary addition to any team at a fast-growing company."
Amin Zoufonoun was hired to lead Facebook's M&A efforts. He got plenty of experience at gobbling up companies as Google's No. 2 corporate development executive. At Google, Mr. Zoufonoun orchestrated the search giant's first acquisition of a publicly traded company (On2) and many of the most strategic acquisitions and investments, including Metaweb, Feedburner and GrandCentral, aka Google Voice. In 2010, Google went on a shopping spree, buying 40 companies under Mr. Zoufonoun's direction. He's not only a business guy -- he's also a coder and a lawyer, getting both degrees from Santa Clara University.
At Google, Grady Burnett was the head of sales at AdWords, the pay-per-click, search-term advertising platform that is Google's primary source of revenue. Mr. Burnett was in online sales at DoubleClick in 1998, a decade before Google bought it and the year Mr. Zuckerberg turned 14. For Google, he worked in Ann Arbor, Mich., Google's third-largest office. But to run Facebook's online advertising sales, he moved his entire family to Palo Alto, Calif., telling Crain's Detroit Business that it was a hard decision. As Facebook pushes to increase its profit margin, experienced VPs such as Mr. Burnett are essential to its success -- and potential dominance over Google in online and even search advertising.
Matthew Papakipos, director of Chrome OS and the Chrome hardware project, announced he was leaving Google for Facebook in a tweet -- "Now that Chrome OS & WebGL are in good shape, it's time for something new. I'm going to work @ Facebook! Love the product and team. Woot!" This was a rough talent leak for Google, as Mr. Papakipos didn't only lead the Chrome project -- he started it. He must have wanted to get to Facebook extra bad -- he left Google before Chrome was even launched. Before Google, Mr. Papakipos co-founded PeakStream, a software developer that Google bought in 2007. A few months after Papkipos left, he was followed by a Chrome teammate, David Garcia. Is Facebook building a browser?
Google is losing talent even outside the U.S. -- Alexandre Hohagen was Google's top executive in Latin America until earlier this year, when he jumped ship to do the same job for Facebook. As the man who ran Google in Brazil, Mr. Hohagen was busy -- after all, Google's social network Orkut made an enormous impact there. Google moved Orkut operations to Brazil in 2008. But Facebook is catching up faster than you can say "Friend me" and a big part of Mr. Hohagen's new job will be to overtake Orkut.
When Google loses the Chrome guy and the Android guy, it's time to start speculating about a Facebook browser and a Facebook phone. For four years, Erick Tseng worked on the Android and was a part of the work on Nexus One, the Google phone. Mr. Tseng has been around the tech world, going from Microsoft to Yahoo to Google to Facebook. (Granted, he only stayed at Yahoo for three months.) This guy is obviously a geek superstar; he has a degree from MIT and an MBA from Stanford. Mr. Tseng, like a few others, announced his Google departure via Twitter: "About to begin a new, exciting chapter in my life. Heading to #Facebook on Monday to help innovate at the intersect of mobile and social."
Losing the director of sales for the DoubleClick Ad Exchange was another blow to Google. Lexi Reese is an East Coaster, leading the Google online sales team in Boston. For those who need a refresher, Google bought DoubleClick in 2008 for $3.1 billion. You can imagine how much money it made for Google since. Ms. Reese worked with DoubleClick clients such as Microsoft, General Motors, Coca-Cola, Motorola, L'Oreal, Palm, Visa USA and Nike -- and she's bringing those relationships with her to Facebook.
As head of the AdSense engineering team, Mr. Badros helped Google earn billions. His LinkedIn profile states that between 2004-2007 he was "responsible for Ads, focusing on AdSense." He also directed teams that created on Calendar, Reader, Gmail and Orkut. All that experience is now Team Facebook.
Mark Heynen is another Android developer like Mr. Tseng. He now works with partners on the mobile ecosystem to embed Facebook in mobile devices. That, and Facebook for Android, of course. At Google, he created content partnership deals and ran content programs. Before Google, Mr. Heynen founded a travel and retail analytics startup in London, and ran it as CEO for five years, growing it to over 250 staffers in three countries with clients in 18 countries before selling it. The international experience of his travel company is of critical importance as he works to making sure Facebook can be used on thousands of devices and hundreds of carriers worldwide.
Maz Sharafi is responsible for Facebook's go-to-market strategy and execution for local. Prior to Facebook, MR. Sharafi worked in Google's Local Reseller Partnerships team, where he managed half of the North American partner portfolio and team. Another feather in Facebook's local cap.