David Marcus, vice president of messaging products at Facebook Inc., speaks during the Facebook F8 Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 25, 2015.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
For the past year, Facebook has worked in secret on a project to create its own virtual currency built on blockchain technology. That project could finally emerge this month, according to a Wednesday report from The Information.
As it nears a public release, there are now more than 100 people working on the project, according to information on LinkedIn, and Facebook is still expanding the team. The company has more than 40 openings for the business unit, according to the Facebook careers website.
The project has been described by several reports as a cryptocurrency, pegged to the U.S. dollar and other relatively stable national currencies, and aimed at Messenger and WhatsApp users in countries with volatile currencies. Customers will reportedly be able to use it to transfer money between countries easily and purchase goods.
“The blockchain team is a startup within Facebook and we’re exploring lots of areas of interest across all facets of blockchain technology,” several of the Facebook job listings said. “Our ultimate goal is to help billions of people with access to things they don’t have now — that could be things like healthcare, equitable financial services, or new ways to save or share information.”
While many of those openings are for positions based at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, a handful of the listings are for positions in Tel Aviv, Israel, where Tomer Barel, one of the vice presidents on the project, is based.
“The Tel-Aviv engineering team will participate in shaping and pushing forward this vision, while focusing on the development of a state-of-the-art near real-time AI platform, to serve the blockchain project,” according to the Facebook job listings.
Facebook declined to comment on staffing for the project.
Here are the the top execs leading it:
David Marcus, head of Facebook’s blockchain project
Facebook’s interest in blockchain first became known in May 2018 when Marcus announced he would be stepping away from his role as head of Messenger after running the unit for four years.
Marcus has a background in the world of online payments. Prior to joining Facebook, Marcus spent three years at PayPal, ending his tenure there as the company’s president. He joined PayPal after selling his mobile payments startup Zong for $240 million to the company in 2011.
More recently, Marcus served on the board of Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange startup based in San Francisco. Marcus stepped down from his role on Coinbase’s board a few months after changing his role at Facebook.
Tomer Barel, VP of risk and operations
Since starting the Facebook blockchain project, Marcus has brought over a slew of his ex-PayPal colleagues to create a “mini-PayPal Mafia. ” (The original so-called “PayPal Mafia” includes many big-name execs and investors who worked at the groundbreaking company in the dot-com era, including Facebook investor and Trump advisor Peter Thiel and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.)
At the top of that totem pole is Barel, who joined Facebook in May 2018.
Barel previously spent nearly nine years with PayPal, most recently as executive vice president and global chief enterprise services officer. He is not based at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California but rather Tel Aviv, Israel, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Kevin Weil, VP of product
Among the first people to join Marcus was Weil, a Silicon Valley executive known for his product chops.
Weil joined the blockchain project after two years as Instagram’s vice president of product, where he played a key role in the development of Instagram’s Stories feature, which cloned a similar feature Snap’s popular Snapchat app, and has now been replicated across Facebook. Executives often highlight Stories as critical for future advertising revenue growth.
Prior to joining Instagram, Weil spent nearly seven years climbing the ranks at Twitter until reaching senior vice president of product. Weil may not have experience in payments, but he knows how to build a good product.
James Everingham, head of engineering
Along with Weil, Everingham was another top Instagram executive to move over to the blockchain group. Everingham joins after three years as the head of engineering for Instagram. He was previously Yahoo’s vice president of engineering for homepage and verticals.
Geoff Teehan, head of product design
Teehan is leading the look of the blockchain project as the group’s head of product design. He previously held a similar role as the director of product design for News Feed, the most important part of the core Facebook app.
Eric Nakagawa, head of open source
Facebook plans to give up control of the cryptocurrency it is building and create a foundation to run it, according to The Information’s report. That makes Nakagawa’s role as head of open source among the most interesting in the blockchain group, as he will need to convince other companies to support it.
Nakagawa has been with Facebook since 2014. He started as a developer advocate for Parse, which was a mobile app development tool that the company acquired in 2013 and then shut down in 2016. After that, Nakagawa was an advocate for Facebook’s open source projects, including the PyTorch artificial intelligence software.
However, most people might know Nakagawa best for his work in the 2000s as CEO and founder of the humor website “I Can Has Cheezburger?”
Raaid Ahmad, head of analytics
As head of analytics, Ahmad works on data science, data engineering and product analytics for the blockchain group, according to his LinkedIn profile. Ahmad was previously head of data science for Facebook’s growth team, which is notorious for the aggressive tactics it deployed to promote Facebook user engagement.
Govind Asawa, head of data engineering
Asawa is joining the blockchain group after three years as a business platform data engineering manager at Facebook, but he has experience in the financial sector. He has previously had roles at Credit Suisse and Citi.
Oliver Gratry, head of finance
Gratry joined the blockchain group after serving as head of finance for Building 8, another Facebook business unit that was also known for the heightened levels of secrecy surrounding the development of the company’s Portal video chat devices.
Susan Portalupi, head of research
Among the Instagram migrants is Portalupi, who became head of research for the blockchain group in December. She was previously with Instagram since April 2017.
Mandeep Walia, head of enterprise risk and compliance