Tag Archives: Google

Larry Page and Peter Thiel – 2 (different?) Icons of Silicon Valley

I just read two long and interesting articles about these important personalities of Silicon Valley. The one about Larry Page was mentioned to me by a colleague (thanks François!) through its French translation. It is rather old (2014) but still very interesting and relevant : The Untold Story of Larry Page’s Incredible Comeback (Nicholas Carlson – April 24, 2014).

The one about Peter Thiel was recently published by the New Yorker, I find it a little less interesting as there is not much new, but still very clear as usual with this great magazine : What Is It About Peter Thiel? The billionaire venture capitalist has fans and followers. What are they looking for? (Anna Wiener – October 27, 2021)

What do they have in common, I am not sure: they have very different personalities, one is rather secretive, the other very visible. They certainly have in common the belief that technology and entrepreneurship can (still?) change the world, but Thiel puts this as a political statement and I believe he is wrong. Politics are about collective decisions (I hope), wheras entrepreneurship is more individual decisions (I think) even if is does include cultural (therefore collective) features.

Page was born in 1973 in Michigan and Thiel in 1967 in Germany, they both studied at Stanford University, Thiel in the law school, Page in the engineering school. They apparently both funded the Singularity university, something I do not really understand except the link to their extreme belief in technology saving the world…

I have written so much about them, you may want to check that through the tags #thiel or #google. In the article about Larry Page, there are very interesting moments, for example his “lessons” about management:
– Don’t delegate: Do everything you can yourself to make things go faster.
– Don’t get in the way if you’re not adding value. Let the people actually doing the work talk to each other while you go do something else.
– Don’t be a bureaucrat.
– Ideas are more important than age. Just because someone is junior doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect and cooperation.
– The worst thing you can do is stop someone from doing something by saying, “No. Period.” If you say no, you have to help them find a better way to get it done.

It’s really worth reading these two articles and see again how much diversity there is (or not) in Silicon Valley. The last sentences of the articles about Page says: Instead of ending his life destitute and ignored, [contrary to his icon, Nikola Tesla] Page, still just 41, will spend the final half of his life pouring billions of dollars and countless hours into his wildest visions. “Anything you can imagine probably is doable,” Page told Google investors in 2012. “You just have to imagine it and work on it.”

Whereas the one about Thiel ends in a little more mysterious but enlightening way: Of course, when it comes to Thiel, what registers as mystique may simply be practiced opacity. Strauss, the conservative philosopher, proposed that academics and writers often advance their ideas through intentionally obscure prose — a technique in which “the truth about all crucial things is presented exclusively between the lines,” such that it is legible “not to all readers, but to trustworthy and intelligent readers only.” In interviews, Thiel can come across as “Straussian” — opaque, enigmatic, even oracular. He is a master of conversational redirection, and his arguments can be indeterminate. Religious references and allusions lend his ideas about business or globalization a sense of mysticism, as though the truth of his own speech is lurking just around the corner. Online, clues proliferate — about Thiel’s ideas and much else. Sleuths hunt for meaning, and search for signs indicating that they are among the “trustworthy and intelligent.” For Thiel’s fans, part of his appeal must be the endless opportunities he presents for decoding, deciphering, and hypothesizing. He offers readers the anticipation of revelation. Then again, the truth could be much simpler: when money talks, people listen.

Philippe Mustar – Entrepreneurship in Action – episode 3

Here is episode 3 of my reading Entrepreneurship in Action by Mustar after episode 1 and episode 2.

I would like to mention what I consider an amazing coincidence in comparing two pages of Mustar’s book and the Google following short video.


There Larry page gives tips including:
Tip 2: There is a benefit from being real experts. Experience pays off.
Tip 3: Have a healthy disregard for the impossible. Stretch your goals.

About tip 2: “We worked on Google for many years at Stanford before we started the company. And that was a pretty nice position to be and we understood sort of all aspects in search. We talked about the search companies for many years. We really knew a lot about what’s going on. They can do that pretty cheaply, right? It’s just your labor, right? You can invest a year or two or three years and really learn something very, very well before you start having hundreds of people working on the problem.”

