Lessons From The Googleplex

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My mind is still buzzing from today. I was invited by Google to come and speak at their CommerceThink ’07 conference, which took place today (and tomorrow) at the Googleplex. Obviously, it was a speaking offer I could not refuse. I arrived yesterday and met up with Avinash Kaushik (Analytics Evangelist for Google Analytics, author of Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Blogger at Ocam’s Razor) at the Googleplex where he gave me tour of the facilities and we even spent some time recording a conversation for an upcoming episode of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast.

For the record, the Googleplex is more impressive and lively than any feature you have seen on it on TV or in magazines. The energy and spirit of the people I met was palpable. It, literally, felt like Disneyland for people who are passionate about business.

During the Google CommerceThink ’07 conference there were many key learnings. I thought it would benefit the community to post these random thoughts here.

The most staggering fact (which I did not know) came from Douglas Merrill who is the Vice-President of Engineering. Did you know that Google manufactures all of their own hardware? They don’t buy any hardware. Not only that, but they are one of the biggest manufacturers of computer hardware in the world, and they don’t sell any of it. It’s all for them. The cost saving? According to Merrill is forty to one.

As a side note, if you own a company and have a CIO of Vice President of Engineering who is as amazing of a speaker as Merrill, do everything in your power to keep them. Whatever you’re imaging in your mind about what the VP Engineering of Google might look like, wipe it away. Merrill is young, passionate and an amazing communicator. He definitely breaks the mold.

Jonathan Rosenberg who is the Senior Vice President of Product Management and Marketing dropped another amazing statistic. Eight hours of video is uploaded every minute to YouTube. That’s 11,530 hours of video (just on YouTube) every day.

Here’s another brain melter courtesy of Rosenberg. Every month, twenty percent of all searches done on Google are search terms that are brand new to the engine. Think about that. It means, that every month there is twenty percent new content being created and twenty percent of Google’s business has to adapt, change and adjust.

Avinash Kaushik also presented with the passion he is known for. His main message was about relevancy and the power of Google. Avinash ascertains that Google’s silver bullet is the fact that it gives consumers a result that is relevant. In a room full of some of the biggest retail brands in the world, Kaushik was very accusatory about how most Marketers leverage Google. Here’s one of his gems: "If your search result doesn’t show up at the top of Google’s organic search results, it’s a sign that you are incompetent. You have not figured out how to tell the robots that you are Company X or that you sell Brand Y."


The biggest lessons I will take home from Google is in how they manage their people. Everything is free – from services like laundry to the food at the gourmet cafeterias (and, for the record, it was amazing food). There are many "hardware" stores through the Googleplex where employees can just walk in, swipe their employee card and take whatever they need (from laptop cases to Logitech mouse, etc…). They trust their employees. They trust that if they give them everything they need to be successful and to focus, that they will… and they won’t abuse this privilege. When I saw the hardware shops, I immediately thought, "why would everyone not take three of everything and sell it on eBay?" Yes, Google tracks what you take, but from discussions with multiple employees (at many levels) no one approaches you to question any of that stuff. My understanding is that employees feel responsible, and thankful and while there probably are a few rotten eggs, the community seems to be self-policing.

Finally, how did Google grow so fast? From multiple Googlers (people who work at Google), the answer seemed obvious: Google uses the people smart to bet big on trends. Not the kind of trends that we see today, but the trends that don’t even exist yet.

What a fascinating two days.


  1. This was an interesting read. There should be more conferences that are focussed more on the 14-18yr olds who can be inspired by ‘Googlers’

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