Saturday, March 26, 2011

Larry Page At The Helm

Larry Page, co-founder of Google, in the Europ...Image via Wikipedia
"I was talking to Larry on Saturday," says Nikesh Arora, Google's chief business officer, when we sit down to talk the following Tuesday. "I told him that I'd gotten back from nine cities in 12 days -- Munich, Copenhagen, Davos, Zurich, New Delhi, Bombay, London, San Francisco. There's a silence for five seconds. And then he's like, 'That's only eight.' "
I have been explicit in my preference for the Founder CEO. I have maintained that Eric Schmidt should have been brought in as COO, Chief Operating Officer, at the outset. That he was brought in as CEO tells me VCs have more power than they should have. Or at least that was the case over a decade ago. In John Doerr vs. Larry Page, I am with Larry Page. John Doerr made a big mistake.

Larry Page had Google work on Android and Chrome behind Eric Schmidt's back. Google not "getting" Facebook is not a big problem, but if Google did not have Android and Chrome today, it would have become an old company by now. Android and Chrome are fundamental to Google doing well in the 2010s, crucial to Google staying relevant and on the edge. And Larry Page gets primary credit.

The Founder CEO is like an IPO. An IPO is the rare form of exit. Similarly most CEOs out there are not Founder CEOs. Most of them are corporate hikers who might have worked under a few different brand names, none of which they founded.

But then just like I was entitled to root for Brazil in the World Cup, I have a thing for Founder CEOs. I find them fascinating. And Larry Page is about to become one. He is about to get a title he should have always had. I have high hopes. I think he is going to push the limits. He is going to be innovative to the max.

