‘The Google Guys’ by Richard L. Brandt
Next to the air that we breathe, if we take anything for granted today, it has to be Google, at least to a lay person like me. It has become the single destination for anything that we need, in fact, the name itself has become a verb. You want any information, just google it.
‘The Google Guys’ , originally published as ‘Inside Larry & Sergey’s Brain’ gives more than a glimpse into who the two brilliant young guys are and how they think. Written in a simple, straightforward style, it gives insights into how the organization came into being, what makes its founders tick, their people, their vision, the key people who support them and most importantly their vision and the seemingly improbable things that you could expect from them in future .
The book starts with an analogy of the world’s first great library – the Great Library of Alexandria that was created by Ptolemy I, the childhood friend of Alexander the Great. The similarities are uncanny and aptly presented in the first few chapters. The author introduces you to a typical employee of Google and you no longer wonder why the organization seem to be at the forefront of any new age thought that you could think of. Alan Eustace, the senior VP of engineering and lead person on engineering hiring puts it very clearly,
“The key element we’re trying to find is smart people, productive people, people with a slight disdain for the impossible, people who have good leadership shills who we find interesting. We try to avoid people that have incredibly large egos that are inconsistent with their abilities or are not good at working in teams.”
In a world that was dominated by Yahoo and Microsoft, if one wonders how Google outsmarted them all, the answer is simple – to keep things simple for the end user – the most basic and important principle that organizations tend to forget as they grow. They are almost fanatical about simplicity , whether it is the look of the home page or the ads that run there. That brings us to another area where Google clearly scored over others. their own advertising spend.
“We’ve resisted the temptation to have big advertising campaigns,” Sergey said in 2000. “I’m not sure it is the right thing to do. I am concerned about long-term profitability.”
Instead, they knew their target audience, met them in person and showed them what they could do. The instinct sure did pay off in the long run. In further chapters, Brandt narrates the story of the infamous IPO where Larry and Sergey almost botched it up because of their apparent apathy towards the so called norms. The controversial entry into China that seemed to go against their much heralded policy on censoring is also dealt with in detail.
The chapter that I loved the most is ‘The Ruthless Librarians’ that talks at length about their attempt to digitize all the books that are available somewhere in the world today. The stories bring out the passion that the duo has towards preserving something that is so priceless.
The last three chapters takes you through Google’s plans for Cloud, Android and the like. Some of the information may seem outdated, but it is interesting, nevertheless. Reading through the last chapter you are left thinking whether there is nothing that these brilliant guys have not thought about. Their future plans include among others, renewable sources of power, eco friendly cars, a trip to Mars and the like.
The ever threatening question of privacy and the potential risk of one entity having this humongous information in their hands is referred to throughout the book. As the author says, most of the controversies are about what could happen and not what has happened.
The author says rightly,
There’s one thing that’s certain: they are going to be breaking rules, pissing people off, and trying to make the world a better place for decades to come. Love them or despise them, everyone must contend with them. They are having greater impacts on the business world and on people’s lifestyles than any other business executives in the world.
World’s information and energy controlled by a corporate behemoth, it sure is a scary prospect. Countries would lose significance, Google could easily be taking up the place of erstwhile United States , the Big Brother or even the Patriarch of the Universe. At the same time, the control wielded by the duo in practically all the decisions including even recruitment of key resources, leaves us with the billion dollar question , what after Larry and Sergey?
Almost serendipitous, this news came out yesterday as I finished reading the book
Verdict – An absolute must read for anyone who Googles 🙂