MIT Media Lab Innovation Guru John Werner Joins Meta as VP of Strategic Partnerships

With Key Hire, Meta Signals Commitment to Lead the Market by Combining Breakthrough Technology with a Focus on Global Relationships

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--()--In a hiring coup, rising AR star Meta has landed one of the most highly respected global innovators as its vice president of Strategic Partnerships. John Werner was most recently the head of Innovation and New Ventures for the Camera Culture Group at the MIT Media Lab. He brings a vast network of relationships and experience pioneering innovative technology in emerging markets to Meta and the fast-growing field of augmented reality (AR).

Meta CEO Meron Gribetz said, “I’m thrilled to have someone of John’s caliber on our team, advocating for Meta’s vision and technology with partners around the globe. I’ve truly never met anyone as well connected. Before his first day on the job, John had already raised significant money for us and made strategic introductions with some of today’s leading thinkers and developers. Having him lead the charge on strategic alliances will be a huge difference-maker for Meta.”

Meta launched its AR technology to wide acclaim at recent TED and SXSW conferences. With the market for AR products heating up, Meta is betting that in addition to delivering the strongest technology offering, strategic partnerships will be crucial in determining leadership in this nascent market. Werner has built his career on bringing innovative thinking and relationship-building to a wide range of initiatives, from education and healthcare to cities in the developing world.

“Meta has outstanding technology and it’s only going to get better,” said Werner. “Meron’s vision is so compelling that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of a company that I believe is going to define the future of computing. I’m spending every day focusing on how we can apply this game-changing technology to solve critical problems and enhance the opportunities people have for engaging with each other and the world. Being Meron’s wingman in this effort is a dream job for me.”

While Werner’s departure from the MIT Media Lab surprised many in the field, colleagues and partners were quick to praise him for his talents and contribution, commending Meta for attracting one of the leading figures in technology and innovation to their team.

Steve Vinter, head of Google’s operation in Cambridge, MA, said, "Augmented reality taking off requires pulling together some of the best minds across many disciplines to explore the myriad uses of this technology. It's great to see Meta pull in John Werner, who has the connections and drive to do just that."

John Werner, Innovator and Connector

The constant through John Werner’s career has been a passionate commitment to combining innovative thinking and collaborative, creative solutions to deliver human and environmental impact. Werner began his career in education and worked as a teacher and principal in Boston for a number of years. He continued his involvement in STEM education, co-founding Citizen Schools, an education initiative dedicated to democratizing education and improving middle school achievement in underserved areas. Werner’s expertise in scaling organizations helped Citizen Schools grow into a national organization with a $30M+ operating budget, partnerships with top technology companies, and thousands of volunteers.

Werner was most recently at the MIT Media Lab, where he’s known as a tireless technology innovator, community organizer, mentor, entrepreneur and fundraiser. As Head of Innovation and New Ventures at the Camera Culture Group and Founding Managing Director of Emerging Worlds SIG, Werner supported developments on new imaging platforms including hardware and software technologies to augment human vision. He co-instructed a class focused on creating applications for the Google Glass product, so is well acquainted with the AR market and has been an evangelist for the technology. One of Werner’s most significant contributions while at MIT Media Labs has been fostering bottom-up innovation, bringing creative thinkers together from around the world to solve critical global challenges. Werner visited India ten times in the last three years, launching three innovation centers that host camps or “buildathons” for creating long-term solutions for pressing needs in areas such as healthcare, transportation and education.

Commenting on Werner’s departure, Nicolas Negroponte, Founder of MIT Media Lab, stated, “The Media Lab’s loss of John’s ubiquity, energy and imagination is Meta’s gain.”

A sought-after public speaker, Werner is active in the TED community and has spoken 10+ times at TED events and curated more than 300 speakers for TEDxBeaconStreet, garnering more than 40 million views. Werner’s TED events are global in scale, with one event viewed in simulcast by people in more than 177 countries. He introduced the Adventure concept to the TED organization, enabling participants to go behind the scenes at places of innovation and engage in transformative, collaborative experiences. Thanks to Werner, thousands of people have participated in Adventure events in 60+ countries and all 50 US states.

John Werner was selected for a Loeb Fellowship by Harvard University, an opportunity to nurture leadership potential in professions related to the built and natural environment. He has earned countless accolades for his work in technology and education including “50 on Fire” from BostonInno, “Top 10 Education Troublemakers” from the Business Innovation Factory, multiple “Social Capitalist Awards” from Fast Company, and the “Up and Coming Leader” award from Education Week, among others.

Werner has demonstrated an equal level of passion and commitment to his personal endeavors. He is an accomplished triathlete and has qualified for and competed in the Ironman World Championship four times. He is a two-time USTA All-American and earned a spot on Team USA for the 2013 Sprint Triathlon World Championships. Competing in the Nationals, Werner placed in the top 6% of competitors.

For years, Werner has been actively involved with non-profits and community initiatives as a board member and contributor. Causes he has championed include city leadership exchange, history, schools, politics, entrepreneurship and youth sports.

An active videographer, photographer and social media expert, Werner has had more than 10 million views on his photo blog and is a contributor to Getty Images. His photography has been featured by numerous organizations including The White House and Aspen Institute. He has produced several videos and launched successful viral social media campaigns.

Werner is a graduate of Hamilton College. He lives in Boston with his wife and three children. He’s an avid cyclist, world traveler, and Rubik’s Cube® and Star Trek enthusiast.

About Meta

Born in NYC and raised in Silicon Valley, Meta has been defining the field of Augmented Reality (AR) since the company’s inception in 2012. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Meta was selected by Y Combinator (YC13) for seed funding. Meta entered the marketplace with the first see-through glasses that allowed wearers to move and manipulate 3D content intuitively, using natural hand interactions. With the introduction of the groundbreaking Meta 2 product at TED 2016, Meta is once again redefining the market and delivering a new generation of natural machines that will become a healthy, vital extension of who we are.


Jennifer Spoerri, 415-854-0368


Jennifer Spoerri, 415-854-0368