Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg Wants to Hire As Few People As Necessary, and Isn't So Sure About China

Bloomberg Businessweek just posted Brad Stone’s lengthy cover story about Facebook’s No. 2 exec Sheryl Sandberg and her highly effective soft power.

The profile is good but the cover art is just freaky.

Amidst the heaping serving of anecdotes of Sandberg’s prolific abilities to charm and impress people (she cried at work in front of Mark Zuckerberg! She helped her new head of sales decide what to wear!), there’s also some good stuff on Facebook’s current operations:

  • Facebook, led by Sandberg, is dedicated to keeping its employee count as low as it can, in order to avoid the “innovation-killing bureaucracy” that has plagued other tech companies (a.k.a. her former employer Google). Sandberg is overjoyed by examples of smaller teams doing more work.
  • The FTC will “within weeks decide that Facebook’s privacy policies were unfair and deceptive, and Facebook will agree to undergo ‘periodic privacy audits.’”
  • Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow said Facebook’s largest advertisers will this year spend more than $100 million each.

Since Facebook in China is one of the topics I’m more interested these days, I’ll excerpt the meat of that portion:

And then there’s China. Facebook has explored creating a joint venture with Chinese Internet companies such as search engine Baidu (BIDU) to operate a division of the social network in China that complies with local censorship and filtering requirements. The company maintains that no decision has been made. Sandberg says the subject, like countless interpersonal relationships on Facebook, is complicated. “There are compromises on not being in China, and there are compromises on being in China. It’s not clear to me which one is bigger,” she says.

Three people familiar with these internal deliberations say that Sandberg and Zuckerberg fundamentally disagree on the issue. Zuckerberg believes that Facebook can be an agent of change in China, as it has been in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia. Sandberg, a veteran of Google’s expensive misadventures in the world’s most populous country, is wary about the compromises Facebook would have to make to do business there.

Sandberg won’t address whether there’s friction over the topic, but she says disagreements in her partnership with Zuckerberg are common and healthy, and that the CEO gets to make the final call. For his part, Zuckerberg insists that he is taking the long view and that nothing is settled. “We have a pretty long-term perspective on this,” he says. “Given our track record so far, I have confidence that we have a good shot at winning whenever it makes sense for us to enter. But we need to figure out what that is going to look like.”

Next up: A New Yorker story by Ken Auletta about women in technology is set to prominently feature Sandberg.

Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my ethics statement.


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google