Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Udacity Hires Former Zynga COO Vish Makhijani to Lead Operations

Multidisciplinary innovator Sebastian Thrun is CEO of the online education startup Udacity and also founder of Google’s self-driving car project (which he still works on). He’s a busy guy. “I spend a lot of time on the road, and wanted to find someone who was really good at the magic of making a company run,” he said yesterday.

Vish Headshot 2

Udacity COO Vish Makhijani

So he set out on a grand search to find a Udacity COO, interviewed more than a dozen people, and ended up hiring Vish Makhijani, who formerly had the same role at Zynga.

The two didn’t know each other, though Makhijani notes that he competed against some of the many Google alums on the Udacity team when he led Yahoo search.

“Vish and I share an enthusiasm for data and product quality,” Thrun explained.

For Makhijani, the motivation was clear. While his expertise from Zynga is in driving growth, “this company is more missionary than mercenary,” he said.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Udacity has 51 employees and has recently expanded beyond its well-known free massive open online courses (MOOCs) to offering a master’s degree via Georgia Tech and creating sponsored curriculum for training at companies like AT&T.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle