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The CTO of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is leaving after less than a year

Reminder: CZI is indeed a startup.

Priscilla Chan, Brian Pinkerton, Mark Zuckerberg
Pinkerton (center) with Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg / Facebook

The top technology exec at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the philanthropic investment vehicle founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, is leaving the organization after less than a year.

Brian Pinkerton, who joined CZI from Amazon last October to run all of its engineering efforts, emailed CZI staff this morning to announce he was leaving. In the email, Pinkerton implied that CZI’s engineering team had grown far bigger than he was interested in managing.

The engineering team was just three employees when he joined, and now totals 96 people, according to a source.

“It’s been an honor to help build the foundation for our technology work at CZI. I’m not sure what comes next for me, but I’ve been a software engineer since I was 15, and I’m looking forward to exploring work that allows me to go deeper on a narrower set of challenges,” Pinkerton wrote in a portion of the email obtained by Recode. “It’s the kind of work that I’m passionate about, and it’s been tough to find that balance given the demands of leading as we’ve grown in numbers and in scope.”

A CZI spokesperson confirmed Pinkerton’s departure and sent the following statement, attributable to Zuckerberg.

“Priscilla and I want to thank Brian for helping to build our engineering organization and lay the foundation to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges in education, science, and policy.”

Pinkerton handled a number of CZI’s technical projects in his short time on staff, including heavy involvement in the acquisition and integration of the AI startup Meta, which CZI bought back in January. He also worked on CZI’s tech partnership with Summit Schools and the Human Cell Atlas project aimed at mapping all human cells.

Pinkerton’s quick departure is a reminder that even though CZI is deploying billions of dollars in capital to do things like “help cure all disease,” the organization is still a startup trying to figure lots of things out on the fly. Quick departures like this happen often as startups grow; it may not be the last for CZI.

So, CZI is on the hunt for a new CTO. A number of people internally will manage CZI’s engineering efforts in the interim, including Sandra Liu Huang, James Wang, Bruce Martin and Josh Wiseman. Luckily, the organization has another pretty capable technical mind in Zuckerberg, who’s in the office about one day a week. Though they are both heavily involved, Chan is in the office more frequently.

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