Google names Levchin VP of engineering

Faith Merino · August 26, 2010 · Short URL:

Former Slide CEO gets a senior 'socializing' role at the search giant


What will Max Levchin be bringing to Google?  A lot, apparently, since the search engine juggernaut just named Levchin’s installation as the newest vice president of engineering.

Levchin, co-founder of PayPal and former CEO of Slide, personally pocketed some $39 million earlier this month when Google acquired Slide for $182 million.  This was after investing $7 million of his own money into the social entertainment/self-expression site and raising $78 million in venture financing to get it up and running in 2005.  The San Francisco, Calif.-based company capitalized on the market for virtual hugs and sheep-flinging on Facebook—what Levchin called “literary emoticons,” in the form of SuperPokes, and Levchin helped create other apps on Facebook, such as FunWall and Top Friends.

Prior to Slide, Ukrainian-born Levchin was the co-founder of the electronic payment company PayPal, where he developed the site’s anti-fraud technology, including CAPTCHA, the Gausebeck-Levchin test.  As a testament to the company’s success, PayPal was sold to the online auction company eBay for $1.5 million.

[Editor's note: Slide's partner at PayPayl, Peter Thiel will be giving a Keynote speech at Vator's upcoming Vator Splash event this Sept. 30]

Google’s acquisition of Slide has been speculated to be part of the company’s effort to move into the social networking scene, and naming Levchin - a pioneer in the social networking scene - vice president of engineering will certainly help that aim.  Levchin, with his Slide experience, is expected to play a big role in the platform and application area of Google’s social networking plans.

The position puts Levchin on par with Google’s Vic Gundotra, who has been said to be leading Google’s social move.  Both will be answering to senior vice president of operations Urs Holzle, who sits on the company’s operating committee.  The move is unusual for Google, which has a reputation for being none-too-kind to outsiders moving in at high-ranking positions.  Giving such a high title to an outsider shows Google’s seriousness about its goals.

But such is the nature of social networking.  It’s social.  At some point, you have to go out and make new friends, which is what Levchin attempted to do in the early days of PayPal, when he tried to find someone outside the company to install as senior engineering manager.  Unable to find someone who fit the bill, he ended up allowing the engineers to “self-organize.”

Teamwork and embracing chnage

Levchin “will be working on social products with a variety of teams,” said spokesperson Andrew Pederson to Inside Facebook.

Max Levchin already knows the value of a solid team. 

“Every entrepreneur sooner or later realizes that it’s all about the people you work with,” he said in a 2008 VatorNews interview with Bambi Francisco.  “It really does come down to the team.  If you wind up hiring top-notch people, you can live through many changes and survive and do well, and if you don’t, you’re pretty much doomed from the start.”

Levchin could not be reached for comment.  The social project, which is said to be called “Google Me,” is believed to be an attempt to ward off the advancing army of Facebook, for which Google will need Levchin’s social know-how.  The key to success, according to Levchin: embracing change. 

Image source: Times Online

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Slide is the largest personal media network in the world, reaching 144 million unique global viewers each month and more than 30 percent of the U.S. Internet audience. We help people express themselves and tell stories through personalized photos and videos created on and viewed anywhere on the web or desktop.

Slide's products — including Slideshows, FunWall and SuperPoke! — are popular on top social networking and blog platforms, including MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, Friendster, Tagged and Blogger. Slide is also the leading developer on Facebook with more than 84 million applications installed and the most active users than any other developer.

Launched in 2005 and founded by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, Slide is backed by Mayfield Fund, Blue Run Ventures, Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund.


Bambi Francisco Roizen

Joined Vator on

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.