About tip 3: “I went to a leadership seminar once in Michigan where I came from and they have this great slogan which is, “Have a Healthy Disregard for the Impossible.” What this means is that, you really stretch goals that you’re not sure you can achieve but are sort of reasonable. You don’t want completely outlandish goals either. In fact one thing that I didn’t quite realize when I was starting Google is that it’s often easier to have aggressive goals. Now what that means is, a lot of time people take very specific things they want to do because they think they’ll be easier to attain. What happens if you’re being more specific, smaller markets and that kind of thing, you also get less resources.”

which I compare to pages 120-21:

About expertise: “To respond to these multiple questions, the trio meets many actors: “It was also important to speak very quickly to customers and experts in the field.” […] The team conducts a competitive watch to understand the positioning of the three major producers, but also the smallest that share the remaining 20% of the market. “I did all the fairs to understand how the sector works, how prices are fixed, what are the innovations in progress”. The objective for the trio is to differentiate its offer as much as possible from that of its future competitors.”

About the impossible: “During this period, as in the years that followed, many voices tell them that what they plan to do is not possible, that if we could […] the large companies that dominate the market would have already done it, that the development of industrial equipment is long and expensive and that they are subject to a tatillon certification process that the composite materials they hope to use will never pass. Last But Not Least, how young inexperienced and totally ignorant engineers of the sector could succeed in the giants of the sector, their tens of thousands of employees and their armies of experienced engineers.”

A final message from the founders of Expliseat which I find also very interesting: Unlike the entrepreneurship manuals which advise teams of founders to divide up the functions very early on, at Expliseat, during the first year of the project, the three entrepreneurs play all the roles at the same time. “Everyone does everything”. This is the formula they liked to repeat then.

GAFAM do not suffer from the crisis (part II)

Yesterday I published data in Tesla, Google and Facebook do not suffer from the crisis. and after linking my post to the usual Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, one of my readers (thanks Manuel!) told me it would be fun to add Uber as a comparison. I said I would if/when I find the time and then thought why not AirBnB, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft?

I could only compile data about revenues of these firms and I think it is striking enough:

I wrote yerterday the growth rate was above 100% (doubling every year) in the early years declining to around 40% (doubling every other year) then to 15% (doubling evry five-year). Here are the growth rates of these old and new Titans. It begins again with 100+% for all of them. Too early to say about the future of Uber and AirBnB.
The three others of the GAFAM.
– Microsoft even had a 50% growth in its second decade, Amazon was closer to 30% and Apple struggled with 20%.
– In their 4th decade, Microsoft had an average grwoth of 10% and Apple 30%.

OK Manuel?

Tesla, Google and Facebook do not suffer from the crisis.

This may not be surprising and it has been said in the media. The GAFAs have generally benefited from the Covid crisis. So, as I was independantly doing in the recent years, I looked again at the growth of Google and Facebook as well as Tesla.

[As a reference here are past articles:
– Are GAFAs threatened? Their growth is still steady: www.startup-book.com/2019/12/28/are-gafas-threatened-their-growth-is-still-steady/
– Facebook Finally Files For $5B: www.startup-book.com/2012/02/02/facebook-finally-files-for-5b/
– Google vs. Facebook: www.startup-book.com/2010/11/12/google-vs-facebook/]

And here are my udpates abour revenue, income and employee growth of Google, Facebook and Tesla:

Revenues and profits are in millions of $. What is undoubtedly the most striking is the similarity of the growths of the three actors and of course the fact that all these numbers are considerable, not to say extraordinary.

Typical of Silicon Valley startups, the growth is often above 100% in the early years decreasing to about 40% after a few years and still above 15% after 20 years. This means respectively doubling the numbers every year, every two years and every five years.

The largest technology companies in Europe and the USA in 2020

I regularly look at the largest technology companies in the USA and Europe and obviously this year, I had the impact of Covid in mind. Here are the tables I build once a year (and that you could compare to the ones published in January 2020 here or in 2017 here.

I am adding below their PS (price to sales, ratio of market cap to revenues) and PE (price to earnings, ratio of market cap to profits when positive) as well as the growth of the market cap. and revenues. There are 3 new companies I had not studied last year (Airbnb, Paypal and AMD) for which the growth is therefore not mentioned.

There would be many comments to give btu I will be fast:
– The GAFAs are the clear leaders, 4 of them are trillion dollar companies. Facebook is a little surprinsingly not as impressive and Tesla is appearing on top.
– The COVID did not have a big impact, not to say it had a positive impact on technology companies (in financial more than in economic terms)
– Again, looking at averages we see Europe is lagging in market caps, employement, sales and profits by factors close to 10…

The largest technology companies in Europe and the USA in the last 10 years

It’s just after reading on Twitter that Google had just become a trillion dollar company (In honor of Google becoming a $1T company today), and also after reading Nicolas Colin’s concerns about European technology companies (Will Fragmentation Doom Europe to Another Lost Decade?) that I remembered I used to compare US and European tech former startups.

