Google: Bored at the Core

by Ruud Hein January 8th, 2008 

ron white Look, we all feel the change, right?

Google isn't Google anymore. Something has shifted from hip and happening to stale, dull and corporate.

Larry and Sergey's brand is increasingly performing a "one of us" act that's harder to pull off than members of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour pretending to be as poor as you and I are.

I Can't Be Wrong

If you think I'm just dumping on a company for no apparent reason — think again.

The "umph" is gone, the "wow!" is out of the door now that the big bucks are streaming in.

It's not just me, it's not just you — it's the Google core feeling that way.

They Find Google Boring

logo In July (2007) Jason Shellen, the guy who came up with Google Reader (the #1 feed reader…), left Google because he feels he's got "that entrepreneurial/start-up bug deep within me and I can't help but think about the next thing".

Days later Pedram Keyani, Orkut engineer, leaves "in search of new challenges and risks".

In September (2007), Adam Bosworth, vice-president engineering in charge of Google Health, leaves because he "started a new company".

October sees Benjamin Ling (product-management director overseeing stuff like Google Checkout and Google SMS) go to Facebook, Salman Ullah (director of corporate development) leave to start his own venture firm, and Ema "PR" Linaker jump to Spinvox.

November?

Gokul Rajaram (product manager but better known as the "godfather" of Adsense) starts his own company. Says he misses the feeling of a startup environment.

December?

Chris Sacca (head of special initiatives, hard to replace), leaves to invest in early-stage technology companies.

Nathan Stoll (product manager Google news) leaves to start a "venture of my own in San Francisco".

2008

Kevin Fox, interface designer of Google Calendar, Gmail and the current look and feel of Google Reader, leaves Google behind to go work for "a very small start-up" while acknowledging that…

"…it's strange to have found success there and yet feel a need for greater fulfillment sufficient to pull you away from what's generally recognized as the best workplace in America"

The Thrill Is Gone

Play pool, brave the rock climbing wall, swim, play beach volleyball, enjoy a massage chair, sweat at the gym, eat at anyone of the 11 gourmet cafetarias, use an on-site hair stylist, use the free detergent in the free washers/dryers, bring your pet to work…

All that, and much more, is in a day's work at Google.

To that the 10 people listed above say "nah, not needed, not interested".

Without fail they start their own small company or move to one.

Without fail they compliment what Google offers but list the challenge of doing something new as one of the main reasons to move on.

They were on the other side of our boredom.

Where are the days of looking at the index size? Looking out for signs of the Google Dance? The next toolbar export? Matt's next statement to take apart? Google's latest product that's too cool to play with (have you seen their Google Shared Stuff?!?!?!)

Fortune Magazine listed retirement and startups as Google's twin demons.

I think Google is at an age where it's feeding the demons. Inside — and out.

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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10 Responses to “Google: Bored at the Core”

  1. pittfall says:

    For so many it's the thrill… the chase that excites people. The chase is over (by a long-shot). Google's #1. It's like they don't even have to show up at the game to win…

    I am sure that there is more red tape than before the IPO. Google owns the search market, why wouldn't their best brains want a challenge?

    I think they are leaving, a) because they can afford to and b) they want a challenge.

  2. Ruud Hein says:

    The chase is indeed over, for the moment, and Google has become "just another" corporation. Some innovation stimulation (which we see elsewhere too) but that's it. Nothing too risky, too new, too out there.

  3. Mike says:

    There are a lot of good business people that like to make business better and larger. I really believe that these people leaving Google just want another challenge, a new company to build.

  4. Jake says:

    Yes it is indeed interesting to see all these people leaving Google – perhaps because they want to take back that innovative spirit that got them there.

    Could the rising stock price have anything to do with it. It seems everytime I turn around Google is stock is up another $100/share. What are we at now $700 something? It's a good poker game folks!

  5. Erica DeWolf says:

    Even if all of these Googlites weren't leaving Google, the fact remains that "the chase is over," as pittfall had previously pointed out. They have no where left to go but down.

  6. Peter Wood says:

    I think it's an inevitable part of success on such a large scale. Motivated and talented people are hard to find and even harder to hold onto when the challenge is no longer there to the same degree.
    I agree that google is no longer hip and happening, a victim of their own success perhaps.
    Any company that starts to become so dominant in any area of business will inevitably be viewed in a different light.
    I believe that keeping a business at the top is still a big challenge in itself, but perhaps not as big a challenge as getting it to the top in the first place though.

  7. Mark Dykeman says:

    Companies change as they become bigger and so do the individuals that work there. When the two don't fit, people will leave.

    I suspect that working at Google now might not be as financially rewarding as it was a few years ago when the stock was rising relatively faster.

  8. [...] Google: Bored at the Core Google isn’t Google anymore. Something has shifted from hip and happening to stale, dull and corporate. (tags: Google) [...]

  9. Yura says:

    Every company has an employee retention rate. Google's is high, but not 100%. I don't see why it is such a surprise and why people make a story out of it.

    And yes, it is true that Google leavers can afford to start their own companies and are looking for new experience.

    By the way, I've been in so many startup projects, that TI want to finally dedicate myself to one for more than a couple of years ;)

  10. [...] up and blue suited. Throw in Sergey and Larry, and you've got the makings of an entirely boring head office. Apple's got Steve. Deservedly arrogant, ego-maniacal and the brains behind the [...]