I Will Not Miss Eric

Fast Company: 7 Ways Larry Page Is Defining Google's Future
Page is becoming CEO at a crucial inflection point in Google's history. The company is beset by rivals everywhere -- Apple and Facebook, both of which are closing off chunks of Internet activity beyond Google's reach; Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, and others that compete fiercely against it in multiple markets; and even the U.S., the EU, and other governments that want to curtail Google's ambition. ....... Page doesn't need to be a turnaround artist. Yet he has to do something potentially harder: make changes to a winning formula in the face of intense scrutiny, when momentum appears to be against him. To borrow a sports aphorism, winning your first championship is easy compared with trying to repeat. ..... He's personally reserved, unabashedly geeky, and said to be introverted. ..... "This system worked really well until the company reached about 10,000 workers. After that, things started to break down." ...... Android represents a new order, one that Page, who has long played a role in product strategy, will accelerate. ..... Page and Brin pushed Google into mobile, buying Android when the project was an eight-person startup in 2005. (Schmidt later joked that they didn't tell him about it until after the deal.) ...... Page gave Andy Rubin, Android's indomitable chief, the resources to run the division as an autonomous unit. ..... Android, then, is as much a marvel of management as it is of engineering ..... Page had the founding idea that "what was necessary was an ecosystem" ..... It needed Chrome to goad Microsoft, Apple, and other browser makers into reigniting innovation in what had become a moribund market. ..... Deciding questions by data is to Google what eye-catching design is to Apple, or what global supply-chain management is to Walmart. ...... Page's own design sense, according to people who've worked with him, is in tune with Google's once-celebrated spare search-engine interface, and he reportedly can be flummoxed by more-sophisticated, subjective design decisions. ..... Larry Page isn't on Facebook, he doesn't trade one-liners on Twitter, and if he has ambitions of becoming the Foursquare mayor of the Googleplex, he'll have a hard time unseating Ty Lim, a Google attorney ..... , introverts can be more successful leaders -- particularly in dynamic, uncertain, and fast-changing environments like the tech industry. "They tend to be less threatened by others' ideas," says Adam Grant, a Wharton professor and coauthor of the study. "And they'll collect a lot of them before determining a vision." Because introverts spend more time listening than talking, they hear more ideas. ...... The key for Page is to "surround himself with some extroverts," Grant says. "Extroversion and introversion are the only personality traits where you need a balance between the two to be an effective team." ..... audaciousness -- the ambition to tackle a seemingly unsolvable problem with deep reservoirs of money and data -- is the ultimate insight into what makes Google Googley. "When people come to Larry with ideas, he always wants it bigger," says one ex-Googler. "His whole point is that only Google has the kind of resources to make big bets. The asset that Larry brings is to say, 'Let's go and make big things happen.' " (This may explain why Page isn't interested in a Facebook killer: "With social, there isn't a problem for Google to solve" ..... Even on the iPhone, you'll use Google's software to help you read that French road sign or to transform your voice commands into text searches. ...... Google is not always easily categorized. You can't shorthand it the way you can with, say, Apple (a consumer electronics company) or Microsoft (a software company) ...... Page and Brin's stated mission has been to catalog and analyze all of the world's information, and their larger, unstated aim is to reform all of the globe's inefficiencies. ..... Page and Brin's big bets don't always work. Google has had to back off reinventing TV-, radio-, and print-advertising sales; its book-digitization project has become a protracted mess; and its initiatives to make wireless networks more open and to change the way cell-phone carriers sell their plans have failed. .... Google persists in reforming modern communications networks. Google Voice has taken off. .....Larry is a truly awesome inventor-entrepreneur. My aspiration for him is that he becomes one of the greatest inventors-entrepreneurs in history, in the realm of the Thomas Edisons of the world
Wired: Larry Page Wants to Return Google to Its Startup Roots
When they took the cash, they agreed that they would hire an outsider to replace Page as CEO, a common strategy to provide “adult supervision” to inexperienced founders. But now they were reneging. “They said, ‘We’ve changed our mind. We think we can run the company between the two of us,’” Doerr recalls. ....... Apple’s Steve Jobs, Intel’s Andy Grove, Intuit’s Scott Cook, Amazon .com’s Jeff Bezos ...... they were ready to hire a CEO. But they would only consider one person: Steve Jobs. ..... The first couple of years were rocky. As late as 2002, the founders still sounded bitter when discussing Schmidt’s hire ..... Page is finally CEO again, a role he always felt he could handle. ..... Page is sui generis and could potentially have the kind of impact Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have had. Nobody better encapsulates Google’s ambitions, its ethics, and its worldview. At the same time, Page can be eccentric, arrogant, and secretive. Under his leadership, the company will be even harder to predict. ...... “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.” ..... Now the company is in the hands of a true corporate radical. ..... He is brainy, he is confident, he is parsimonious with social interaction. But the dominant flavor in the dish is his boundless ambition, both to excel individually and to improve the conditions of the planet at large. ..... “Even if you fail at your ambitious thing, it’s very hard to fail completely,” he says. “That’s the thing that people don’t get.” ....... Even Googlers, no Luddites themselves, joke that Page “went to the future and came back to tell us about it.” ..... he’s asking himself, ‘Ten years from now, what is going to have the maximum impact on humanity?’” ..... perhaps the quirkiest person to ever run a $30 billion company. Google has had a wild ride over its first 12 years. It’s about to get even wilder. ...... Page was not a social animal—those who interacted with him often wondered if there were a jigger of Asperger’s in the mix—and he could unnerve people by simply not talking. But when he did speak, he often came out with ideas that bordered on the fantastic. ...... . Page had been impressed by the biography of Nikola Tesla, the brilliant Serb scientist who died in obscurity, despite contributions that arguably matched Thomas Edison’s. ..... I didn’t want to just invent things, I also wanted
Image representing John Doerr as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBaseto make the world better ..... first Page and Brin, reluctant to leave the PhD program, tried to license the technology to existing web companies. When they failed, they renamed their search engine Google, formed their own company, and sought funding. ....... While both founders were technical and imaginative, Page was the driver of the vision. “Larry always wanted it to be a bigger thing—as soon as the opportunity presented, it was full speed ahead,” says Craig Silverstein, Google’s first employee. “I don’t think Sergey has that drive to the same extent Larry does. I don’t feel as confident saying what would’ve happened had Sergey called all the shots.” ....... Even after Schmidt came aboard, Page continued to set the core precepts of the company. Page wanted everyone at Google to think big ....... “Larry always has far-fetched ideas that may be very difficult to do,” Google software engineer Eric Veach says. “And he wants them done now.” ...... company’s advertising system. Page was adamant that the program be simple and scalable—advertisers shouldn’t have to deal with salespeople, pick keywords, or do anything more than give their credit card number. That approach helped create the most successful Internet commerce product in history. ...... in Uzbekistan, he suggested, Google could take its payment in goats. ...... Googlers have learned that the best way to counter some of his more problematic idiosyncrasies is not by having a frank discussion but through misdirection ...... he has learned that instead of arguing his case with Page, a better strategy is “giving him shiny objects to play with.” ....... At the beginning of one Google Voice product review, for instance, he offered Page and Brin the opportunity to pick their own phone numbers for the new service. For the next hour, the two brainstormed sequences that embodied mathematical puns while the product sailed through the review. ........ Page’s quirks—his odd obsessions, his unrealistic expectations, his impatience for a future dangling out of immediate reach—sometimes his seemingly crazy ideas wind up creating breakthrough innovations ....... Rather than assuming the unscalable task of answering users one by one, Page said, Google should enable users to answer one another’s questions. The idea ran so counter to accepted practice that Griffin felt like she was about to lose her mind. But Google implemented Page’s suggestion, creating a system called Google Forums, which let users share knowledge and answer one another’s customer-support questions ...... speed is one of Page’s primary obsessions ...... She was once walking with Page down a street in Morocco when he suddenly dragged her into an Internet cafè9. Immediately, he began timing how long it took web pages to load into a browser there. ..... (Page’s fixation on speed probably drives his notorious bias toward utilitarian—some say boring—design. He maintains a militant opposition to eye-catching animations, transitions, or anything that veers from stark simplicity.) ...... It was Page who asked for an interview with the head of a small mobile software startup called Android—startling its founder, Andy Rubin, by asking to buy the company. Rubin is now vice president of engineering at Google, and Android is one of the company’s biggest assets. ...... Page who dreamed of digitizing the world’s books. Many assumed the task was impossible, but Page refused to accept that. It might be expensive, but of course it was possible ...... What astounded him was that even his spreadsheets didn’t dissolve the skepticism of those with whom he shared his scheme ....... “Do you really want the whole world not to have access to human knowledge as contained in books?” Page asks. “You’ve just got to think about that from a societal point of view.” ...... risky moon shots, like Book Search and Google’s recently announced autonomous vehicle project. ..... With
Image representing Larry Page as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBasePage in charge, Google will undoubtedly take on more moon shots. ..... a long struggle to maintain the speed and hunger of a small company even as it grew. ...... One way Page tries to keep his finger on Google’s pulse is his insistence on signing off on every new hire—so far he’s vetted well over 30,000. ....... In 2007, he noticed that having an assistant made it easier for his coworkers to schedule meetings with him. “Most people aren’t willing to ask me if they want to meet with me,” he says. “They’re happy to ask an assistant.” That was an undesirable situation, Page says, “because my favorite meeting is the absence of meetings.” ....... a master of the drive-by greeting, flashing a wide, happy-to-see-you smile while slightly picking up his pace, leaving a potential interlocutor talking to his receding back. ...... Page’s least favorite interactions are with the press. “Larry can be a very, very sensitive and good person,” says a former PR employee. “But he has major trust issues and few social graces.”

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