Meet new Meta COO Javier Olivan, the ‘super-low-ego, humble’ company veteran filling Sheryl Sandberg’s large shoes who rarely uses Facebook or Instagram
- Javier Olivan has been at Meta for 15 years and has officially replaced Sheryl Sandberg as COO.
- He’s the mastermind behind Facebook’s explosive global growth and helped facilitate the firm’s WhatsApp acquisition.
- Born in northern Spain, he grew up paragliding, speaks five languages, and now lives in Palo Alto.
Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg’s right-hand favorite, is out. Javier Olivan, behind-the-scenes “unofficial fixer,” is in.
The 45-year-old has been at Facebook for 15 years, holding mostly VP-level roles and orchestrating the company’s breakneck expansion into one of the world’s most popular internet platforms.
Sandberg held an unconventional COO role, serving very much as No. 2 to Zuckerberg in all things, including in the public eye. Olivan won’t.
He’s been at Facebook since 2007, and while we don’t know much about his salary, he did just file a disclosure with the Securities and Exchange Commission, revealing that he holds about $35 million worth of restricted stock units.
Here’s how “Javi” came into a high-level position at one of the most powerful companies on earth.
Zuckerberg recruited him to Facebook in 2007
According to his LinkedIn, Olivan graduated from the Spain-based University of Navarra in 2000 and later got his MBA from Stanford in 2007. He worked at Siemens AG and other startups, including some based in Tokyo, before going to Facebook.
Olivan, who speaks five languages, was working on developing a Spanish version of Facebook when Zuckerberg contacted and recruited him as head of global growth. He joined in October 2007.
He was head of international growth for four years and was “responsible for introducing and growing Facebook adoption outside of US,” per his LinkedIn. He later was promoted to VP of growth, VP of central products, and then became chief growth officer and VP of products across Meta’s pinwheel of products.
His Spanish upbringing and global perspective helped him as he opened many of Facebook’s offices around the world. It was Olivan who had the idea to enlist users from around the world to help translate the social website in their native countries for free, helping the company rapidly expand into new markets in a short amount of time.
All in all, he is the key reason that Facebook was able to scale across the globe thanks to a data-driven approach. Meta reported in Q1 that over 90% of the company’s monthly users are outside the US and Canada.
The limelight is not his forte — and he’s fine with that
As Bloomberg noted, you might recognize his name if you’ve thumbed through the leaked material that whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed in 2021, specifically the documents showing Facebook’s notorious “grow at all costs” mission.
But besides that, he is not known for being in the public eye, nor does he have any desire to be, anonymous colleagues told Bloomberg.
“I don’t want people to mistake his humility and lack of ego for lack of effectiveness or for being shy or anything like that,” Alex Schultz, Meta’s chief marketing officer who’s reported to Olivan for years, told Bloomberg. “He’s just actually a super-low-ego, humble guy in my opinion, and I think that should be rewarded in business a bit more than it is.”
He also doesn’t use Facebook or Instagram very often — his Instagram account is private, and there are about five original posts on his Facebook profile since 2010. One of them is a farewell address to Sandberg dated June 1.
“I’m excited to take on this new challenge as COO,” Olivan wrote, noting that he won’t be taking a heavily public-facing role. “As Mark said, you can’t really replace someone like Sheryl; so while I’ll have the same title, this will be a different role.”
He may not be a household name outside of the office, but Olivan has had a significant behind-the-scenes hand in many of Facebook’s big moments.
He helped see Meta’s Internet.org and Facebook Lite projects over the finish line, per Bloomberg. He was also instrumental in Zuckerberg’s decision to buy WhatsApp in 2014 and had personal experience with how the product could help users communicate with friends and family overseas — before the acquisition became controversial in light of antitrust scrutiny.
“Javi was always reminding us of the fact that not everyone was using an iPhone,” Meta VP of product Naomi Gleit, who has also reported to Olivan, told Bloomberg. “He was always trying to bring in international insight.”