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Friday, July 3, 2015

The GOOGLE Story - Life Cycles and the Wojcicki Family


(sung to the tune of “The Brady Bunch”)

"This is a story, about a man called Larry,

Good buddy Sergey and a little com-pan-y,

Known as Google, which began in a garage,

Owned by Susan of the Wo-jit-ski{sic} fam-il-y,

Then others, flocked to join them,

And you knew it would be much more than a hunch,

That one day they’d become successful,

And that’s how they all became the Google Bunch"

This is the most ambitious series of linked posts I have yet attempted. I will link all 3 blogs to tell The GOOGLE Story, from a Life Cycles - Families perspective. This main blog will tell the story of Susan Wojcicki (pronounced Wo-jit-ski) and the massive contribution she made to the fledgling Google company. My SECOND BLOG will then tell the story of her sister Anne and her marriage to Sergey Brin and her own interesting career. Thus the theme of these two posts will be that they were sisters, within the high-achieving Wojcicki family.

Then my THIRD BLOG will feature a Life Cycles Confluence analysis of founders Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Susan and Anne. Does this sound ambitious? It sure does to me. (N.B. If the three terms used in core Life Cycles theory - Year of Revolution/Year of Broken Pathways and Confluence sound like a foreign language to you please read THIS.)


Did you know that Google actually began life in a garage in Menlo Park in September 1998. This was thanks to a very fortuitous set of circumstances for the house owner - one Susan Wojcicki and her husband Dennis Troper. She was born 5th July, 1968 into a family of academics from the Silicon Valley area and she planned on joining them as she graduated with honours in History and Literature from Harvard in 1990.

When she was in her age 24 Year of Revolution (Jul.1992-Jul.1993) she completed a Masters in Science and Economics and has reflected that the newly discovered breakthrough called the World Wide Web (see my post on Tim Berners-Lee for evidence of the time period match) opened her eyes to a whole new range of possibilities :- "No one in my family had ever worked in business beforehand.....I realized, oh, I can make things, I can sell things, I can have influence. And then when the Internet came out, you could reach people all over the world. I mean, that was just amazing." This was also around the period when she worked for a time at Educational software firm MagicQuest, which resulted in her getting bitten by the tech bug.

She went on to complete an MBA in 1998 and had also worked for top consulting firm Bain & Co. and at this time for Intel in a junior role. She and Dennis had just purchased a new home in Menlo Park (which she describes as humble) and were expecting their first child when they rented their garage to two Stanford students for $1,700 a month to help with the mortgage.

She tells of a parade of venture capitalists and journalists, who made their way to the fledgling company through Susan's living room and eating late night pizzas and M&M's with Sergey and Larry, where they talked of how their technology will change the world. Within a year (in other words at or very close to her age 31 Year of Broken Pathways (Jul.1999-Jul.2000)) she joined them to become the company's first marketing manager and Google employee No.16.

Talk about a veritable year of challenge (which is the definition of a Broken Pathways Year). She began with an office, but no staff and no budget :- "We had no marketing budget, but I was supposed to market the company -- by myself," she recalled. "It was a little overwhelming." However Susan was not to go on to be called 'The Most Important Person in Advertising' for nothing. Let's add another verse to 'the Brady Bunch' theme music..........
"Then Susan said to Larry and Sergey,

You’ve created all this wonderful geeky stuff,

But if I can, make us a decent profit,

Then we can go public and make a bundle soon enough….."

Her first task was finding office space for Google after moving out of the garage. Her early duties included refining the original Google logo designed by Brin and the overall spare look of the Google home page. She came up with the first of Google's "doodles." In addition she also contributed to the development of 'Google Images' and 'Google Books'. However her next big idea really hit pay dirt. In 2003, she came up with her multimillion-dollar brainstorm: AdSense.

AdSense is an extension of a program Google had successfully launched in 2002, called AdWords. AdWords offers advertisers sponsored search ads, those little text ads that appear near search results. Advertisers have to pay only if the ads get clicked. Wojcicki's suggestion:-"Why not offer these same ads all over the Web, on blogs and websites? Entice Web 'publishers' to participate by giving them a portion of the ad revenue. In other words, every time someone clicks on an ad on your site, you get a check."

