Many of my friends ask me why I am so critical of Google. I have been examine possible motives. I wonder if I am just jealous. Back in 1999 when I joined the board of Alta Vista, the hottest search company at the time, we knew about Google and even had some discussions about buying them (they were really not interested for good reasons it turns out). We knew they had better technology but we had market share and thought we would win. We would have lost out anyway because the management of Alta Vista accelerated that by trying to turn the company into a portal rather than keeping the focus on search.
I also knew a bit about Google because my dear friend, Ram Shriram was one of the first investors and board members. He is still on the board and made billions from his investment in Google. I got zero from my efforts with Alta Vista so perhaps that affects my thinking.
Maybe I am not objective about Google because every time I have met Larry Page, I have to reintroduce myself to him. I tell him I was Vice President of Business Development at Intel and the cofounder of Intel Capital. He is about as interested as I might have been back in the day, if someone told me they had been a VP at Univac. I have tried to tell him about the development of residential broadband and how I got the cable industry to provide high speed internet but his eyes glaze over which I find a bit surprising since he was already 21 years old when we did the first cable trial. Since his dad and mom were both professors in Computer Science at Michigan State University, maybe the had a T-1 at home and he never had to deal with dial up modems.
I wonder why I don’t admire them for doing things that I would have advocated when I was at Intel. Google is clearly willing to take risks even though they very often do not pay off. They appear to have some kind of long term vision which you can see in their investments in driverless autos, artificial intelligence and even Google Glass which I think is an awful technology.
I love that they give their people freedom to explore. I love their willingness to buy companies but I have trouble with the prices they pay. I guess when you have as much money as Larry Page, everything looks cheap.
So what is eating at me? I think it is that they are full of themselves. Maybe not so much in an arrogant way but they just don’t appreciate other companies. They don’t learn well from history.
I think they had a great start with a wonderful technology for search and then they figured out how to make money from it. But that is when they started mistaking luck for being smart. I can’t help it. I think the company is mediocre. It is the same problem that existed for a while with Microsoft. Microsoft was so powerful that they could put out mediocre products and still win and the good stuff from other companies never got to market.
So in examine my negative feelings about Google, I still come away still having them. It is probably my own shortcoming. Maybe if Larry Page would have recognize me just once and said something nice to me, I would be a big fan of Google now but I doubt it.