Yahoo is suffering more of a talent drain, and bigger companies like Microsoft have more employees to lose, yet Google is still the top past employer of current Facebook employees, according to LinkedIn data.
This trend is not new. Engineer Justin Rosenstein helped kick it off in mid 2007 with an outspoken email to his Google colleagues about why he was leaving. As of late March 2008, around 40 people, or 10% of Facebook’s employees, had previously been at Google.
But today, the Google-Facebook shift is more meaningful than ever: “Xooglers” are taking up key Facebook leadership positions and increasing more directly against their former employer.
Using advanced search features on LinkedIn, you can sort user profiles to see total current employees and total past employers for individuals at companies. While the data’s not completely clear, it appears that out of 2009 people who have had some role at Facebook, 277 of them have some previous experience at Google, followed by 146 at Yahoo, and 143 at Microsoft. Other tech leaders with a couple dozen or less include, in order, Oracle, eBay, IBM, PayPal, Cisco, and even Stanford University.
Facebook itself recently said it has 1600 employees, so the 409 person difference could be due to factors such as people who were short-term interns, people falsely claiming to work at the company, independent contractors who work with Facebook but are not technically counted, or former employees who have left but not change their profile. It’s of course possible that Facebook’s own announced numbers are already out of date as the company opens and expands offices in the US and around the world. One other note here is that some portion of Facebook employees don’t have LinkedIn profiles.
Yet, as others have been noting, Google’s role as former employer has been been a part of Silicon Valley life in the past year, and a contributor to the two companies’ increasing friction. Facebook is grabbing more traffic, working with Microsoft, and working with more advertisers are of course some of the other reasons the two companies are competing. Google, even as hit finds success with mobile, and other ventures beyond search, is aiming to compete through its own social features, whether layered on top of existing products or introduced as new ones. But given that Facebook is a younger, still-private public company with a fraction of Google’s 20,000 employees, the company is being forced to make extraordinary counteroffers even as Facebook continues to recruit heavily from it.
As far back as 2009, at a time when other startups like Twitter were seen by many (including Facebook itself) as a key competitor, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and other executives consistently cited Google as the main threat in interviews with press.
Indeed, after pulling a diverse engineering and product team from older companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo as well as universities like Caltech and Stanford,
One of first was Sandberg herself; she had previously helped build Google’s advertising sales team. She was quickly followed by Elliott Schrage, who is currently the vice president of global communications, marketing and public policy.
A list of others has since left Google and taken key roles, from Ethan Beard on Facebook’s platform, advertising and operations executive David Fischer and former Android senior product manager Eric Tseng, and Bret Taylor and Paul Buchheit via the FriendFeed acquisition. Check out the LinkedIn results for yourself; results are sorted by your personal connections so if you know a lot of people in the tech world you might get a fascinating view into who you and your connections know at Facebook now.