[FoRK] Page and Brin release Google "Owner's Manual"

Contempt for Meatheads jbone at place.org
Thu Apr 29 15:13:39 PDT 2004

My take on this?  Call me an optimistic skeptic.  Naivete and idealism 
are nice and they sometimes (far more often than expected!) kind of 
work.  If Google can actually make this work I'll worship the ground 
they walk on even more than I already do.

Anybody have a link to the letter itself?


Co-founders release Google 'owner's manual'

By Jim Hu
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

Story last modified April 29, 2004, 2:41 PM PDT

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have always done it their 
own way.

Nowhere is this attitude reflected more vividly than the opening letter 
included in Google's regulatory filing for its initial public offering. 
Dubbed "'An Owner's Manual' for Google's Shareholders," the seven-page 
letter is an organizational manifesto crafted by the co-founders to map 
out Google's credo as a public company that goes against most 
principles for operating a public company.

Authored by Page, the letter outlines everything from the triumvirate 
leadership between the co-founders and CEO Eric Schmidt to its promise 
not to be "evil" by sacrificing its ideals for short-term financial 
gains. It promises more spending on employee perks such as free meals, 
a separate voting structure for executives, and avoidance of making 
financial predictions for Wall Street. Instead, the company will focus 
on long-term priorities that do not have an immediate effect on 

"If opportunities arise that might cause us to sacrifice short-term 
results but are in the best long-term interest of our shareholders, we 
will take those opportunities," the letter read. "We will have the 
fortitude to do this. We would request that our shareholders take the 
long-term view."

Indeed, Page and Brin have shaped Google with a pervasive sense of 
idealism for creating a different kind of company. The pair, who 
founded Google in 1998 at the expense of their Stanford University 
doctoral studies, have created a corporate environment that fosters 
individual creative pursuits while pampering employees with free meals 
and regular beer bashes.

Whether or not Page and Brin can maintain Google's current shangri-la 
atmosphere in the face of Wall Street scrutiny and shareholder demands 
remains a formidable task. If history is a guide, one can look no 
further than Yahoo, Google's biggest competitor. Also founded by a pair 
of Stanford graduate student--Jerry Yang and David Filo--Yahoo 
underwent an executive and cultural purge when its fortunes went south 
during the dot-com bust.

Here are some of Google's promises and processes as outlined in their 
own words from the owner's manual:

Managing Wall Street: "Many companies are under pressure to keep their 
earnings in line with analysts' forecasts. Therefore, they often accept 
smaller, but predictable, earnings rather than larger and more 
unpredictable returns. Sergey and I feel this is harmful, and we intend 
to steer in the opposite direction."

Risk vs. reward: "As the ratio of reward to risk increases, we will 
accept projects further outside our normal areas, especially when the 
initial investment is small. We encourage our employees, in addition to 
their regular projects, to spend 20 percent of their time working on 
what they think will most benefit Google. Most risky projects fizzle, 
often teaching us something. Others succeed and become attractive 

Executive decision-making: "To facilitate timely decisions, Eric, 
Sergey and I meet daily to update each other on the business and to 
focus our collaborative thinking on the most important and immediate 
issues. Decisions are often made by one of us, with the others being 
briefed later. This works because we have tremendous trust and respect 
for each other and we generally think alike."

Dual class voting: "While this structure is unusual for technology 
companies, it is common in the media business and has had a profound 
importance there. The New York Times Company, the Washington Post 
Company and Dow Jones, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, all 
have similar dual class ownership structures. Media observers 
frequently point out that dual class ownership has allowed these 
companies to concentrate on their core, long-term interest in serious 
news coverage, despite fluctuations in quarterly results.

Googlers: "We provide many unusual benefits for our employees, 
including meals free of charge, doctors and washing machines. We are 
careful to consider the long-term advantages to the company of these 
benefits. Expect us to add benefits rather than pare them down over 

Kumbaya: "We aspire to make Google an institution that makes the world 
a better place. And now, we are in the process of establishing the 
Google Foundation. We intend to contribute significant resources to the 
foundation, including employee time and approximately 1 percent of 
Google's equity and profits in some form."

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