Time Magazine recently wrote that Google has “perfected” the Silicon Valley acquisition, in part because it has become so good at retaining talent.
Time found that two-thirds of the 221 startup founders that accepted jobs at Google between 2006 and 2014 are still with the company today.
That’s partially because Google puts a big emphasis on vetting entrepreneurs beforehand.
The first thing Google thinks about when considering an acquisition is whether a company fits into its product strategy and if it passes “The Toothbrush Test,” but it strongly considers a startup’s talent, too.
“We’re very focused on leadership and team,” vice president of corporate development Don Harrison told Business Insider in a recent interview. “We interview deeply into the company — we try to create as many interconnections as we can during the discussion process, between senior leaders at Google and senior leaders at the company we’re trying to acquire. Nearly every deal of size that I can think of, Larry had spent time, Sergey had spent time, Sundar Pichai had spent time with the leaders that we’re bringing in to make sure that it’s a good fit.”
Harrison says that if it seems like a leader or team really doesn’t mesh with Google, that could be a deal breaker as he’s less likely to advocate for that acquisition.
So, what sort of traits does Google look for in an entrepreneur?
It wants people who can “reason from first principals,” and who are intellectually curious.
One of the first things I look for is whether they reason from first principles. Sometimes you talk to people, especially industry veterans, and they talk like, ‘This is the way we’ve always done it. This is the way we keep doing it.’
And then sometimes you meet entrepreneurs who, when you ask them a question, they really do think about it from the bedrock. Like, ‘OK, we need to build a connected home experience: What should a good connected home experience be?’ And then they reason up from there.
Larry thinks that way, Sergey thinks that way. We like entrepreneurs who think from first principles and are intellectually curious.
Once a decision has been reached and an acquisition occurs, Google then holds regular 90-day follow-ups on all of its deals to ask questions like, “How are we doing against our original goals?” “How are we doing on metrics of attention?” or “How are we doing on getting you the resources you need to succeed?”
“Those meetings have been fantastic,” Harrison says. “And are a huge part of — I think — why we’re succeeding.”