In May Facebook VP David Marcus, switched his focus from Facebook Messenger to head up a small group exploring blockchain. Marcus was previously President of Paypal and at the time sat on the board of Coinbase. By July the group’s headcount on LinkedIn was seven and that’s now grown to 54, of which no less than six people are Facebook recruiters. The spotlight was reignited by the hiring of researchers from London blockchain startup Chainspace.
Much of this analysis is based on LinkedIn which is not so popular with some developers. Hence the figures should be an understatement.
Reading the tea leaves
In December Bloomberg reported that the possible first Facebook blockchain product would be a stable coin initially targeted at Indian remittances using Facebook’s WhatsApp messenger app. Facebook did not officially confirm this. The social network already has payments within Facebook Messenger which use debit cards. However, Messenger payments are currently only available in the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Blockchain’s appeal is to make cross border payments far cheaper and quicker.
Abhishek Lahiri’s LinkedIn profile lists his job title as “Public Policy Manager, India and South Asia”. He started at Facebook in December and listed his interests as public policy, fintech, blockchain, and payments at Facebook. Before joining Facebook, he was an Associate Director at PwC where his role included go-to-market strategies for payments and fintech.
Scale and maturity
We grouped the Facebook team by function to get a sense of maturity. The largest group is engineering, including a couple of data science and analytics people with a total headcount of 16. The next biggest was the 15 member team focusing on the business side. This covers strategy, business development, marketing and communications, compliance and finance. Two of this group have job titles involving business development or strategic partnerships.
The business group does not include the six recruiters nor the nine-strong product team. The Chainspace hires on LinkedIn bring the research group to eight. However, only three ex-Chainspace researchers appear on LinkedIn whereas Cheddar reported that four had joined.
Unsurprisingly most of the team (41 out of 54) are based in San Francisco. The new Chainspace hires are the first in the UK. Two of the six recruiters are based in Seattle which may point to plans to beef up its presence there.
During the peak of the ICO frenzy, enterprises struggled to attract staff with blockchain skills, and many decided to train from within. The slump in cryptocurrencies has ignited an opportunity to attract skilled blockchain staff. But if others start to follow Facebook’s example, the battle for skills is likely to re-intensify.