Facebook at Work, Facebook’s first move to turn its social network into an enterprise tool, has remained in closed beta since its launch in January this year. But as the product continues to inch its way to general availability, it will be doing so without one of its key architects.
Lars Rasmussen — Facebook’s engineering director, who helped create and run Facebook search engine Graph Search and later Facebook at Work — will be leaving the company to co-found a music startup with his partner, Elomida Visviki.
Both Rasmussen and Facebook have confirmed the move to TechCrunch. He will officially depart the company in June.
Meanwhile, the running of FB@Work will now split into two. Julien Codorniou, Facebook’s global partnerships head based in London, will lead on partnership support; and Chaitanya Mishra, who has been working on the product since the very start, will manage FB@Work’s engineering team, also based in London and reporting back to Menlo Park.
Part of the reason that the leadership is splitting is because the team working on FB@Work is expanding. The product has now had tens of thousands of inbound requests from business wanting to try it out, so Facebook needs to add more people to the product to support that.
“Leaving Facebook was an incredibly difficult decision,” Rasmussen said in an emailed statement. “Working there has never been more exciting for me, in particular given the incredible momentum behind Facebook at Work, and the ridiculously talented people I work with on that project and at Facebook in general. But over the past year my fiancé, Elomida, has built what I think is a new and exciting way to compose and experience music. And trying to turn that into a successful startup together will be way too much fun to postpone any longer.”
This will not be Rasmussen’s first taste of being an entrepreneur. Before Rasmussen joined Facebook in 2010, he worked at Google, where he had been the co-creator of Google Maps and Google Wave (another enterprise collaboration product, but one that didn’t catch on). Rasmussen came to Google by way of acquisition: he had been the co-founder of a company in Australia called Where2 Technologies, which was acquired by Google in 2004 and became the basis for Google Maps.
Visviki, meanwhile, has racked up experience in the advertising and non-profit sectors. Her LinkedIn profile lists her as working on a stealthy startup since February 2014 called “Cute Little Apps.”
Just as Rasmussen will be joined in his new venture by his fiancé, he co-founded Where2 with his brother Jens and two others. (It doesn’t look like Jens will be involved this time around.)
The parting seems to be amicable enough between engineer and social network. “We are grateful for Lars’ many contributions over the years,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “We’re a company of entrepreneurs, and now that Facebook at Work is off the ground and growing quickly we understand Lars’ desire to return to his startup roots. We wish him the very best.”
He will continue to base himself in London for the new venture.
Ramussen’s move into music, and decision to stay in London to build it, is an interesting one.
The digital music industry currently feels like it is approaching a tipping point. As more consumers switch to streaming services over buying physical discs or downloading tracks, tech giants are getting their ducks in line. Apple has yet to unveil the full force of how it intends to leverage its Beats acquisition; Google meanwhile is pushing hard to ramp up its own position in streamed music.
Then, competitors like Spotify (which is closing in on a major round of funding) and Deezer are pushing into advertising and other services to build out viable business models. Others like Tidal are looking to carve out their own position in the field by focusing on high-definition audio and top artists.
At the same time, there is a growing interest in user-generated, digital-first audio content that sits outside the traditional music publishing model.
Just as streaming services like YouTube, Netflix and others have positioned themselves as publishers and creative platforms, not just distributors, of video content, so too have audio platforms like Soundcloud shown that it can be a key destination for people seeking out new sounds and artists.
Without knowing too many details of what they are building, if Rasmussen and Visviki are focusing on creating a new way of composing music online, this could fill in one more missing piece of the digital music puzzle.
Geographically, London is an important center for the music industry, as a business bridge not only between the U.S. and European markets, but also between many producers and artists on both sides of the pond.
Interestingly, it looks like Rasmussen and Visviki have been getting the ball rolling for their new venture, meeting with famed producers and songwriters Mary Brown and Tony Dofat earlier this month.