Charles Jolley, head of product for Facebook’s mobile platform and a key member of the Facebook Home team, who joined Facebook when it acquired his startup Strobe in November 2011, has left the company to work on his own startup, which he will do as entrepreneur-in-residence at Battery Ventures. The news was announced by Jolley himself in a post on Facebook last week. And today it was formally followed up by an announcement from Battery Ventures.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Jolley said that he had been wanting to work on a new startup for a while already — he is a serial entrepreneur and his departure post on FB (included below) says it’s been something on his mind for more than two years. Jolley told us wanted to stay on with Facebook until Home was launched — working on the new lock screen and Chat Heads were his last projects there. Other notable recent departures include ad man Antonio Garcia-Martinez, director of product Blake Ross and designer Nicholas Felton.
Jolley says he is still working out the new idea for the startup. For now, he says that he knows he wants it to focus on tablets and the “sweet spot” for tablet usage.
“We did some primary research for Strobe for demand curves for tablets,” he said. “We found that that when you have a tablet 7 inches in size, and of good quality, when it falls to around $200 there will be an increase in demand.” He believes that a critical mass in that kind of tablet will “hit in the next year.” Already — he notes, citing data from Gartner — more than 25% of mobile users do not own a PC, and the rise of inexpensive but powerful tablets will continue driving that push (something analysts are also tracking).
“People will buy them for their family and will carry them everywhere,” Jolley predicts. “Also usage changes dramatically when you don’t just have a tiny screen but a big one. It has impact on how you work and shop. My startup will be somewhere in that space.”
Indeed, you can also see some of that always-on usage also played a role in how Facebook Home was conceived. “Chat Heads changes how you relate to your phone. You can be doing anything else but you can see get a message,” Jolley notes. “I think this could be a trendsetter in the industry for sure.”
Although Jolley has extensive experience in HTML5 and worked under HTML5 champion Bret Taylor at Facebook, he also says he was one of the most vocal people arguing for more native app development at the social network because of the better performance. On the other hand, native environments are not conducive to fast and cost-effective iterations, which will hold back enterprises from embracing mobile full-throttle (that’s also an argument pushed by Gizmox, which yesterday announced a $7.5m round to push HTML5 enterprise platform.) Longer term, Jolley says he believes that solutions inevitably “will need to be hybrid.”
The proliferation of tablets, and the interplay of native and HTML5 are both areas that Battery is also interested in, says Jolley — hence his decision to go there instead of elsewhere. That could also mean that in addition to helping Jolley incubate the idea, Battery may well eventually also become an investor in it. In the meantime, Jolley says he is also advising Battery on other investments in the same space.
Excerpt from Jolley’s note:
I’m writing today to announce that I will be leaving Facebook on April 17 to start a new company.
These last 18 months at Facebook have been an incredible experience. It’s amazing to see so many people moving so quickly to accomplish such big things! Since I joined, we pivoted the company towards mobile, made massive improvements to our mobile monetization efforts, and released one of the best innovations for Android on the planet. It’s been a privileged to work (and taste wine together) with such an amazing group of people!
I am sad to leave Facebook, but I am excited about my next opportunity. I’ve been wanting to do this particular product for over two years; it was not possible until just now. There will be more to talk about, but in the mean time I am going to hang my hat at Battery Ventures as an EIR while I get things kicked off.
I will send out an invite soon for a goodbye event. If we don’t connect before then, don’t a stranger! I will be just down the street and eager to catchup anytime.