The Google Brain Drain Goes On And On



[image url="http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4aa9c7b52d1a70593cfc9823/image.jpg" link="http://www.businessinsider.com.au/google-brain-drain-goes-on-and-on-2009-9/kai-fu-lee-1" caption="" source="" alt="" align="left" size="xlarge" nocrop="true" clear="true"]
From rock star engineers like Mark Lucovsky to whiz entrepreneurs like Dick Costolo, Google (GOOG) seems to lose a top tier employee every week. Click here to scroll through the Google Brain Drain →

Why are so many talented people fleeing such a successful company?

After speaking with a few of former Googlers, we can say it basically boils down to four reasons.

Google doesn’t feel as entrepreneurial as it used to. It wasn’t so long ago that Google was a startup and it took every employee’s full resources to keep the thing thriving. Now Google is a company that knows what it’s good at — search advertising — and is focused on making that business more efficient. For a lot of employees who joined Google at the beginning or through acquisitions — among others, we’re thinking of early Googler Tim Armstrong and former DoubleClick CEO David Rosenblatt here — solving a big company’s problems of efficiency is kind of boring.

There are only so many top spots at Google. Through its own recruiting and through the acquisition of hot startups, Google hires only the best — lots and lots of “type-a” achievement-focused people. But there’s only so many top jobs at any company. Talented people like Dick Costolo, the former CEO of FeedBurner, who came over when Google bought his company, sometimes have to leave to get a title that suits their ambitions. Dick is now Twitter’s chief operating officer. He wasn’t going to get that job at Google.

Other companies try really hard to hire Googlers, so they offer them lots of money and great titles. Former VP of ad sales Tim Armstrong had a great, comfortable gig at Google. But then Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes asked him to become CEO of AOL, and offered up to $50 million in stock options. He had to jump at it.

Google is a huge company now, so turnover could be very light percentage-wise, but it will still look like a lot of people are quitting. Once a tiny startup, Google now has almost 30,000 employees. The company with smallest turnover in Fortune’s “100 best companies to work for” loses 2% of its employees every year. At Google, that would be almost 600 people a year — about the same size as Facebook’s entire headcount at the end of 2008.

Still, it’s always shocking to hear that a company so successful and so famously pleasant to work for has lost top-tier employees like the following 17 that quit over the past few years:

  • Kai-Fu Lee, President of Google Inc.’s China operations
  • Michael Rubenstein, General Manager of Google Ad Exchange
  • Dick Costolo, CEO of Google-acquired FeedBurner
  • Mark Lucovsky, Engineering director
  • Alexander Macgillivray, Deputy general counsel
  • Jeff Levick, Vice president of sales
  • Erin Clift, Director of agency relations
  • Greg Badros, Senior Director of Engineering
  • David Rosenblatt, President of display advertising
  • Tim Armstrong, VP of ad sales
  • Larry Brilliant, Director of Google.org
  • Suhkinder Singh Cassidy, President for Asia-Pacific & Latin America operations
  • Steve Horowitz, Engineering Director, Android
  • Elliot Schrage, VP, global communications and public affairs
  • Sheryl Sandberg, Vice president, Global Online Sales and Operations
  • Gonzalo Alonso, Latin America director
  • Doug Merrill, Chief information officer, VP of engineering

 Click here to scroll through the Google Brain Drain →

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[slide
permalink=”kai-fu-lee-1″
title=”Kai-Fu Lee”
content=”Title: President of Google’s China operations
New job: Venture capitalist
Left: September 4, 2009

WSJ’s Jessica Vascellaro:

Mr. Lee left Microsoft Corp. to join Google in 2005 to develop the company’s operations in China, where Google was later than some of its rivals to establish a beachhead.

In announcing Mr. Lee’s departure, Google said it was nearly doubling the size of its sales force in China in response to strong growth.
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[slide
permalink=”michael-rubenstein-2″
title=”Michael Rubenstein”
content=”Title: General Manager of Google Ad Exchange
New job: President at AppNexus
Left: September 9, 2009

Business Insider:

At DoubleClick and then Google, Michael was in charge of building an ad exchange (imagine a stock exchange for buyers and sellers of online advertising inventory).