So here are my past tables and also a short synthesis in the end. The full data in pdf in the end too.

USA vs. Europe in 2020

USA vs. Europe in 2018

USA vs. Europe in 2016

USA vs. Europe in 2014

USA vs. Europe in 2012

USA vs. Europe in 2010

USA vs. Europe: the Synthesis over the decade

If you prefer to download it all and a little more: Top US Europe (in pdf)

Are GAFAs threatened? Their growth is still steady

It’s by reading Nicolas Colin’s always interesting newsletter, European Straits #149, 10 Tech Giants That Are (Almost All) in Bad Shape that I decided to revisit quickly the growth of 3 tech giants that I have been following for many years now: Google, Facebook and Tesla. And here are their numbers in terms of thousands of employees, revenue and profit in $M.

If you really love numbers, here is a little more: their average growth of 5 years is about 20% for Google, 40% for Facebook and about the same for Tesla (except that they never made a profit). Google is older so it is not a fair comparison. here is a more precise analysis.

So are the three tech giants threatened? I am not sure given this steady growth.

Bill Campbell, the Trillion Dollar Coach (Part II)

A short second post following my recent one, here. Short notes.

Eric Schmidt and its coauthors emphasize the importance of teams, of people and of products. For example:

“In our previous book, How Google Works, we argue that there is a new breed of employee, the smart creative, who is critical to achieving this speed and innovation. The smart creative is someone who combines technical depth with business savvy and creative flair. […] As we were researching this book and talking to the dozens of people Bill had coached in his career, we realized that this thesis misses an important piece of the business success puzzle. There is another , equally critical, factor for success in companies: teams that act as communities. integrating interests and putting aside differences to be individually and collectively obsessed with what’s good for the company. […] But adhering to these principles is hard, and it gets even harder when you add factors such as fast-moving industries, complex business models, technology-driven shifts, smart competitors, sky-high customer expectations, global expansion, demanding teammates… […] To balance the tension and mold a team into a community, you need a coach, someone who works not only with individuals but also with the team.” [Pages 22-4]

“Bill started his business career as an advertising and marketing guy, then added sales to his portfolio after joining Apple. But through his experiences in the tech world, in his stints at Apple, Intuit, Google, and others, Bill came to appreciate the preeminence of technology and product in the business pecking order. “The purpose of a company is to take the vision you have of the product and bring it to life,” he said once at a conference. “Then you put all the other components around it – finance, sales, marketing – to get the product out the door and make sure it’s successful.” This was not the way things were done in Silicon Valley, or most other places, when Bill came to town in the 1980s. The model then was that while a company might be started by a technologist, pretty soon the powers that be would bring in a business guy with experience in sales, marketing, finance, or operations, to run the place. These executives wouldn’t be thinking about the needs of the engineer and weren’t focused on product first. Bill was a business guy, but he believed that nothing was more important than an empowered engineer. His constant point: product teams are the heart of the company. They are the ones who create new features and new products.” [Pages 67-8]

About teams again, and trust : “Not surprisingly when Google conducted a study to determine the factors behind high-performing teams, psychological safety came out at the top of the list [1]. The common notions that the best teams are made up of people with complementary skill sets or similar personalities were disproven; the best teams are the ones with the most psychological safety, And that starts with trust.” [Page 84]

About talent: Bill looked for four characteristics in people. The person has to be smart, not necessarily academically but more from the standpoint of being able to get up to speed quickly in different areas and then make connections. Bill called this the ability to make “far analogies”. The person has to work hard, and has to have high integrity. Finally, the person should have the hard-to-define characteristic: grit. The ability to get knocked down and have the passion and perseverance to get up and go at it again.” [Page 116]

And finally, may be most importantly, about founders: “He held a very special place in his heart for the people who have the guts and skills to start companies. They are sane enough to know that every day is a fight for survival against daunting odds and crazy enough to think they can succeed anyway. And retaining them in a meaningful way is essential to success in any company. Too often we think about running a company as an operating job, and as we have already examined, Bill considered operational excellence to be very important. But when we reduce company leadership to its operational essence, we negate another very important component: vision. Many times operating people come in, and though they may run the company better, they lose the heart and soul of the company.” [Page 178]

In conclusion, People, People, People.

[1] More details about the study can be found in James Graham, “What Google Learned from Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team” New York Times, February 25, 2016.

