Howard Schultz hires former Instagram analytics chief, looks to build tech team in advance of possible White House bid

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Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at a shareholder meeting in 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Howard Schultz, the coffee mogul contemplating an independent run for the White House, is staffing up his tech team with heavy-hitters in the latest hint that he’s preparing to formally launch his presidential campaign.

Schultz has hired Instagram’s former head of analytics, Mike Develin, as his chief analytics officer, according to Develin’s LinkedIn profile. In addition, Schultz’s team on Friday posted nine new job openings, including several tech roles, such as Senior Front End Engineer, BI Developer Analyst, Marketing Operations Manager, IT Specialist, and Senior Front End Engineer.

In theory, at least, this sudden buildup in tech horsepower could be for the purpose of supporting the former Starbucks CEO’s book tour and website, or some other initiative. The job posts don’t reference politics or a potential Schultz campaign. Instead they frame the roles in business terms. “We have assembled a dynamic team of strategists, engineers, and designers working side-by-side toward shared goals,” one reads.

But Develin, the Facebook and Instagram veteran who has worked with Schultz since December, makes it clear that he’s working on bigger things.

“I built products for several years at Facebook, most notably at Instagram between 2016 and 2018 in the capacity of leading the analytics team,” he writes on his LinkedIn profile. “Data is the voice of the people at scale, and what I delight in is figuring out what they are trying to tell us and using that to help make better decisions on their behalf. I’m currently trying to bring that democratic approach to our political system.”

As the Head of Analytics for Instagram, Develin built and led a team that was “intimately involved in all of the big evolutions and revolutions of Instagram,” he writes.

This post for Senior Front End Engineer gives a sense for the Schultz organization’s web technology preferences: Javascript, React, Redux, Node.js, Gatsby, Next.js, Netlify, GraphQL, and Serverless on AWS.

A job post for a Media Analyst role makes the obligatory nod to the former Starbucks CEO’s career: “The hours will be long, the caffeine will be plentiful, and public transportation is provided. If this sounds like your cup of joe, we encourage you to submit your resume today.”

Whoever gets hired as Schultz’s Social Media Community Manager, another of the open positions, will have an interesting and high-stakes job. Schultz had to publicly backpedal this week when he overstated the time he has spent with military personnel relative to other candidates, two of whom, it turns out, served in the military.

Earlier this year Schultz deleted a tweet that linked to a Washington Post column calling Sen. Kamala Harris “a shrill” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “fauxcahontas.”

Separately, Twitter has been suspending several accounts that aim to spread misinformation about Schultz.

In saying that he was seriously considering a run for the presidency as an independent, Schultz has faced criticism from Democrats who say he could siphon votes from the Democratic nominee, improving President Trump’s chances for re-election. The latest reports indicate that Schultz’s team is taking the backlash against his potential candidacy as a sign that they’ve “struck a nerve.”

We’ve contacted the Howard Schultz organization and Develin for comment on the job posts and their plans for the growing tech team.

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