Let’s welcome George Salah into the narrative. He had left Oracle to become Google’s Facilities Manager after bonding with the founders at a roller hockey game. Oracle being a very successful company, Salah wanted to import best practices from there to the fledgling Google. Douglas quotes him as saying, “I said to Larry and Sergey, ‘I don’t want to recreate the wheel every time. Are you okay with me creating a set of standards?’ They looked at me like I was crazy.”
“Absolutely not!" the founders declared. "We don’t want to have anything to do with standards. We don’t want anything ‘standard’.”
“I think that was about the time I began to go bald,” George told me, says Douglas. Sergey and Larry wanted their company to be completely different. George threw out everything he had learned in his career, and set about finding vendors, contractors, and architects who understood what the Google founders wanted, and that was always function over form, writes Douglas.
The author notes that he and his colleagues in the marketing department too were forbidden to do things the “normal and accepted way”. He quotes one of his former colleagues saying, “Larry and Sergey hated the idea of template approaches to marketing. They refused to stick to manufactured messages, did not use presentations, and talked about what they wanted to talk about. The media loved them for it.”
A CURE FOR AIDS? NOT IMPOSSIBLE
Douglas continues. It seems once the founders came to know of marketing’s intent to dictate product plans to engineering. They threw a monkey wrench at it, he writes. Sergey eventually issued a company-wide manifesto listing Google’s top three priorities as “product excellence, user acquisition, and revenues”. It left a lot of questions unanswered, but Douglas writes that he eventually came to realize that the founders intended to “pick a path to the future based on their gut instinct”. An engineer by name Chad Lester marveled, “They had so much self-confidence that Sergey was convinced he personally could find a cure for AIDS.” Douglas noted that the VCs on the board, including storied names like John Doerr and Mike Moritz, didn’t have control and could do nothing beyond try and guide the founders.
NO BODY ODOR PLEASE
Larry and Sergey had appointed a VP for corporate marketing and put her in charge of PR and promotions, but not the development of products. The board wanted a different leader to build that organization —someone with technical savvy, but not an engineer. Douglas notes that Larry and Sergey reluctantly agreed to take a look around. The qualifications required? The right candidate would have to communicate with coders, execute quickly, and be very, very smart. And yes, smell nice too! Douglas writes that Sergey once rejected an applicant in part because “I thought he had kind of a bad body odor.”
(To be continued. Vignettes taken from the book I’m Feeling Lucky by Douglas Edwards)