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HolidayBuyer's Guide

One of Zuckerberg's smartest moves, so far

Facebook took a step toward growing into its $15 billion valuation with the hiring of former Google executive Cheryl Sandberg as COO.

The crew at Facebook has done well to amass a huge war chest (Microsoft's $240 million investment), 66 million members, 200,000 developers, 16,000 applications, 500 employees and somewhere between $100 million and $200 million in revenue for last year.

With the appointment of Sheryl Sandberg as COO, the odds just increased for Facebook to survive its adolescence (more on Techmeme).

Sandberg is 15 years senior to Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. She has been through the gauntlet, working in the Clinton administration and then at Google for six years, starting when the company had less than 300 people. Since Owen Van Natta, who held job titles including COO and chief revenue officer, left the company Zuckerberg has been searching for an experienced manager who would fit into the culture and lead the next wave of business growth.

The Google and Facebook cultures are not dissimilar--both are engineering driven. But Sandberg brings high-level sales and marketing expertise into the company at a time when growth in revenue needs to start catching up to the growth in members and applications. She has been through the hypergrowth and going public phases at Google, which is great training for getting Facebook on the same trajectory. She should also help Facebook avoid disasters like the Facebook Beacon program.

Mark Zuckerberg and his new No. 2 Sheryl Sandberg Dan Farber

In the PR release, Zuckerberg said, "She has just about the most relevant industry experience for Facebook, especially since we need to scale our operations and scale them globally. And we also share the same values."

Sandberg could have easily slowed down with her megamillions in Google stock. But the opportunity to take Facebook into the stratosphere was apparently too appealing.

In an interview with CNET News' Caroline McCarthy asked Zuckerberg about how Sandberg's role will differ from Van Natta's:
Well, they were different roles. Owen, as chief revenue officer, was mostly focused on direct sales, which is what we have now, and business development. He was just focused in different areas. I wouldn't view this as really a replacement there, as other people have characterized it. Owen was doing that role, and he wanted to be a CEO, and I think Owen did great work here and I'm supporting him in doing that. With bringing in a COO, we just decided it was the right time for him to go and do that. Sheryl's role is going to be managing sales and business development but also a handful of other things.
So there's going to be all the different sales channels, direct and inside and online sales, and human resources, and marketing, communications and public policy...Sheryl will be in charge of all these different operations, and our consumer operations, the user operations group. It's a large organization for someone to oversee, and she's going to be primarily responsible for scaling that organization and scaling those operations.