Google Senior Exec Alan Eustace on Innovation Strategy and the Technology of the Next Decade

12/16/09Follow @gthuang

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dominate. What I’m looking for is larger groups of people in each of the sites. Where there’s ownership and partnership between what’s going on there and in other sites. It’s not true that one site only works on only one thing. We have diversity.

Just as an example, Brian [Bershad, Google Seattle’s site director] has incredible systems skills. We hired some fantastic systems people. People who can build large-scale distributed systems are rare, they’re in high demand. We think about what’s the place where they’ll have the most impact?

X: It may be a bit cliché, but we’ve heard that Google worries most about how to keep its entrepreneurial and innovative edge as it continues to grow. Can you talk about that?

AE: It’s absolutely true. Technology is at the heart of our company. Technology is an interesting area in that it moves really quickly. People inside the company have to move as fast, and possibly faster, to exploit technology [to serve our users]. People have to stay nimble. We have smaller teams and more ownership inside the teams than most companies. We have bottom-up and some top-down ideas. It’s important that the people working in an area have freedom to try some different ideas. It’s not about having 10,000 ideas—that’s not the important thing. It’s having the right ideas, and enough time to spend on those ideas.

X: So how do you balance “organic” innovation with strategic acquisitions, for example?

AE: Almost all our innovation comes from inside the company. I think acquisitions help. Let’s take the AdMob case—we had a very healthy and active group inside the company. What that group discovered was that [mobile advertising] is a really, really important area. If we didn’t have people working on it, we wouldn’t have known. It’s the fact we’re working on it inside that makes us understand the potential of the idea. In many cases, someone else will help us. With YouTube—we had Google Video, but YouTube was winning, and they had a particular set of people, talent, and a viewpoint. We could try to copy them, but [in the end] what YouTube did was accelerate our effort in that area.

X: Which areas would you say entrepreneurs should actively pursue—not necessarily in core areas of search, but around the edges of what Google does?

AE: I’d encourage them to do it in search too! I was in the group that started AltaVista in ‘96. This whole industry is 15 years old. To say it’s done is way premature. There’s a lot of good … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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