Le bonheur, une idée neuve dans les entreprises ? (selon France Culture)

(Sorry I was too fast, this should have been posted on the French version… where it is also now. For non French-speaking readers, this post is about new management techniques that were born in Silicon Valley…)

J’étais invité ce matin à débattre des méthodes de travail et de management (y compris “l’utilisation du bonheur”) importées de la Silicon Valley. Je mets plus bas (après les tweets) les notes que j’avais prise pour préparer cette émission

Voici les notes que je m’étais préparées.

On ne peut pas mettre dans les même paquet tous les GAFAM. Tout d’abord Amazon et Microsoft qui par coïncidence ne sont pas basées dans la Silicon Valley, mais à Seattle ne sont pas connues pour un management original. Ni Bill Gates, ni son successeur Steve Ballmer, ni Jeff Bezos ne sont connus pour des styles de management innovants. Par contre Google, Apple et Facebook ont sans doute des similarités:
– ce sont des méritocraties et le travail est la valeur “suprême”, plus que le profit, au risque de tous les excès: recherche de performance, concurrence et risque de burn-out. On ne tient pas toujours très longtemps chez GAF
– on y recherche les meilleurs talents (sur toute la planète et sans exclusive, au fond le sexisme et le racisme n’y existent pas a priori)
– le travail en (petites) équipes est privilégié.
Du coup le management a innové pour permettre cette performance et reconnaître les talents (par le fameuses stock options mais aussi une multitude de services pour rendre les gens toujours plus efficaces)

J’aimerais vous mentionner 3 ouvrages (sur lesquels j’avais bloggé pour 2 d’entres eux)
– Work Rules décrit le “people management” chez Google (ils ne parlent “plus” de ressources humaines). L’auteur Lazlo Bock qui fut le patron de cette activité a quasiment théorisé tout cela. Vous trouverez mes 5 posts sur ce livre par le lien: https://www.startup-book.com/fr/?s=bock. C’est un livre en tout point remarquable parce qu’il montre la complexité des choses.

– I’m feeling Lucky décrit de l’intérieur ces manières hétérodoxes de “foncer”. Un pro du marketing montre comment Google a tout chamboulé par conviction / intuition plus que par expérience. https://www.startup-book.com/fr/2012/12/13/im-feeling-lucky-beaucoup-plus-quun-autre-livre-sur-google/

– Enfin un livre hommage sur Bill Campbell vient de sortir écrit par l’ancien CEO de Google Eric Schmidt. https://www.trilliondollarcoach.com. Comme je viens de commencer ce livre, je peux en parler plus difficilement mais il serait dommage d’oublier cette personnalité qui fut le “coach” de Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt et Sheryl Sandberg, trois personnes majeures pour justement les GAF! Or ce Bill Campbell, décédé il y a 3 ans, fut une personne essentielle à cette culture du travail et de la performance. Ses valeurs sont décrites dans https://www.slideshare.net/ericschmidt/trillion-dollar-coach-book-bill-campbell. Bill Campbell revient de temps en temps sur mon blog pour des anecdotes assez étonnantes. (https://www.startup-book.com/fr/?s=campbell). Par exemple, chez Google on a souvent pensé que les managers étaient inutiles. L’autonomie d’individus brillants devait suffire… mais ce n’est pas si simple! – voir https://www.startup-book.com/fr/2015/09/01/google-dans-le-null-plex-partie-3-une-culture/.

A nouveau excellence des individus et travail en équipe, reconnaissance des talents à qui on donne autonomie, responsabilité(s) avec peu de hiérarchie semble être le leitmotiv… Tout cela on pas pour rendre les gens heureux, mais pour leur permettre d’être plus efficace parce qu’ils sont “heureux” au travail. “People First”. L’objectif c’est de fidéliser, de rendre plus productif, mais c’est aussi une mise en pratique de la confiance en les autres.

Alors comme je l’avais lu chez Bernard Stiegler, à toute pharmacopée sa toxicité. Les excès dans des valeurs conduisent à des abus. Trop de travail, de concurrence, de pression conduit au burnout. J’ai l’impression que la politique et même le sexisme y jouent moins de rôle qu’on pense, même s’il y en a comme partout. Quant au racisme, il me semble limité (et on est aux USA!) Le sexisme est un vrai sujet, mais je vois plus des nerds qui ont peur ou ne connaissent pas les femmes que des “old boy clubs of white men” qui dirigeraient les choses comme je l’ai lu (même si cet élément existe j’en suis sûr). La polémique sur la congélation des ovocytes chez Facebook peut être lue de manière contradictoire j’imagine. J’ai aussi abordé le sujet dans le passé, https://www.startup-book.com/fr/?s=femmes ou https://www.startup-book.com/tag/women-and-high-tech/. L’autre sujet de diversité, est plus clair: il y a tellement de nationalités dans les GAFAs et les startup en général que le racisme est dur à imaginer. Indiens, chinois surtout sont présents et jusqu’au somment (les CEO de Google et Microsoft aujourd’hui). Seule la minorité “African-American” est sans doute sous représentée et on peut imaginer que tout cela est corrélé avec le problème de l’accès à l’éducation (qui existe moins en Asie)

