Roblox hires former Zynga CTO to build out its developer team

Roblox has picked up a key hire to help grow its ecosystem of user-generated content for the metaverse.

Nick Tornow is joining the company as VP of Engineering for its developer team, leaving his former post as Twitter Platform Lead. Tornow also spent a decade at Zynga and served as the company’s CTO from 2013 to 2018.

At Twitter, Tornow oversaw the company’s tech stack, boosting the company’s speed at shipping new products and expanding its cloud infrastructure, among other projects. At Roblox, he will be tasked with scaling the developer engineering team that manages the toolkit Roblox creators use to build fresh experiences and games for the social platform.

“My goal is to make this into a real engine of growth for the company,” Tornow told TechCrunch. “And everyone wins, you know. The company wins, our developers win, because they’ll get to be able to start businesses and that sort of thing, and our customers win because they get these compelling experiences on the platform.”

While Tornow’s Twitter role focused on internal tools, in the new role at Roblox he’ll have the opportunity to shape the platform’s experience for its more than 50 million daily active users. One area of focus is real-time translation, which can allow Roblox users to cross language barriers seamlessly as they interact across virtual worlds.

“We’re really breaking down those historical barriers around language and automatically translating not just the experiences themselves, but the social interactions within those experiences in real time,” Tornow said. “These are the sorts of things that while we might have envisioned that they might be possible at some point in time, what’s cool at Roblox is that’s actually what’s happening right now.”

Roblox’s current period of growth comes at a time of contraction among many of the company’s peers in the tech industry, which have slowed their growth, frozen hiring or turned to layoffs to ride out a challenging economic downturn that has U.S. stocks bordering on bear market territory.

“We are excited to bring Nick on board as we are aggressively investing in innovation and have one of the broadest sets of exciting technical challenges to solve,” Roblox CTO Dan Sturman told TechCrunch, noting that the company has seen increasing interest from talent at social and consumer companies.

“We are ushering in this new category of human co-experience and expanding our engineering team to go deeper into our core focus areas — Roblox developer community being one of them. We continue building out our offering of new tools and innovative features for developers who are creating immersive shared experiences at a massive scale.”