investor stories

CEO of Ancestry is a force of nature

I have a confession. I’ve always been a bit judgy when it comes to big tech companies.

As a startup junkie, I pride myself on being scrappy, working with shoestring budgets, and moving so fast I probably have to go back and fix something.

At some point, I started believing that “big tech” (aka any company with more than 100 people) was inherently slow, bogged down with office politics, and spent money like Richie Rich.

And frankly, some companies probably do fit that bill.

But within those orgs there are people like Deb Liu, who brings a startup mindset to every company that's employed her.

Deb's worked for brand name companies like eBay, PayPal, Meta, and (now) Ancestry as CEO.

Within 30 minutes of meeting Deb, my preconceived notions of “big tech employees” were shattered. Deb is a force of nature who prioritizes scrappiness, accountability, transparency, and kindness.

If you haven’t guessed already, Deb is gonna be speaking at Camp Hustle on May 17, 2023.

More on Deb below... but also: grab your ticket to soak up her wisdom in-person.

That’s So Meta

Deb started working at Meta back when it was still Facebook. There were fewer than 1,000 employees, and the company still operated as if it were a scrappy startup.

Deb dove in head first as product marketing manager, then product manager, then Director of Product, then VP of Product, then Product Group Lead on the executive team.

She quietly incubated new ideas throughout her time there, including their games team, mobile app ads, mobile ad network, payments platform, and eventually Marketplace.

I’ll say it louder for the people in the back. Facebook Games. Mobile App Ads. Payments Platform. Facebook Marketplace.

Deb had access to some of the best talent and the most resources, but she focused on maintaining a startup-mindset through her 11+ years at Meta.

Why? No seriously... why? If you’re working on important stuff at a massive company, why show so much restraint?

Here’s why: Deb believes that the teams do their best work when they are focused on iteration and execution.

Branching Out

For the last 2 years, Deb has been at the helm of Ancestry as their CEO. One of the first things she did was focus the teams on execution.

In her first couple years, the teams delivered 3x the DNA moments and 70% more user-facing features than in the same period before.

This was achieved without growing the teams 🤯.

The effort to unblock and unlock was powered by faster decision-making, prioritization, and alignment. She brought other startup-mindsetty things to Ancestry, too – like product-based A/B testing and holdouts.  

Deb is laser-focused on the key things that were blockers at Ancestry… maybe too much at times. But the result is Ancestry’s ability to deliver to customers faster today than ever before.

But wait, there’s more

There’s so much more Deb shared in our call. Things like:

  • how a culture of transparency and alignment can solve big problems
  • how she advises startup founders to unblock themselves
  • her ability to recognize the need to reprioritize and realign resourcing
  • what it was like to be the only mom Product Manager at Meta for years

Her conversation with Eric Bahn at Camp Hustle is going to be JUICY. Grab your ticket and join us on May 17.