Photo: News Corp.
We know vanishingly little about Apple’s top executives. At most we get dribs and drabs of information, like CEO Tim Cook’s bicycling regimen or design chief Jony Ive’s Aston Martin.Then there’s Apple executive Eddy Cue.
Cue had been primarily responsible for Apple’s iTunes Store, App Store, and iCloud email, calendar, and file services. He added responsibility for Maps after Scott Forstall, the executive in charge of it at launch, left Apple.
Other than that, we don’t know squat.
So we turned to the unlikeliest of sources for insight into Cue: his Foursquare friends list.
Like pieces in a mosaic, Cue’s friends and their stories combine to form a full picture of the executive himself.
Why Foursquare? We were inspired to check out Cue’s presence on the location check-in service after rumours that Apple was pursuing a deal with Foursquare to improve its mapping service.
After we looked at his friends, though, we realised that these publicly shared connections might be far more telling than the accounts Cue follows on his lightly used Twitter account or his carefully locked down Facebook profile.
That’s because, when you sign up for Foursquare, the app encourages you to scan your address book for friends’ phone numbers—meaning that you tend to add the people you actually call or text. Founder and CEO Dennis Crowley has suggested this and other features make it more likely that you add your real friends on Foursquare.
Foursquare only lists first names and last initials, but a trivial amount of sleuthing and cross-checking on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn identified some very interesting contacts.
Jessen, previously a manager of Apple's online services, now works in the office of the CEO providing executive technical support. His LinkedIn profile has a brief debunking of the myth that Steve Jobs killed off Apple's eWorld service when he returned to the company.
Based on his career history, it's likely that Jessen worked with Cue in Apple's IT operations.
Robert, a former Apple executive, now works in real estate in the Los Angeles area.
Spoonemore's Foursquare profile was unlinked to other accounts, but we quickly found her professional connection to Cue: As SVP of interactive services at the NBA, she signed a deal to bring basketball games to iTunes in 2006. She's now CEO of Dwellable.
As a record-label executive, Holt did a groundbreaking deal to put iTunes downloads inside a video game. He's now COO at Maker Studios, a YouTube-focused video network which also uses iTunes to distribute its artists' work.
While Cue gets most of the credit for iTunes' success, Higa, an early Apple employee who returned to the company in 2001, did the early deals that launched the iTunes Store, while Cue focused on building the e-commerce infrastructure for it. Higa had much more direct experience negotiating with music labels from his experience as a RealNetworks executive.
Before joining Facebook and starting his own company, Path, Morin got his career start at Apple and retains close ties to executives there.
We had trouble figuring out the connection between Klein, a search-engine-optimization expert, and Cue--until we saw that Klein runs the website for Duke Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski. (Cue is a Duke alum and a huge Blue Devils fan.)
Hayashi, a former Apple executive, now works with the cofounders of Palm at Numenta.
Kosner is the EVP and GM of ESPN's print and digital media. ESPN has long been an iTunes content partner.
James cofounded Omniture, which he sold to Adobe in 2009. We're guessing James and Cue know each other because Apple was a key Omniture customer--something which got both companies in trouble over a lack of privacy disclosures back in 2006.
Gautier, an engineering VP, is a critical player inside the company, overseeing the iTunes Store and iCloud. He has several patents related to digital media.
He also seems to be involved in Apple's recent hire of the team from colour Labs, the troubled startup that imploded last year. A lawsuit by an ex-colour employee mentioned that Gautier would be overseeing the group.
Robbin created iTunes--literally. He cowrote a music-playing application called SoundJam MP, which Apple bought and turned into iTunes. He was deemed so critical to Apple that Steve Jobs would not allow Time magazine to publish his last name in an article. He's now reportedly heading up Apple's efforts to break into the TV business.
We puzzled over this unlinked profile for a while. Then we found a tell-tale clue: Tony F. was friends with Rob C.--Rob Coneybeer, a venture capitalist at Shasta Ventures.
Coneybeer is an investor in Nest, the home-automation startup.
And Nest was cofounded by a Tony F.--Tony Fadell, the father of the iPod, who obviously worked closely with Cue at Apple.