clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Exclusive: Snapchat COO Emily White to Depart Ephemeral Messaging Phenom

CEO Evan Spiegel wanted more hands-on control of the hot startup that White has helped turbocharge.

Emily White, the high-profile Instagram exec whose hiring as COO of Snapchat in late 2013 was much touted, is leaving the ephemeral-messaging company.

The Venice, Calif.-based company confirmed the departure in a statement: “Emily is a talented executive and we thank her for her many contributions to Snapchat.”

According to sources, the move was precipitated in recent weeks with the realization by co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel that he wants to be a more hands-on and operational CEO. The pair apparently discussed the issue, especially since White had been responsible for vast swaths of Snapchat, including business operations, sales and HR.

White, who is a very well-regarded exec in Silicon Valley, has long wanted to become CEO of a company herself, but took the Snapchat job due to its broad responsibilities — somewhat akin to when Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg hired COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Simply put, in the case of Snapchat, though, Spiegel wanted more purview over the entire fast-growing startup, which was counter to White’s desire for more leadership growth.

White is the third top executive to leave the company in the past two months, all of whom coincidentally came over from Facebook. The social networking giant owns Instagram, from which White was recruited by Spiegel. She also was a former Google exec who was closely affiliated with Sandberg while there and at Facebook.

Sales head Mike Randall, who was hired by White, departed at the end of January. And Sara Sperling, who worked on HR and other issues at Snapchat, departed last month for personal reasons. Both employees, whose families were in the San Francisco area, were at the company for roughly six months.

While this is a big departure, it’s not uncommon for executives to revolve through high-profile startups — especially during the early days. That has happened a lot at places such as Facebook and Twitter in their hyper-growth periods. Nonetheless, from outside at least, it’s a concern that so many of them have been leaving all at once of late.

Still, Snapchat has a deep bench for such a young company and is searching for more execs, including a head of sales and a CFO. Other top management there now with key roles include: Imran Khan, a clear up-and-coming power at Snapchat, who is chief strategy officer; VP of Engineering Tim Sehn, a former Amazon exec; Former Google, Apple and Motorola exec Steve Horowitz, who is also a VP of engineering; former Egon Zehnder exec Simmi Singh, who is chief talent officer; former Google exec Jill Hazelbaker, who runs communications and policy; and General Counsel Chris Handman.

This group has accomplished a lot recently, including introducing the nifty new Discover feature, which has been much lauded by publishers and marketers and is garnering big advertising rates. White, as well as a former News Corp. digital exec named Nick Bell, was integral to this effort.

For those who are not familiar, Discover is a new section within Snapchat where publishers can share videos and stories that exist for 24-hour cycles. These publishers are also charging a $100 CPM for advertisements that accompany this content, making it one of the priciest digital as buys on the market.

The point of Discover is two fold: It gives users a reason to visit the app every day, and it helps Snapchat’s bottom line in the process.

That success and its growth — especially among young people — has caused a bit of a frenzy around the company among investors. Snapchat recently got $200 million in investment from Chinese tech giant Alibaba, and is reportedly valued at $15 billion. Along with Discover, the startup is also digging into more advanced revenue plans, which likely helps investors justify the sky-high valuation.

White’s own prospects post-Snapchat are also high, said one top Internet exec who knows her well. “Emily will have the choice of a lot of big jobs,” said the exec. “She was a star at Facebook, did amazing things at Snapchat and really has huge prospects for much more.”

Her intentions are perhaps the same as what she told me when she was hired at Snapchat. “It happened really quickly, but to have an actual COO role in one of many companies that is disrupting the communications arena is one I could not pass up,” said White then. “I have always been captivated by the creativity that has gone into the product … and I think that Evan has been looking for someone who can help him grow and scale what is already something that has changed a lot of the way people think about the mobile experience.”

Now, that job, at least, has gone poof.

This article originally appeared on