HALF MOON BAY, CALIF. (TheStreet) -- With Ebay's PayPal (EBAY) poised for a spin-off in 2015, David Marcus, who left the company in June to run Facebook's (FB) burgeoning Messenger app, was in position to become one of the most powerful executives in the payments space.
But Marcus said he wanted no part of that job.
"Running a very large public company ... is actually way overrated," Marcus said Tuesday at the Techonomy conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., his first public appearance since starting at Facebook in June. "A lot of public company CEOs out there are fairly unhappy, they just don't speak about it. I think the social pressure when you've dedicated your life to reaching that point is such that you're addicted to the power ... and you stay there being unhappy."
"So not even a little part of you wishes you were still there so you could be CEO now that they're spinning it off as a public company," interviewer and Bloomberg TV anchor Emily Chang asked Marcus.
"No, not at all. Really, not at all," he said.
Instead, Marcus said he was ready to get back to building things, specifically to thinking through new features for Messenger, which "is going to become more and more important ... and going to be very big if we succeed."
Big indeed, if size matters. His remarks come a day after Facebook revealed that the messaging app has surged to 500 million active users just a few months after its controversial separation from the main Facebook application. The milestone means that Messenger is already half way to the company's stated goal of getting 1 billion active app users. Then, presumably, as Zuckerberg said most recently on Facebook's third-quarter earnings conference call, Facebook will shift focus to turning Messenger into a real business.
On that front, Facebook hasn't yet experimented with monetizing Messenger "at least externally," he said, though internally the company is always tinkering with a variety of ideas.
Marcus danced around whether Messenger was working on payments, specifically sending money to friends through the app, as has been suggested in reports. Marcus did make clear that he didn't believe it made sense for Facebook to formally enter the payments business. Rather the social network should stick to reducing friction in payments, as the company aims to do with newly launched "Buy" buttons that facilitate transactions through status updates.
If you read between the lines, it seems clear that CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Marcus view it critical to eventually turn Messenger into a money-making medium on par with the primary Facebook network in the revenue department. After all, Facebook, Marcus asserted, is an "advertising business" and, per Zuckerberg's statements last week, messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking. Most recently, Facebook brought in better-than-expected third quarter revenue of $3.2 billion and adjusted earnings per share of 42 cents.
Marcus said he was keen on making money from Messenger with content, likely taking inspiration from Asian chat applications such as Line that have done well with selling stickers to users. He also said he wanted to make communications between businesses and people "amazing," though he did not reveal specifics of his intentions.
The payments-turned-messaging executive also backed up his CEO, defending the company's decision to force its members to download a separate application for messaging. "All in all," Marcus said, "it was the right decision."
He may be right. Despite being an unpopular decision, Facebook seems to have weathered the backlash and Messenger continues to be one of the most downloaded apps on the App Store and Google Play.
But if Marcus truly wants to escape the public scrutiny and burdens he attributed to being a CEO, as suggested by his statements Tuesday, he may find little relief running a messaging app used by half a billion people, especially given the visibility of his overlord and Facebook's propensity to fire up audiences with even the smallest of changes.
--Written by Jennifer Van Grove in Half Moon Bay, Calif.
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