Back in 2007, when Google first announced it would acquire DoubleClick for $3.1 billion everyone had decided ad exchanges were going to be HUGE. Around the same time, Yahoo bought its own ad-exchange maker Right Media for $680 million.
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[slide
permalink=”dick-costolo-3″
title=”Dick Costolo”
content=”Title: CEO of Google-acquired FeedBurner
New Job: Twitter COO
Left: July 7, 2009

Business Insider:

FeedBurner founder and CEO Dick Costolo will leave Google at the end of the week, reports TechCrunch.

Dick joined Google when it acquired FeedBurner for ~$100 million in 2007.

Before it was acquired, FeedBurner helped publishers make money off their RSS feeds. Now it doesn’t do much.
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[slide
permalink=”mark-lucovsky-4″
title=”Mark Lucovsky”
content=”Title: Engineering director
New job: Engineering director at VMware
Left: July 14, 2009

Business Insider:

Google engineering director Mark Lucovsky will quit the company and join VMware.

The news is a bit ironic because when Google hired Mark from Microsoft (MSFT) in 2004, it angered Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer so much that he threw a chair and called Google CEO Eric Schmidt ‘a fucking pussy.’
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[slide
permalink=”alexander-macgillivray-5″
title=”Alexander Macgillivray”
content=”Title: Deputy general counsel
New job: Twitter’s general counsel
Left: July 12, 2009

Business Insider:

At Google, Macgillivray was deputy general counsel for products and intellectual property. He’s led Google’s settlement with book publishers and authors regarding its book scanning project, and worked on the Viacom-YouTube case, according to the NYT. Before working at Google, Macgillivray worked at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the giant corporate law firm.
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[slide
permalink=”jeff-levick-6″
title=”Jeff Levick”
content=”Title: Vice president of sales
New job: AOL’s president of global advertising sales and strategy
Left: April 30, 2009

Business Insider:

There will be no more presidents of Platform-A, at Time Warner’s online subsidiary AOL, it seems.

Replacing the last one, Greg Coleman, ex-Googler Jeff Levick will join the company as president, global advertising and strategy. He’ll report directly to AOL CEO Tim Armstrong.

“This is a perfect time to join AOL and I firmly believe that AOL’s best days are ahead of it,” Jeff says in a statement AOL will release to announce the hire.
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[slide
permalink=”erin-clift-7″
title=”Erin Clift”
content=”Title: Director of agency relations
New job: AOL VP of global sales
Left: June 3, 2009

Business Insider:

After new AOL sales boss Jeff Levick, Erin is the second high-profile Google executive poached by new AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who himself used to run the non-automated part of Google’s North American sales business.

Erin’s most recent visible contribution at Google was leading a make-nice-with-agencies campaign last year that included bringing Google toys to the girls and boys on Madison Avenue.
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[slide
permalink=”greg-badros-8″
title=”Greg Badros”
content=”Title: Senior Director of Engineering
New job: Director of engineering at Facebook
Left: June 13, 2009

Softpedia:

He started out in charge of the AdSense engineering team in 2004 and led it until the project became hugely successful, bringing Google billions in income. While with the Mountain View-based company, he also led several teams in charge of Google Calendar, Google Reader and even Gmail. Lately he has been head of the Application Platform team. Before joining Google, Badros worked at Go2Net, later acquired by InfoSpace, serving as Chief Technical Architect at both companies.

“Greg Badros has joined Facebook as a director of engineering, reporting to Mike Schroepfer. Greg is one of the most accomplished engineering talents at Google, and it’s wonderful that he has decided to bring these talents to Facebook and take on numerous responsibilities across the engineering organisation,” Facebook officials said in a statement.
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[slide
permalink=”david-rosenblatt-9″
title=”David Rosenblatt”
content=”Title: President of display advertising
New job: None yet
Left: April 28, 2009

News on the move, from the Business Insider:

David’s email doesn’t say where he’s going next, but we don’t think it’s a coincidence that he’s leaving a year after Google closed the DoubleClick deal.

He was a CEO then and probably wants to be a CEO again. Now that his stock is vested he’s free to find a new gig.
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[slide
permalink=”tim-armstrong-10″
title=”Tim Armstrong”
content=”Title: VP of ad sales
New job: AOL CEO
Left: March 12, 2009

News on the move, from the Business Insider:

We’ve heard Google execs were just as shocked to hear of Tim’s defection. Though in the clarity of hindsight, people acknowledge that Tim’s been on the verge of leaving before.

Some wonder if being in the running for the Yahoo job didn’t soften him to the idea of leaving Google.

