Tech Movers and Shakers - February 2017
As the war for talent intensifies across the tech sector companies are increasingly looking to the competition. Snaring talent from competitors isn’t without its risks (Waymo/Uber). Last month Amazon Music hired an ex Apple executive to strengthen its position in the hyper-competitive music streaming space. Uber brought in a NASA engineer to lead what the company calls their ‘flying car experiment’ and Farfetch, in an attempt to strengthen its brand, has appointed the founder of its direct competitor, Net-a-Porter as their non-executive co-chairman. Here’s the full list:
Alphabet has shifted hundreds of staff from its internet access unit — which is called Access and includes Google Fiber — over to Google, and hired former broadband executive Gregory McCray to head the unit. McCray, previously CEO of Aero Communications, replaces Craig Barratt, who left his role as chief executive of Access in October. He has also been on the Board of Directors for CenturyLink since 2005.
Amazon Music has hired former EMI and Apple executive Alex Luke as its global head of programming and content strategy, a newly created position that comes as the retail/tech giant goes toe-to-toe with Spotify and Apple Music in the hyper-competitive music streaming space. Luke will be based in Seattle, reporting to Amazon Music head Steve Boom. Luke was most recently a partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm The Valley Fund, which has invested in health and tech companies.
Dropbox today said it has named Nicholas Jitkoff — former lead designer for Google’s Material Design team — as its VP of design. Jitkoff will lead the Dropbox’s design team in defining the company’s vision across UX Writing, Design Research, Product Design and Brand Design. Previously, Jitkoff was with Google and he dealt with different vital design ventures for more than 10 years. He was a principal designer for Google since September 2006.
Natalie Massenet is joining Farfetch, putting her in direct competition with Net-a-Porter, the fashion e-tailer she founded in 2000. Massenet recently announced that she would be taking up the position of non executive co-chairman at the fashion e-commerce platform, effective immediately. In her new role, Massenet will help Farfetch to develop its brand, a weakness for the platform player and one of the areas in which Net-a-Porter excels. Massenet is also chairman of the British Fashion Council and has set up her own advisory firm Imaginary Ventures.
Fuze, the fast-growing Cambridge company that provides cloud-based communication software to large enterprises, named a new CEO as it looks to focus on scaling operations and stabilising financial fundamentals ahead of a possible IPO. Colin Doherty will replace Steve Kokinos, who has been CEO since he co-founded the company in 2006. Doherty has led a series of New England tech companies through acquisitions in the past decade. Most recently, he oversaw the acquisition of New Hampshire-based internet performance management company Dyn by the software giant Oracle.
Graze.com has hired former Expedia executive to help the e-tailer improve its mobile offering. Former vice president of customer marketing, mobile and loyalty for Hotels.com, Clive Peoples, has been appointed to the role of chief commercial officer. At Expedia, Peoples was responsible for building a multi-billion dollar mobile and loyalty business, and increasing customer spend via mobile devices — resulting in over a third of bookings now made on mobile.
Greylock Partners, the Silicon Valley venture firm, has hired a “growth advisor in residence” to help drive growth across its portfolio companies. Casey Winters — who spent nearly three years at Pinterest, and nearly three years at GrubHub before that — will be working with Greylock exclusively for the next six to 12 months. Winter’s main role in this role at Greylock Partners, will be helping portfolio companies to figure out their growth strategies and how to scale.
Virtual reality firm Jaunt has appointed former Hulu and Vessel executive Jean-Paul Colaco as first chief revenue officer. Colaco will be responsible for global revenue generation across the company and will report directly to Jaunt president and CEO, George Kliavkoff. Between 2007 and 2013 Colaco worked as senior vice president of advertising at Hulu, in late 2013 he became a founding member of the senior executive team at Vessel — the subscription, short-form video service that was set-up by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar.
Long-time Twitter engineering head Alex Roetter, who left the company a year ago has surfaced at a startup building flying cars. He’s working at Kitty Hawk, the secretive startup backed by Google co-founder Larry Page. Roetter is now VP of Software at Kitty Hawk and has said privately that he’s ‘having an absolute blast’. Roetter started his career at Google in 2002, the pre-IPO days. He is best known as the guy who created Twitter’s ad tools Advertiser, Publisher and Exchange (APEX), helping to grow Twitter from near zero revenue to almost $2.5 billion a year.
Lebara, a specialist telecoms operator, has named Karen Griffiths as its new chief financial officer. Griffiths brings more than three decades of financial leadership and senior management experience to the firm, having most recently served as chief financial officer at Acision. She has also held financial leadership roles with Ingram Micro Europe and The Coca-Cola Company, where she spent 18 years in a variety of positions.
Music streaming service Pandora has hired former TiVo executive Naveen Chopra as its new Chief Financial Officer. Chopra is replacing Mike Herring, who has been Pandora’s CFO since early 2013. Before joining Pandora, Chopra had been working for TiVo in various functions for 13 years. After moving up the ranks in the company, Chopra became TiVo’s CFO in 2012, and took on the additional role as TiVo’s interim CEO in January of 2016.
SessionM, the leading marketing automation platform for loyalty generation and customer engagement, announced the joining of MarTech veteran Michael Simon. Simon, the co-founder and Chairman of the Board of LogMeIn, will be part of SessionM’s board. He is known for his specialisation in marketing analytics and personalisation technology to product innovation.
Shop Direct has hired Derek Harding as its new group finance director. Harding, currently a finance director with engineering group Senior since 2013, will join the online retailer later this year. He will replace Greg Pateras, who will step down from Shop Direct in July after 10 years to explore new opportunities. Prior to joining Senior, Harding worked at Wolseley for 11 years, working his way up to finance director of Wolseley UK. At Shop Direct, Harding will report directly to chief executive Alex Baldock.
Snap has set up shop in Switzerland and hired a specialist in software protection. Laurent Balmelli is the co-founder of Strong.Codes, a two-year-old startup that sells software that protects companies from having their code tampered with or reverse-engineered. Snap hired Balmelli as a defensive move against Facebook, which has replicated many of Snapchat’s features on its own platforms and on Instagram.
SoundCloud has appointed Merritt Farren as its new General Counsel. In his new role, Farren is responsible for shaping and defining SoundCloud’s legal affairs and public policy strategy, in addition to leading its team of legal experts across the areas of data protection and privacy, commercial contracts, music rights, copyright issues and corporate matters. Based in Berlin, Farren reports to co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Alex Ljung. Prior to SoundCloud, Farren was Chief Legal Officer at Amazon’s Audible.com.
Uber has had a rough couple of weeks with a few high profile departures including SVP of Engineering, Amit Singhal, and Ed Baker, VP Product and Growth. The exact circumstances about these moves aren’t clear, even if the rumour mill is working over time. On a more positive note Uber is making moves to expand the scope of its flying car experiment — the company recently hired NASA engineer Mark Moore, who worked at the federal agency as an advanced aircraft engineer and basically kick-started the current interest in vertical take-off and landing craft for short-haul urban flight with a 2010 paper on the feasibility of the helicopter-like vehicles. Moore will act as Director of Engineering at Uber Elevate, which is what the ride-hailing company calls its exploration of airborne on-demand drives.
Music video streaming service Vevo has brought in Kevin McGurn, with the digital exec joining from MCN group Fullscreen. At Vevo, which is backed by some of the music majors, he will be chief sales officer. He joins from Fullscreen where he was head of sales. He has also worked at Shazam and was SVP, sales, at Hulu for over six years.