Technology

Former Amazon Executive Who Was Once Jeff Bezos' ‘Shadow' Joins Online Events Start-Up Hopin

Hopin
  • Wei Gao, a former Amazon executive, is joining London-based online events start-up Hopin as its chief operating officer.
  • From July 2018 to January 2020, Gao was a "shadow advisor" to Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos.
  • Hopin, which was founded only two years ago, was recently valued at $7.75 billion after raising $450 million in fresh funding.

LONDON — British virtual events start-up Hopin has hired former Amazon executive Wei Gao, who once served as a "shadow" advisor to Jeff Bezos.

Gao will become chief operating officer at Hopin, which experienced breakneck growth during the pandemic as many large in-person events were cancelled.

Amazon announced the news of Gao's departure last week. During her 16-year tenure, Gao held a number of senior positions at the e-commerce giant. She was most recently Amazon's vice president of grocery tech, product and supply chain.

From July 2018 to January 2020, Gao held the role of technical advisor to Bezos, Amazon's billionaire founder and executive chairman. The job entails shadowing Bezos for a year or two and learning all aspects of the business.

The title was once held by Andy Jassy, the former boss of Amazon's cloud computing division who is now CEO of Amazon after taking the reins from Bezos in July.

"As Hopin enters a new era of innovation, Wei Gao will be a significant addition to our team and through her impressive leadership Wei will inspire innovation in the ways we bring people together for meaningful connection," said Hopin CEO and founder Johnny Boufarhat.

Gao will join Hopin on Sept. 27, leading the company's operations. The role of COO is often considered to be second in the chain of command at a company.

She joins at a critical time for the London-headquartered firm, which faces the prospect of a potential slowdown in growth as countries ease their coronavirus restrictions.

Hopin lets organizations host gatherings of up to 100,000 people completely digitally, with features for virtual stage talks and one-to-one networking. The company, which makes money from software subscriptions for its business customers, is now heavily investing in onsite conference tools, acquiring event management firm Boomset in June.

"There is an enormous opportunity for the company's multi-product platform technologies and I'm looking forward to delivering impact to customers and audiences in new, immersive categories," said Gao.

Hopin, which was founded only two years ago, was recently valued at $7.75 billion after raising $450 million in fresh funding. The firm has raised a total of $1 billion to date from the likes of Salesforce, Singapore's GIC and General Catalyst.

The rising valuation of the business has made Boufarhat Britain's youngest self-made billionaire, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. Boufarhat founded Hopin in 2019 after falling ill with an autoimmune disease that prevented him from leaving the house.

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