Another executive departure at Zynga, and a big hire for Groupon: TechCrunch has learned — and Groupon has just confirmed — that Curtis Lee, who had been director of product management for Zynga, is joining Groupon as its new VP of consumer products, to oversee everything consumer-facing on the product side for the daily deals giant.
This is a significant talent loss for Zynga, and comes on the heels of two other exec departures: ad chief Manny Anekal earlier this month, and lead designer Michael McCormick in February. Lee, meanwhile, was known as something of a “monetization guru” for Zynga, laying the blueprint for Zynga’s virtual goods and currency sales.
The move also comes at a time when Zynga is also busy hiring new people: among the most recent, Barry Cottle from EA, who is now its EVP of business and corporate development.
Among his past roles at Zynga, Lee had been head of product for Zynga’s Austin studio, and had been director of product for one of its biggest hits, Mafia Wars. Significantly, a source says that he had been working on a “huge, unannounced project” with Mark Skaggs, the man who created FarmVille and CityVille.
Lee was also the pioneer behind some of the most important viral and monetization mechanics that underpin a lot of what drives Zynga’s growth today, and was the guy who brought in Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre for Zynga’s first celebrity endorsement projects.
Groupon has offered no further comment except to note, “We’re excited to have him.” Groupon, like Zynga relatively new to the public markets, has a tall order ahead of it to drive more revenues as the novelty and uniqueness of its basic product, daily deals, continues to wear off.
It is not clear yet what Lee will produce at Groupon, but the idea of putting some of his creativity around monetizing services and adding more “gaming” elements into Groupon’s offerings does make you look forward to seeing what lies ahead.
At the time of writing, Lee has yet to update his LinkedIn profile with the news although he is apparently due to start working with the company in Palo Alto as early as next week.