(Almost) New Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg Speaks!

Published on March 10, 2008
by Kara Swisher

How often does a brother-in-law get the credit?


But when it comes to top Google exec Sheryl Sandberg taking over as COO at Facebook, apparently a very influential person in the move was Marc Bodnick (pictured here).

While Bodnick’s Elevation Partners colleague Roger McNamee–both are named on its site as managing directors and co-founders of the private equity firm–has been cited correctly as being key to hooking up Sandberg with Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg, Sandberg noted that Bodnick’s enthusiasm was critically infectious.

“Marc has been a real Facebook proponent for a long time and really understood first exactly how powerful a medium it was,” said Sandberg in an interview with BoomTown last week of her brother-in-law. “He really was a great influence on me.”

Of course, Bodnick would be–he serves on the board of popular Facebook developer iLike and, perhaps more importantly, is a personal investor in Facebook.

“Sheryl is a tremendous leader who has the chops in both online ads and monetization,” said Bodnick. “All of the problems of these social-networking business models are all new, and she natively knows how to deal with them.”


Sandberg (pictured here) just cleared out six years of detritus from her desk at Google (GOOG) Friday and is taking two weeks off before starting in her new and highly touted job as the COO of Facebook on March 24.

The appointment of Sandberg, news of which was broken in BoomTown (our motto: embargo-a-no-no), got a lot of attention, most especially because she is such a high-ranking and experienced Internet executive.

While we posted a few interesting tidbits on Sandberg, as well as showing off a bit of her in a video BoomTown made this summer, she and I got in a quick phone interview before she took off.

As she has said, Sandberg was, in fact, already thinking about leaving Google before the Facebook offer materialized. She had earlier been approached by one traditional media company she will not name, in fact.

“I was not looking in a big way, but I was seeking a new challenge either internally or externally after six years at Google building the online sales team,” she said.

Sandberg noted that when she came back from a recent maternity leave for her second child, she was struck by how well her No. 2, David Fischer, who is taking over for her now, managed a strong team.

“The team was in great shape and I felt like it was time for change for me,” she said.

And a good time for Zuckerberg to make an approach, which happened at a holiday party thrown by former Yahoo COO Dan Rosensweig. Ironically in the small world of Silicon Valley, the pair had never met before.

Still, Sandberg said she had been a longtime fan of the Facebook social-networking service and an early user.

“I used it a lot for family groups, following election coverage from my friends in D.C. and to share a lot of information,” she said.

At the party, Sandberg and Zuckerberg started talking about this, as well as how to scale organizations–you know, fun holiday chatter!–an area in which Facebook has been in dire need of help.

Zuckerberg asked Sandberg if they could continue the conversation, and over a series of dinners they discussed the company and its challenges.

“It was very philosophical at first and we did not ever talk about a specific job,” said Sandberg of the half-dozen or more meals they shared, mostly at her home in Atherton, Calif.

The pair moved closer to specific talks after spending even more time together at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, the tony annual gathering where the world’s elite gather to ogle each other.

It did not take long after that for the deal to be struck for Sandberg to come to Facebook, where she will have purview over large and important swatches of the company, especially public policy and sales.

“I think Facebook has a huge and unique opportunity to expand and have even more influence, if it leverages its amazing product in the right way,” said Sandberg. “Its biggest challenge is the same, though, and that is, do consumers like it and does it help people share information in the best way possible?”

While Sandberg says she knows the heat and hype around its $15 billion valuation attract attention, she thinks the company needs to focus on scaling operationally, scaling geographically and scaling monetization, and the rest will take care of itself.

“Our goal is to get more and more users using it and more and more of those users using it more and more,” said Sandberg in a tongue-twister of a new motto for Facebook. “Does that make sense?”

Incredibly, it does. Now, it will be Sandberg’s job to actually pull it off.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.

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