Thumbtack gets its first CFO, hires Romney vet as top lawyer

Steven Loeb · October 20, 2015 · Short URL:

Thumbtack is growing quickly, and is looking to go deeper with its product

Fresh off of its $125 million funding round, and new-found unicorn status, local services marketplace Thumbtack has made a couple of very interesting hires, ones that point to a company that suddenly finds itself growing rapidly.

The company has added Servaes Tholen as its first ever Chief Financial Officer, and brought in Katie Biber as its lead in-house counsel, Jonathan Swanson, Co-founder and President of Thumbtack, has confirmed to VatorNews. Both hires have already started working at Thumbtack.

Tholen is a veteran CFO, having worked at the same position at two previous companies: first at eBay from 2010 to 2012, then at Elance, which became Elance-oDesk, which became Upwork. Prior to becoming CFO, Tholen had held numerous positions in eBay's finance department, starting in 2005.

"We considered dozens of candidates from the best tech companies in the world and Servaes stood out from the crowd in raw intelligence, strategic insight, and marketplace experience," said Swanson. "Very few CFOs have helped grow a marketplace business and Servaes has already done it twice."

Biber, meanwhile, it coming over from Airbnb, where she served as Senior Counsel from 2013 to 2015. Prior to that she was General Councel for Romney for President from 2011 to 2013.

One of the key things about growing a marketplace is gaining the trust of users, and given Biber's experience at Airbnb, she was a good fit for a company that is going to be creating a deeper end-to-end product, meaning also helping users schedule, pay for the jobs, exchange contracts, and just get jobs done more easily.

Those aspects of the business are likely a bit trickier from a legal perspective than just pairing up customers and professionals, and require more safety on the part of both user and contractor.

" ‚ÄčKatie has a phenomenal legal pedigree, and she was just named one of 50 Most Influential Women in America, but she also has amazing experience building and running Airbnb's marketplace integrity," he said. "Very few people in the world have experience scaling marketplace trust and safety within a rapidly growing startup, so we're thrilled to have Katie onboard."

These hires reflect Thumbtack's growing stature, as well as its growing ambitions.

The company now has over five million projects requested every year in over 1,000 categories, including house paintings, wedding caterings and even people wanting to learn Spanish. The company operates in all 50 states, and now has over 200,000 unique paying professionals.

The company now generates $1 billion in revenue for independent small businesses every year and has have more paying pros on its site than both Angie’s List and Yelp combined.

Politics meets tech

Biber's experience working for Mitt Romney also reflects a growing trend among tech, with more cross-pollination between technology and politics than ever before.

Earlier this year Stephanie Hannon, Google's director of product management for civic innovation and social impact, was tapped by the Hillary Clinton campaign to be its new chief technology office. 

Megan Smith, the currently Chief Technology Officer of the United States, who assumed office in 2014, was also previously an executive at Google, where she had been vice president of Google[x], and was vice president of business development at Google for nine years before that. She was also the former CEO of Planet Out.

Most recently, Josh Miller, who joined Facebook as a product manager following the acquisition of social sharing service Branch Media, left to become the first ever first director of product for the White House.

On the other side of the equation, we have seen tech companies, especially those with high media relations problems, bringing in those whose job it has been to sell politicians to the American peopke.

Uber hired David Plouffe as its new Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy, it was announced on Tuesday. 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. In May, Plouffe stepped back from that role, but remains an advisor to the company. 

In September of last year, Snapchat hired Jill Hazelbaker, who had also been Senior Director of Communications and Government Relations at Google, to be its new Vice President of Communications and Public Policy.

Hazelbaker had previously worked as a political consultant for a number of Republican candidates, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She also worked as National Communications Director for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Jay Carney, former White House Press Secretary, joined Amazon earlier this year as its senior vice president leading the company's Global Corporate Affairs department.

 This news was first reported by Re/Code on Monday.

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