John Hanke

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John Hanke
John Hanke by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Born1967 (age 53–54)
Alma materUniversity of Texas at Austin (B.A.)
University of California, Berkeley (M.B.A.)
OccupationBusinessman and entrepreneur
Known forKeyhole, Inc., Niantic, Inc., Google Earth, Ingress, Field Trip, Pokémon Go

John Hanke (born 1967) is an American entrepreneur and business executive. He is the founder and current CEO of Niantic, Inc., a software development company spun out of Google that designed Ingress, Pokémon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Hanke previously led Google's Geo division, which included Google Earth, Google Maps, Local, StreetView, SketchUp, and Panoramio.

Early life and startups[edit]

Born in 1967, Hanke was raised in the small central Texas town of Cross Plains and graduated from Cross Plains High School in 1985.[1][2] He attended the University of Texas, Austin and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1989.[3]

In his first post-college role, he spent four years with the United States Foreign Service in Washington, DC and overseas in Myanmar working on foreign policy issues.[4][5]

He moved across the country to attend the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.[6] He joined Steve Sellers and his video game design startup Archetype Interactive, which was developing Meridian 59, one of the first commercial massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG).[4] They sold the firm to The 3DO Company on the day he graduated from Berkeley in 1996 with an MBA.[4][6] Hanke and Sellers created another entertainment startup, The Big Network, which was quickly sold in 2000 to eUniverse for $17.1 million.[7] He was quoted to have been recently worried about the dangers of virtual realities.[8]


Hanke later co-founded geospatial data visualization firm Keyhole in 2001 and acted as the firm's CEO.[9] Early funding was provided by the corporate venture group within Sony, and the startup was able to garner significant attention from the use of their mapping technology in media reporting overlays during the early parts of the Iraq War.[4] Keyhole's mapping technology was also noted by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and the freshly-public Google bought Keyhole in 2004 for $35 million in stock.[6]


Hanke joined Google as a part of Keyhole's acquisition, and he became the Vice President of Product Management for the Geo division.[3] During this period, he oversaw the transformation of Keyhole's technology into Google Earth and Google Maps in 2005. He also negotiated an agreement to include Google Maps on the iPhone.[10] Other significant products followed, including StreetView, SketchUp, and Panoramio. During this period, he shaped a team he would later use to form Niantic.[11]


In 2010, Hanke was given resources to staff a gaming unit within Google and the new internal startup was dubbed Niantic Labs.[6][11] Returning to his gaming roots, the company crafted an augmented reality location-based multiplayer game called Ingress. The game had a million players within a year of its 2013 release, and seven million by 2015.[1]

Hanke led Niantic's split from Google in late 2015 and raised $30 million from Google, Nintendo and Pokémon.[9] He stayed as the company's chief executive and guided the firm through the release of the much-covered Pokémon Go in July 2016, which now generates more than $2 million in daily revenues.[11]


  1. ^ a b Ward, Marguerite (27 July 2016). "How the mastermind behind 'Pokemon Go' got his start". CNBC. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  2. ^ Chipp, Timothy (7 July 2016). "'Pokemon Go' company led by Cross Plains' Hanke". Abilene Reporter-News. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b Bailey, Brandon (4 November 2012). "Mercury News interview: John Hanke, vice president and head of Google's Niantic Labs". The Mercury News. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d Jerome S. Engel (26 September 2014). Global Clusters of Innovation: Entrepreneurial Engines of Economic Growth around the World. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 56–58. ISBN 978-1-78347-083-9.
  5. ^ Ratliff, Evan (26 June 2007). "Google Maps Is Changing the Way We See the World". Wired. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d Mac, Ryan (23 August 2016). "The Inside Story Of 'Pokémon GO's' Evolution From Google Castoff To Global Phenomenon". Forbes. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  7. ^ "eUniverse to Acquire, A Premier Online Entertainment Hub"
  8. ^ Tomiwa (2017-05-16). "Virtual Realities Can Be Too Good And Dangerous - Biznespreneur". Biznespreneur. Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  9. ^ a b Shute, Joe (24 July 2016). "Meet John Hanke, the eccentric, board game-loving visionary who runs the mysterious firm behind Pokémon Go". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  10. ^ Bradshaw, Tim (15 July 2016). "John Hanke: The man who put Pokémon Go on the map". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  11. ^ a b c Severson, Dana (22 July 2016). "What Overnight Success? Pokémon Go Took 20 Years to Succeed According to its Creator". Inc. Retrieved 2 September 2016.

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