John Hanke

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John Hanke
John Hanke by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Born1967 (age 54–55)
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
University of Texas at Austin
OccupationBusinessman and entrepreneur
Known forKeyhole, Inc., Google Earth, Niantic, Inc., Pokémon Go

John Hanke (born 1967) is an American technology executive. Hanke led Google's Geo product division, which includes Google Earth, Google Maps, StreetView, SketchUp, and Panoramio. He is founder and CEO of Niantic, Inc., a software company spun out of Google and the creator of Pokémon Go.

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 with an MBA.[4][6] Hanke and Sellers created another entertainment startup, The Big Network, which was acquired in 2000 by eUniverse for $17.1 million.[7]


Hanke became the co-founder and CEO of geospatial data visualization firm Keyhole in 2001.[8] 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 Google acquired Keyhole in 2004 in a deal worth $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 Google's 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 with Apple to include Google Maps on the iPhone.[9] Other products followed, including StreetView, SketchUp, and Panoramio. His team would later found Niantic.[10]


In 2010, Hanke was given resources to staff an augmented reality gaming unit within Google and the new internal startup was dubbed Niantic Labs.[6][10] 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.[8] He stayed as the company's CEO and guided the firm through the release of Pokémon Go in July 2016, which generated over $4.2 billion in revenue.[10]


  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. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Bradshaw, Tim (15 July 2016). "John Hanke: The man who put Pokémon Go on the map". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  10. ^ 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.

Further reading[edit]

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