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Why Fidji Simo left Facebook for Instacart

Why Fidji Simo left Facebook for Instacart

Good morning! This Friday, the Facebookification of Instacart is about to begin, Elizabeth Warren wants more crypto regulation, Richard Branson goes to space this weekend, and Dropbox is opening its offices back up — but don't you dare call them offices.

Also, join us Tuesday for our Smart Cities event! A panel of experts will dive into what's happening with connected cities, any roadblocks that are in the way, and how tech can help. Sign up here.

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The Big Story

The Big Blue shopping cart

For the last few years, Fidji Simo ran Facebook. While Mark Zuckerberg was throwing axes and building the FB empire, Simo oversaw the crown jewel: the Big Blue app, the source of most of Facebook's users, revenue and controversy.

And now Simo is gone. Starting Aug. 2, she'll be the CEO at Instacart, as Apoorva Mehta switches over to being the executive chairman of the board.

  • She's been on Instacart's board since January, and Mehta said at the time that he had sent her a cold email because "she is one of the best executives in Silicon Valley."
  • Simo had been talking with Mehta about the CEO gig for a while, and told CNBC she also talked about it extensively with Zuckerberg. He was "obviously sad that we couldn't find something that aligned at Facebook," Simo said, "but also incredibly supportive of me taking on this role, which I'm always grateful for."
  • Simo had some run-ins with Zuckerberg, as Platformer reported, but she'd also reached a ceiling at Facebook. This is an issue all its leaders have: Above Will Cathcart, Stan Chudnovsky and Adam Mosseri (and previously Simo) in the product org, there's only Chris Cox and Zuckerberg. As Facebook continues to centralize control at the top, that could cost it more executives.

Poaching Simo is a huge win for Instacart. She's an experienced, versatile, well-liked executive who has managed to be in charge of Facebook without getting dragged down by its problems. Which is no easy feat.

  • There are more similarities between the two companies than you might think, too. "We saw the emergence of a lot of new companies built on top of Facebook ads," Simo told CNBC. "And I'm seeing the same thing happening within Instacart's business, where not only existing food companies are reaching new customers, but I see new food companies having the potential to be created."
  • The Facebookification of Instacart could be sweeping: Simo could push to turn the app into a place for stores to set up, or a personalized shopping machine. It's already a strong ads business, something she knows well.
  • "Instacart can play an important role helping people as their connection to food evolves," Simo wrote in her announcement post, "by creating an experience that's more convenient, has the widest selection of food, offers faster delivery times, a more affordable price, deeper personalization, and more inspiration."
  • Simo is also the kind of experienced leader investors will be looking for as the company heads toward an IPO, which could come as soon as this year. "I can't think of a better leader to take the company public," Mehta told The Wall Street Journal.

It's also a huge loss for Facebook. Simo was one of Facebook's longest-tenured, highest-ranking women, not to mention someone Zuckerberg respected and who had huge institutional knowledge after a decade at the company.

  • This comes after Instacart poached Asha Sharma, who left a VP of product role at Facebook to be Instacart's COO. You can bet Zuckerberg is not a Mehta fan right now.
  • Tom Alison is the new head of the Big Blue app, by the way, which makes sense given that he was Simo's second in command for the last couple of years. He'll now report to Chris Cox.

This is a statement of intent from Instacart, as much as anything. It's not trying to be DoorDash or Uber Eats; it's trying to be the Facebook of Food. Whatever that looks like, they're pretty sure it's going to be huge. And who better to figure it out than Fidji Simo?

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Recently, Micron announced new memory and storage innovations across its portfolio based on its industry-leading 176-layer NAND and 1α (1-alpha) DRAM technology. But what does "1α" mean, and just how amazing is it?

Learn more

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Join Protocol's David Pierce for a conversation with Smart Columbus' Jordan Davis, Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners (SIP)'s Jonathan Winer and Microsoft's Jeremy Goldberg on what it takes to build smart cities right. July 13 @ 11 a.m. PT / 2 p.m. ET Learn more

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People Are Talking

On Protocol | Enterprise: Focusing your R&D team is a way to increase its return on investment, Autodesk's Andrew Anagnost said:

  • "We used to have a very bottom-up investment model, where each team could independently decide whether to start a project. There were a lot of projects in the company that never got to escape velocity because we can only absorb so many bets. Fundamentally, I moved the company to a more balanced approach. We're going to focus on a narrow set of areas."

