Greylock Partners has named Uber’s former head of product for growth as its new entrepreneur in residence (EIR). Michael Pao has joined the venture firm to work alongside partner Simon Rothman advising portfolio companies on business strategy and operations. In addition, as an EIR, he’ll be developing a company around marketplaces and transaction-based networks.
Pao worked at Uber for more than four years, during which time he rose from city launcher in Boston to general manager. Eventually he joined the company’s main office as a senior product manager and went on to establish the growth team. With his help, Uber expanded to Boston, Chicago, India, and China. Pao also implemented surge pricing and launched the Uber Ice Cream promotion.
Now the time has come for Pao to focus on what’s next in his career, and it turns out that he wants to build a marketplace business. Rothman said that he hopes Greylock will provide Pao with the space he needs to think through his future and find something he’s deeply passionate about.
Pao got the itch to explore his options for building a new team near the end of last year, and Greylock looked like a good fit: “I already knew many of the folks on the team at Greylock, and Dan Portillo connected me with [Rothman],” he explained. Pao will gain access to the firm’s experience beyond its record as a successful investor and long-term company builder. While it has backed companies like Airbnb, GoFundMe, One Kings Lane, Sprig, and others, in 2013 Greylock also invested $100 million toward innovative marketplaces and established an advisory network of industry leaders.
What Pao will create hasn’t been disclosed, although he does have some ideas. He’ll be working alongside Rothman, someone who knows about marketplaces, having joined Greylock more than two years ago after a stint at eBay, where he helped grow the company while launching eBay Motors. He’s also been an advisor and angel investor for marketplace companies such as Tesla Motors, Lyft, Poshmark, TaskRabbit, and others.
“Michael gets a vantage point and a soundboard to kick things around, which is hard to do externally,” Rothman said. An EIR role is “a good environment for some people to decompress, be inspired, and kick around ideas with people that work in this space a lot.”
Pao’s startup will likely come at a time Rothman describes as the “golden age for marketplaces,” meaning that we’re in an era when mobile phones “enable any individual to be a node of any network, enabling you to aggregate labor across a broad footprint, in an asynchronous way, and access remote services.”
“Marketplaces are people aggregated together to provide services,” he continued. “A phone is a perfect device to do this, create content, dispatch services, and more.”
“There’s never been a better time to build a marketplace,” Pao told us in an email. “There are so many companies helping to address historical painpoints in the ecosystem – that includes payments (Stripe, Adyen), background checks (Checkr), and communications (Twilio, Sendgrid, Messenger). On top of that, more and more people are choosing freedom and flexibility over a traditional corporate job – users are getting more and more comfortable with the concept of the sharing economy. These current macros trends make me incredibly bullish on the future of marketplace companies.”