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

Justin Mason jm at jmason.org
Thu Apr 29 15:40:21 PDT 2004

Hash: SHA1

Contempt for Meatheads writes:
> 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.

Yeah, me too for sure.   I'm wishing them the best of luck with this;
if you ask me, the model of the public company *needs* hippie crap.

- --j.

> Anybody have a link to the letter itself?
> ---
> Co-founders release Google 'owner's manual'
> By Jim Hu
> Staff Writer, CNET News.com
> http://news.com.com/2100-1038-5202090.html
> 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 
> earnings.
> "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 
> businesses."
> 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 
> time."
> 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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