Not to say he isn’t a quick decision maker, ‘good at people,’ a good listener and responsible for hiring everyone in Google’s U.S. sales force, but Tim really was just a sales guy at Google.


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[slide
permalink=”larry-brilliant-11″
title=”Larry Brilliant”
content=”Title: Director of Google.org
New job: President, Skoll Urgent Threats Fund
Left: April 14, 2009

News on the move, from PaidContent:

Two months ago, Larry Brilliant was bumped up into the role of chief philanthropic evangelist at Google. Now, he’s leaving the search giant for a new job. Brilliant will head up a new $100 million grant-making fund at the Skoll Foundation, which is led by former eBay president Jeff Skoll.
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[slide
permalink=”suhkinder-singh-cassidy-12″
title=”Suhkinder Singh Cassidy”
content=”Title: President for Asia-Pacific & Latin America operations
New Job: Partner, Accel
Left: April 8, 2009

News on the move, from Kara Swisher:

“I was at the end of my streak [at Google] and ready to take the next step and run or grow my own company,” [Singh Cassidy] said. “It is key for me to be stepping out and spreading my wings now.”

Where Singh Cassidy will fly to next is not determined yet, she said, but it will be in the consumer Internet space, she said, although it could be at a start-up or a more established company.

“I think what I was known for at Google was scaling for growth opportunities and I am interested in finding a company with an lot of momentum and need for scale,” said Singh Cassidy.
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[slide
permalink=”steve-horowitz-13″
title=”Steve Horowitz”
content=”Title: Engineering Director, Android
New job: CTO, Coupons.com
Left: January 20, 2009

News on the move, from the Business Insider:

Horowitz said after “spending so much time and energy’ on Android, he was glad to move on. The Android group at Google is now less focused on the operating system itself and working more on porting it to new types of mobile devices and even TVs and netbooks.
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[slide
permalink=”elliot-schrage-14″
title=”Elliot Schrage”
content=”Title: VP, global communications and public affairs
New job: PR boss
Left: May 6, 2008

News on the move, from Kara Swisher:

Schrage confirmed his new job to BoomTown, right after he friended us on Facebook last night, using its new chat feature.

Way to go native quickly, Elliot!
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[slide
permalink=”sheryl-sandberg-15″
title=”Sheryl Sandberg”
content=”Title: Vice president, Global Online Sales and Operations
New job: Facebook COO
Left: March 4, 2008

News on the move, from Kara Swisher:

Sandberg is responsible for online sales of Google’s ad and publishing products, bringing experience Facebook sorely needs. She is also politically savvy, having been the chief of staff at the Treasury Department in the Clinton administration.

“She has just about the most relevant industry experience for Facebook, especially since we need to scale our operations and scale them globally,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “And we also share the same values.”

Zuckerberg said there was never a formal search to find someone, but he had always been “looking for someone of Sandberg’s calibre.” They met at a Christmas party and Zuckerberg was impressed.

In addition, many Silicon Valley figures, including Facebook investor Roger McNamee, suggested Sandberg. “What was funny was that I was already thinking about her as a perfect person for this role,” Zuckerberg said.
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[slide
permalink=”gonzalo-alonso-16″
title=”Gonzalo Alonso”
content=”Title: Latin America director
New job: Vice president of operations at Globant
Left: April 6, 2009

News on the move from VentureBeat:

Alonso, who ran operations for all of Spanish-speaking Latin America (excluding Brazil), said Google grew too big and bureaucratic for his taste. “You lose the sense of empowerment and flexibility; your decisions have less impact,” he explained. “The company has changed a lot in the last three years. The way to develop products and implement decisions has to pass through a lot more layers.” Speaking of big companies, Alonso also worked for a decade at Microsoft before joining Google.
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[slide
permalink=”doug-merrill-17″
title=”Doug Merrill”
content=”Title: Chief information officer, VP of engineering
New job: Recently resigned as EMI’s president of digital
Left: April 1, 2008

News on the move, from the Business Insider:

Anyway, it’s an interesting move for a couple reasons:

A big brain at Google thinks there’s an opportunity to do interesting stuff in the music business — and to do it at one of the four giant music labels that still control the industry (for now).

Unless we’re missing something, Douglas has zero experience in entertainment or music. Which is in keeping with newish EMI boss Guy Hands’ plan to staff his company with outsiders.


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permalink=”dont-miss-18″
title=”Don’t Miss…”
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[/slideshow]

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