Uber hires Google's Rachel Whetstone as SVP of policy

Steven Loeb · May 13, 2015 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/3dc9

Whetstone is replacing David Plouffe, who will be transferring to an advisory role at Uber

Google and Uber have an interesting relationship. Google Ventures, the company's venture capital arm, invested $258 million in Uber in August 2013 and has been a big advocate for the ride-share startup.

The two companies, though, are seemingly going to be going head-to-head over the driverless car, with Google having worked on the idea for years, and recent reports indicating that it is now looking to turn them into a fleet of taxis. Uber also uses Google Maps, but has been making purchases to loosen its dependence on third party systems. 

And now there is another wrinkle to the relationship, as it looks like Uber just stole one of Google's most important employees, a.k.a. the person who has been helping it lobby in Washington.

Rachel Whetstone, who has been the longtime head of Google’s public policy and communications unit, is joining Uber as its SVP of policy and communications, according to a report out from Re/Code on Wednesday. 

She will be taking over the position from David Plouffe, who was hired in August of last year. Plouffe, of course, is famous for being Barack Obama's campaign manager in 2008 and a Senior Advisor to the President when he got to the White House.

Plouffe's job was to manage all global policy and political activities, communications, and Uber branding efforts. Essentially to build up Uber's brand in the same way he did for Obama, to get out ahead of the taxi industry, and to get both customer and regulators on Uber's side.

Presumably he has been doing a good job; when was the last time you remember Uber being involved in a major scandal? But, as Re/Code pointed out, Plouffe's experience is in politics, while Whetstone has experience with navigating a tech company through Washington, which likely a whole different animal.

And, while at Google, Whetstone certainly had her fair share of run-ins with policy makers. 

Google is the kind of company that, seemingly every month, has a new agency looking into it. Be it the FCC fining the company for impeding its investigation into how Google collects its data, or the FTC forcing Google to refund $19 million to parents for unauthorized in-app purchases made by their children. 

Most recently Google has been butting heads with the European Union, which last year voted in favor of breaking the company up, separating its search engine from the rest of Googe. 

With the amount of regulation and redtape that Uber constantly finds itself in (it seems like every city it tries to enter immediately bans it) Whetstone should have her work cut out for her when she starts in June.

As for Poluffe, just because he gave up his day job that does not mean that he is leaving Uber. Instead, he will now be a chief advisor, reporting directly to CEO Travis Kalanick, as well as a member of the company's board of directors. 

Re/Code describes his new role "as a more strategic and external focus, rather than a day-to-day one."

Over at Google, meanwhile, Whetstone's replacement has apparently already been found. Jessica Powell will become the interim global communications head. The policy staff that Whetstone had under her will now report directly to her former boss, chief legal officer David Drummond.

Want to know how intertwined Google and Uber are? Drummond is on Uber’s board of directors.

VatorNews has reached out to Uber for comment on Whetstone's appointment. We will update this story if we learn more. 

(Image source: google.com)

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