Many early employees of companies such as Google and Yahoo are hearing the siren call of venture investing, but the departure of Facebook's Matt Cohler will be a first for the high-flying social network.
Matt Cohler, employee No. 5 at Facebook, will leave the high-flying social network this fall to join venture firm Benchmark Capital as its youngest general partner at 31 years old.
Cohler, whose job description, as written on Facebook, is "ensuring that Zuck (Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg) never makes it back to Harvard," has been the company's technical adviser, recruiter, and business strategist since 2005, roughly a year after the company started from a dorm room at Harvard University. Cohler said he will remain a special adviser to "Zuck" and the executive team at Facebook even after he moves to Benchmark as an investor in early-stage Internet start-ups. (Facebook does not have an advisory team, so the adviser role will be new to the company.)
Many early employees of companies such as Google and Yahoo are hearing the siren call of venture investing, but this is a first for Facebook. When it comes to executive moves, the social network makes many more headlines for new executive hires. Still, Bryan Schreier, a former Google employee, not too long ago joined Sequoia Capital, an early investor in the search giant. Jeff Weiner, a longtime vice president at Yahoo, recently joined Accel Partners and Greylock Partners as an entrepreneur-in-residence, following former Yahoo colleagues.
Cohler, a graduate of Yale University with a bachelor's of arts, has a healthy track record of picking promising start-ups and entrepreneurs, a talent that Benchmark partner Peter Fenton believes will translate well to venture investing. "He's worked at the center of social media and he's established himself as a go-to person for young entrepreneurs," said Fenton, 35, who's known Cohler for several years.
Cohler met the Facebook founders in 2004 through Peter Thiel, a PayPal co-founder and Facebook's first angel investor. He was introduced to Thiel through Reed Hoffman, the founder of business social network LinkedIn, which this week raised $53 million for a valuation of $1 billion. Cohler joined LinkedIn as a member of its founding team and a general manager.
Menlo Park, Calif.-based Benchmark, which now has nine partners, is known for its early investment in eBay, Handspring, and Red Hat Software. Despite its eye for promising young companies, it does not have an investment in Facebook. (Cohler said that he has not talked with the venture firm about it taking an investment in Facebook.) Benchmark's portfolio includes Zillow.com and OpenTable.
As for his experience at Facebook, Cohler said, "I've loved Facebook, the people, the product. I just knew my long-term trajectory would be to be an early stage investor."
Cohler's Facebook status on Thursday? "I'm excited for LinkedIn!"