Matt Cohler Joins the Benchmark Boys

Matt Cohler, one of Facebook’s earliest employees and a close pal of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is hightailing it to Benchmark Capital this fall. Everyone is speculating as to why, but it makes perfect sense to me.

Cohler, Facebook’s longtime VP of product management, is a smart guy. He’s been at Facebook for nearly four years, which is a lot when you’re 31 years old. Presumably, his options at Facebook will remain intact. And Cohler will remain a special adviser to the company, which suggests he’ll still be privy to important developments might impact things there. (It likely means Facebook will have a first look at what Cohler is seeing, as well).

Besides, if Facebook doesn’t make Cohler supremely wealthy (and he may well have taken money off the table already), Benchmark most definitely will. Unlike a lot of VCs who can toil for a decade of more before starting to enjoy the fruits of their labor, Benchmark pays every general partner exactly the same from the get-go. As Bill Gurley once told me, “Most firms are hierarchical in nature, with everyone getting different slices of the economic pie. The problem is those slices are negotiated every time a firm raises a new fund, so in between funds, which is most of the time, the partners are trying to outgun one another to make a stronger case for themselves.” At Benchmark, he said, “we push each other extremely hard and we trust one another as equals from Day One.” They’ve also enjoyed a seemingly endless string of successes together (eBay, JamDat, MySQL, Ingenio) that’ve transformed each of them into filthy-rich power brokers. Who could say no to a club like that?

Speaking of which, it’s very possible that Cohler also finds the undeniably fraternity-esque atmosphere of Benchmark compelling. Benchmark is chalk full of smart guy’s guys, from Gurley, a hale and hearty basketball player from Texas, to Peter Fenton, a hard-core triathlete who’s finished numerous Half Ironman competitions. Zuckerberg, meanwhile, may be many things: a great programmer, a determined CEO, a casual dresser. Manly, he’s not.