Both these initiatives were a runaway smash from the first and it has been estimated that in the early days they produced nearly all (as much as 98%) of Google's income. Was it a mere co-incidence that later in 2003 Sergey and Larry didn't proceed with an offer to merge with Microsoft, but that in August, 2004 they went public with around 20 million shares at $85.00 each giving a market capitalisation of $23 billion?

Even today Adwords/Adsense is the second leading profit generator for the company. Do you wonder why she is called 'The Most Important Person at Google You've Never Heard Of.' But insiders know her worth without question. She has well and truly earned her title as 'The Most Important Person In Advertising'. All this coming from a surprisingly low key and pleasant person, who has been raising four children throughout this whole era, and places motherhood on an equal footing with her career.

But what was next for Susan? You see in Life Cycles terms she would soon be at her all important and often career-defining age 36 Year of Revolution (Jul.2005-Jul.2006). You know (or at least you do now) that this is still the most important concept in Life Cycles Theory. What began it all. So, yet again I put myself to the test. Now I am a 'bush poet' by nature, so I'm going to add another verse to my 'Brady Bunch' song

"Then Larry and Sergey said to Susan,

Use your magic on this video thing we have,

But when she said, no buy You Tube for a bundle,

Others thought the deal could go completely bad…."

In early 2005 Google launched a new product known as Google Videos with modest goals of letting users watch material from a library of archived TV content. This was managed by John Piscitello. However, recognising that this new approach was languishing, Larry and Sergey decided towards the end of the year (in other words right smack in the middle of Susan's 36th year) to bring in their chief revenue producer to see what she could do with this new initiative. Almost from the start Susan says she was easily outgunned by a rival start-up company known as You Tube :- "I saw some of their numbers and I just realized how much bigger they were than we were and even if it doesn't look good for you at that moment, you have to make the decision that it's not really about you but what's the right long-term thing for the company."

So she decided to champion the acquisition of her main rival in what was to prove to be Google's most expensive foray at the time. The founders wanted $1.65 billion as well as continued involvement and reasonable autonomy. The deal was negotiated in Sept. 2006, so just outside her age 36 year by 2 months, but it would be safe to say that nearly all of the spadework had been completed within her 36th year. You know, Life Cycles is not science, but on this occasion it's awfully close. Has this breakthrough acquisition gone on to define much of Susan's career? Well I'm told, when I read bio-summary articles, that she is known for Google and You Tube. However since 2006 You Tube has become her personal baby, and she has gone on to become senior Vice President and now Head of You Tube in 2014. I think there's little room for debate about her age 36 Year of Revolution coming to define her career and life.

Another element that I study in Life Cycles is what I call a 'period of controversy' that tends to happen before the breakthrough moment. Did controversy play a part in this acquisition? Well many considered this a risky move by Google. Though Susan presented the financial model justifying this huge acquisition; You Tube was not making money at the time and was initially a huge money loser. There were also legal concerns, regarding piracy issues over some of the content, and it landed Google in a brutal legal fight with Viacom (who were also rivals over the purchase).

They charged that Google had knowingly benefited from pirated content. But slowly with a $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick in 2007 and other acquisitions, such as the AdMob mobile ad network, it has has begun to pay dividends. In 2013 analysts estimated You Tube's revenue at $5.6 billion. Typical of Susan though she currently feels that You Tube, her baby, can do even better. This is demonstrated by a comment from the CEO of Maker Studios (who work with You Tube to create improved content and revenue) :- "I don't think anything was broken, but I assume even Google and YouTube believe it can monetize better. This is something Susan is very focused on."

I can relate to this almost ceaseless quest for improvement. This constant analysis of how well we're doing. With my Life Cycles Research I am constantly trying to challenge myself with more complex and inter-related case examples and The GOOGLE Story is currently cutting-edge for me. I hope you enjoyed this whether you're into IT or not. Of course if you are, then it should hold extra interest. For some odd reason, I find myself drawn to the present and future orientation of the IT world. I have now analysed people such as Alan Turing, Bill Gates, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Jobs and now the Google pioneers. Of course I regard myself as belonging to the future more than the present and I suppose this accounts for it. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."