The shakeup at the world’s largest cryptocurrency is causing a flurry of activity across the tech sector.
David Marcus, the longtime chief operating officer of the blockchain platform Meta, is leaving the company to become chief product officer at the payments company Square.
“I’m incredibly grateful to everyone at Meta,” Marcus wrote in a blog post. “From the Meta core team to the entire community, I’ve been blessed to call you all my friends.”
Marcus was appointed the first crypto CEO of a financial institution at Facebook, where he was also chief product officer. But his role was limited, and his responsibilities shifted to hiring for a company that was investing in its own technology and not developing a whole new strategy around blockchain.
He joined Meta at the start of 2018 in a reorganization with the goal of bringing its crypto assets into Facebook’s mainstream platforms. Its predecessors Meta VPN and MetaPay were recently integrated into Facebook’s Messenger product.
“Meta will continue to delight the community with tools that keep users safe and make the world a better place,” Marcus wrote. “I look forward to seeing what this incredible company will become moving forward.”
Sam Biddle, a founding partner at Meta’s parent company AnchorBank, will take over as COO of the company.
“Thank you so much to everyone at Meta for everything you have done for us over the past 18 months,” he wrote in a post on Twitter. “We’ve always been a group of incredibly passionate techies, and we plan to keep that attitude, the work we’ve done together and the ideals we’ve held close as we move ahead.”
Meta reported $1.7bn in total cryptocurrency assets last June. During the previous three months of 2018, that figure fell significantly to $1.1bn. When it raised $109m in December, the drop was even greater to $91m.
The company has been facing an uphill struggle, with interest in the cryptocurrency market waning somewhat since the Bitcoin bubble burst in early 2017. Coinbase, the largest US crypto exchange, reports that the value of cryptocurrencies dropped by 44% in January and February.
Bility Monster, a cryptocurrency manager at EverBank who tracks the value of ICOs, estimates that there were nine so-called initial coin offerings worth $130m in November 2018. The month before, there were 59 worth $7.3bn.
At the center of the Meta’s problems has been its inability to scale itself. Marcus sold Twitter to Facebook for $23bn in 2012, but he did not build the social media company, which was focused on selling advertising, into something more mainstream.
He did, however, usher in mobile apps like Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger that focused on local interests and using technology to improve local services, and that have become the backbone of Facebook’s ad revenue.
Marcus and Facebook also cooperated on the challenge of improving connected communities in Asia through internet.org, which is part of a nonprofit arm of the social network with the aim of getting people across the world online. It provides free connectivity to people in India and Africa by partnering with local telecom companies.
“I feel that now is the right time for David to take on a role at a larger company where his capabilities as a CTO can be leveraged for larger scale product efforts,” said Imran Mian, the CEO of Meta, in a statement. “The cryptocurrency industry is poised for an unprecedented transformation. I look forward to us continuing our mission of making the world a better place while still remaining an open source platform and having Dave’s guidance.”