Uber just snagged a long-time Googler and SVP of communications and policy, Rachel Whetstone, Re/code’s Kara Swisher reports.
Whetstone will be joining Uber in the same role, replacing David Plouffe, who was hired less than a year ago and will become the company’s “chief advisor.”
Whetstone first joined Google in 2005, and had become a close advisor to CEO Larry Page, as well as the person responsible for handling the company’s biggest policy issues, like the recent anti-trust charges in Europe.
It’s an interesting time for Google to lose an exec to Uber, as the two company’s are increasingly becoming rivals. Google’s venture division, Google Ventures, invested roughly $US250 million in Uber in 2013, but the two companies’ expanding ambitions mean they are increasingly eyeing each other’s turf.
Uber currently uses Google Maps data to power its apps for drivers and riders, but the recent acquisition of a mapping startup and reports that it could be interested in buying Nokia’s mapping unit, hint that that relationship might not last.
Plus, both companies are experimenting in the speedy-delivery space. Google has Express, a same-day delivery service that’s available in seven areas. Meanwhile, Uber is gearing up to launch its own same-day delivery program, TechCrunch reported in late April, that could deliver products from over 400 merchants. Currently, Uber delivers curated meals and select produce in several cities — it tested a program called UberEssentials, to deliver household goods, but canceled the program in January.
Both Google and Uber also have self-driving car ambitions. Earlier this year, Uber announced that it was building an Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for researching vehicle safety and autonomy technology that could take on Google’s self-driving car efforts.
Of course, Google is still an ads company and Uber is still an on-demand car service, but their increasing overlap does make Whetstone’s move more interesting.
At Uber, she’ll be reporting to CEO Travis Kalanick and won’t have an easy role, as the company has faced growing legal issues, especially abroad, where it has been banned in cities like Berlin
Plouffe will join Uber’s board of directors, according to a report in Bloomberg.
At Google, Jessica Powell will head up communications on an interim basis, according to a Google spokesperson who declined to otherwise comment on the news.
Business Insider reached out to Uber for comment.
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