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Javier Olivan, Meta’s new COO, built his career on global growth

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook Inc., on the right, pauses as Javier Olivan, vice president of growth and analytics at Facebook Inc., watches billionaire Carlos Slim’s Telmex Foundation’s annual event for scholarship students in Mexico City, Mexico, Friday 5. September 2014. Zuckerberg said he is willing to use whatever is needed to spread Internet access around the world.

Susana Gonzalez | Bloomberg | Getty pictures

Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most visible figures in Silicon Valley. Javier “Javi”[ads1]; Olivan, who succeeds Sandberg as operations manager at Facebook owner Meta, is a virtually unknown off-campus.

Sandberg, the author of the best-selling “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” from 2013, has over 900,000 Instagram followers. Olivan’s Instagram, with 17 followers, is private. Until Wednesday, Olivan had not published a public post on his Facebook profile since 2018.

“I want to thank Sheryl for all she has done for Meta and for the billions of people around the world who use our products,” Olivan wrote on Facebook after the announcement, coinciding with posts from Sandberg and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

On Wednesday, Sandberg said that she is ending her 14-year career in the company so that she can focus on philanthropy. Zuckerberg said that although Olivan will take over the COO title, he will not replace Sandberg in the organizational structure “since she is a superstar who defined the COO role in her own unique way.”

Olivan’s quiet public personality does not reflect his influence in the company. He is among a handful of executives who report to Zuckerberg, climbing near the top of the latter during his nearly 15-year career in the social media company. He joined the C-suite five months ago, taking over the title of chief growth officer, and is also vice president of cross-Meta products and infrastructure.

If Sandberg led the responsibility for building Facebook’s advertising business, which still represents 97% of Meta’s total revenue, Olivan deserves credit for its global expansion. His first job at the company, from 2007 to 2011, was head of international growth.

Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook Inc.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty pictures

Over 91% of monthly users now come from outside the US and Canada, according to Meta’s first quarter results.

Olivan was born in the small Spanish municipality of Sabiñánigo in 1977, and worked in Europe and Asia before moving to Silicon Valley. After receiving a master’s degree in electrical and industrial engineering from the University of Spain in Navarre, he worked as a research and development engineer at Siemens in Munich and then at NTT Data in Tokyo. In 2007, he graduated from Stanford University School of Business and started on Facebook.

When he joined Facebook in 2007, fewer than 50 million people used the app, with “a very small portion coming from users outside the United States.” This is stated in the prospectus of Vy Global Growth, a black-check company that counts Olivan as a board member.

In addition to Vy Global, Olivan spent six years on the board of the Latin American e-commerce company MercadoLibre, and he invested in the geospatial image company Satellogic ahead of the SPAC agreement it completed in January.

But his career has been centered on Facebook. In 2008, Olivan accompanied Zuckerberg to perform at the University of Navarra. He later worked at, an experiment launched by Facebook and other companies in 2013 to connect people to Internet services in less developed countries.

“Extroverted and social”

In 2015, the effort had brought free internet services to over 500 million people and connected to 7 million who were not previously online. In an email interview with America’s Quarterly, Olivan, then vice president of growth at Facebook, said that although the company had already become a fixture in Latin America, it still has plenty of room to grow in the region.

“Extroverted and social by nature, Latin Americans have embraced our site to the point that Facebook is synonymous with the Internet in many places,” Olivan wrote.

Spanish was Facebook’s first non-English language, and it was the first project Olivan worked on, he said in an interview earlier this year.

Olivan continues to serve the company abroad. As recently as March, he represented Meta on a state visit with Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s prime minister.

Olivan also pushed for Facebook to buy the mobile messaging app WhatsApp. Prior to the $ 19 billion acquisition in 2014, Olivan told Facebook management that WhatsApp was used more actively than Facebook, noting that “literally everyone” in Spain used it, according to a 2020 report by Democratic employees in a subcommittee in United States House of Antitrust. Zuckerberg said he agreed with Olivan’s analysis that WhatsApp could expose new users to Facebook.

Even with promotion, Olivan can remain relatively under the radar. Sandberg, in his role as No. 2, routinely updated investors on quarterly earnings talks. A Meta spokesman declined to comment on whether Olivan would follow.

Zuckerberg wrote in his Facebook post that Olivan takes on integrated advertising and business products while continuing to drive infrastructure, integrity, analytics, marketing, business development and growth.

“With some exceptions, I do not expect my role to have the same public-facing aspect, given that we have other leaders in Meta who are already responsible for that work,” Olivan wrote in his Facebook post.

SEE: Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg will leave the company this autumn

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