Voilà, c’est déjà beaucoup pour ne pas dire trop… je trouve que commencer par Bill Campbell est une manière simple et efficace d’entrer dans le sujet. Et maintenant que j’y pense tout cela est d’autant plus facilement que vous verrez que mes lectures récentes sont liées au “sens du travail” (Lochmann, Crawford, Patricot) https://www.startup-book.com/fr/?s=travail

Bill Campbell, the Trillion Dollar Coach

I had so often heard of this hidden secret of Silicon Valley that when I read about a book written about him, I had to buy and read it immediately. Which I did. And what about the authors: first and foremost, Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google…

I had mentioned Campbell 3 times here:

– first in 2014, in Horowitz’ The Hard Thing About Hard Things: there is no recipe but courage. This is there I had Campbell picture just between Steve Jobs abd Andy grove.
jobs-campbell-grove

– then in 2015, in Google in the (Null)Plex – Part 3: a culture. This piece is also mentioned in the new book: Google decide management was not needed any more and neither Schmidt, nor Campbell liked it. here is how it was solved: “The newly arrived Schmidt and the company’s unofficial executive coach, Bill Campbell, weren’t happy with the idea, either. Campbell would go back and forth with Page on the issue. “People don’t want to be managed,” Page would insist, and Campbell would say, “Yes, they do want to be managed.” One night Campbell stopped the verbal Ping-Pong and said, “Okay, let’s start calling people in and ask them.” It was about 8 P.M., and there were still plenty of engineers in the offices, pecking away at God knows what. One by one, Campbell and Page summoned them in, and one by one Page asked them, “Do you want to be managed?” As Campbell would later recall, “Everyone said yeah.” Page wanted to know why. They told him they wanted somebody to learn from. When they disagreed with colleagues and discussions reached an impasse, they needed someone who could break the ties.”

– finally last year, in Business Lessons by Kleiner Perkins (Part II): Bill Campbell by John Doerr.

Not bad references! I am not finished with the Coach. I have never been a fan of coaching and I am probably wrong. Let me just begin. “I’ve come to believe that coaching might be even more essential than mentoring to our careers and our teams. Whereas mentors dole out words of wisdom, coaches roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. They don’t just believe in our potential; they get in the arena to help us realize our potential. They hold up a mirror so we can see our blind spots and they hold us accountable for working through our sore spots. They take responsibility for making us better without taking credit for our accomplishments. And I can’t think of a better role model for a coach than Bill Campbell”. [Page xiv]

On the next page, Schmidt explains he may have missed on important point in his previous book (How Google Works) where he emphasied the imporatnce of brillinat individuals, the smart creatives. And this may be the higher importance of teams, as decrived in Google’s Project Aritotle. I just give a link form eth New York Times about this: What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team. New research reveals surprising truths about why some work groups thrive and others falter.

The first two chapters are devoted to the life of this extraordinary character. A tireless worker, who started as an American football college coach to become the CEO of high-tech companies such as Claris or Intuit before becoming the Silicon Valley star coach. All told on the occasion of his funerals in 2016. If you do not want to wait for my next blog and not buy the book you may want to read the slidehare from the authors, but first you should read his manifesto, it’s the people.

People are the foundation of any company’s success. The primary job of each manager is to help people be more effective in their job and to grow and develop. We have great people who want to do well, are capable of doing great things, and come to work fired up to do them. Great people flourish in an environment that liberates and amplifies that energy. Managers create this environment through support, respect, and trust.

Support means giving people the tools, information, training, and coaching they need to succeed. It means continuous effort to develop people’s skills. Great managers help people excel and grow.

Respect means understanding people’s unique career goals and being sensitive to their life choices. It means helping people achieve these career goals in a way that’s consistent with the needs of the company.

Trust means freeing people to do their jobs and to make decisions. It means knowing people want to do well and believing that they will.