Gary Flake, who joined Salesforce in Seattle as CTO for search and data science after the CRM giant bought his local startup three years ago, is leaving the company effective June 3.
Flake plans to remain in Bellevue, Wash. and get more involved with the Seattle startup community as both an advisor and an investor, he told GeekWire on Thursday.
“I’m leaving on very good terms to follow some passions of my own,” Flake said. “There is no controversy at all.” He said he is “looking forward to tinkering on my own ideas on my own terms” during a “big chunk” of time.
In an email sent to non-Salesforce peers earlier in the day, Flake said the “search and data science teams at Salesforce are in best state that they’ve ever been and are well-positioned for a great future.”
As one of roughly five Salesforce CTOs, Flake “basically rebooted” the entire search team and infrastructure there, he said. Search is the mostly widely-used feature in the Salesforce stack and operates at a massive scale, combing through more than 300 billion records — and more than double that if you count the “sandbox” records upon which customers can experiment offline, he said.
Flake, who holds several degrees in computer science including a Ph.D., worked at Microsoft from 2005 through 2010 as a technical fellow. In 2006 he founded and ran Microsoft’s Live Labs, an internal internet incubator.
In 2011 he founded Clipboard, a web clipping and sharing service that Salesforce bought in May 2013 and then shut down at the end of June. Clipboard attracted an all-star group of backers, though the five-person startup never saw the usage or lofty valuation of Pinterest, to which it was sometimes compared. It attracted about 140,000 users, who created three million clips, according to Clipboard’s goodbye blog post.
Clipboard’s backers included Acequia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Atlas Accelerator, Betaworks, Blake Krikorian, Code Holding, CrunchFund, DFJ, First Round Capital, Founders Co-op and Index Ventures. AllThingsD pegged its valuation at $10-to-20 million.
Update: In response to a request for comment, Salesforce spokesperson Kristina Weise said, “Gary Flake is leaving Salesforce to pursue other opportunities. We appreciate his contributions to the success of Salesforce, and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”