Elizabeth Warren is demanding more crypto regulation:

  • "These regulatory gaps endanger consumers and investors and undermine the safety of our financial markets. The SEC must use its full authority to address these risks."

On Protocol: There's no better moat in business than great, exclusive IP, Survios' Seth Gerson said:

  • "At the end of the day, you don't buy a PlayStation 5 because you like the chipset in there ... You're not buying it because of lock-in. You're buying it because it's the type of content, the type of experience and the type of presence."

The extra cash isn't a big enough incentive for Uber and Lyft drivers to go back, workers said:

  • "If I kept driving, something was going to break. I already go nights without eating or sleeping."

Making Moves

Circle is getting SPAC'd. The cryptocurrency company is merging with Concord Acquisition, which Circle says will value the company $4.5 billion.

Sunil Singhvi is Rarible's new chief business development officer. He previously worked on development at Twitter and Instagram.

New York is opening a Cyberattack Defense Center, trying to centralize and share some of the work of protecting companies and public agencies from risks.

Apple's Eddy Cue is joining the board of trustees at Duke University. He got two bachelor's degrees at Duke, and his two sons went there.

Microsoft is giving its employees a $1,500 bonus, which is the company's way of saying "thank you for all your hard work" and "please don't quit now that everybody's hiring again."

In Other News

  • Richard Branson will live stream his launch into space at 9 a.m. ET on Sunday. If all goes well, Branson will beat Jeff Bezos by nine days and became the first billionaire to travel to space. And if intelligent life is out there, as NASA chief Bill Nelson says, Branson could be our first point of contact.
  • President Biden is set to sign a Big Tech executive order. It will call for increased merger scrutiny, CNBC reported, and asks the FTC to make new rules for data collection. The order should come today.
  • Square is building a hardware crypto wallet. The goal is to "make bitcoin custody more mainstream," Square's Jesse Dorogusker said, and Max Guise will lead the team building the new product.
  • On Protocol | Workplace: Dropbox's offices are reopening and rebranding. They're now called Dropbox Studios, designed to encourage employees to hang out, relax and get a bunch of work done.
  • Don't make a back-to-work promise you can't keep, Google employees are saying. The company is requiring employees to head back to California offices in September, while allowing one of its senior executives to work from New Zealand.
  • LinkDoc will no longer go public. Sources told Bloomberg that China's crackdown on foreign IPOs and market volatility both played a role in the medical data company halting its listing.
  • India wants Facebook to be investigated for its role in a deadly riot last year that killed more than 50 people. The country's supreme court is bringing in a Facebook director to testify, arguing that its algorithms have the potential to spread and reinforce bias.
  • Morgan Stanley was hacked. Private information like Social Security numbers, addresses and birthdates were stolen from a third-party vendor. Passwords were not included in the stolen data, according to Morgan Stanley.

One More Thing

A help kit for your life

Summer is a great time to pick up a new hobby, learn a new skill, be a better person, really focus on yourself. It's also not a time for trying too hard, you know? NPR's Life Kit podcast is just the right mix: Each episode is around 20 minutes, and topics range from tips on how to be the best gardener, to why you should wear sunscreen, to how to help if someone's being harassed. (There's even an episode about how to start a podcast, which is very meta but also very good.) Give it a listen if you need a little boost, and if you aren't a podcast listener, there's also a Life Kit newsletter.

Do you have any other podcast recs? Have you mastered a skill using Life Kit's tips? Reply directly to this email and let us know.

A MESSAGE FROM MICRON

Recently, Micron announced new memory and storage innovations across its portfolio based on its industry-leading 176-layer NAND and 1α (1-alpha) DRAM technology. But what does "1α" mean, and just how amazing is it?

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your weekend, see you Sunday.

Correction: This story originally mischaracterized Fidji Simo as a person of color. Updated July 13, 2021.

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