Google Encouraging Business Units To Act Like Startups

Max Levchin

Google is encouraging some internal units to act more like independent startups, according to a report in TechCrunch today.

The move, which was codified in a memo to some business units a few weeks ago, isn’t a big shift for Google. The company has famously encouraged its engineers to spend up to 20% of their free time working on new unfunded projects, and recent discussions with mid-level managers in the company reveal lots of autonomy and responsibility among business units like Enterprise (responsible for apps), Android, and Chrome.

But the new policy is even more extreme, allowing some units to act as independent companies with Google only providing backup services like legal and travel booking.

So far, it mainly applies to Slide, a social-app startup that Google acquired for about $180 million earlier this year. Slide CEO Max Levchin is working on new social initiatives to help Google compete with Facebook, but those efforts are apparently separate–and not particularly well-coordinated–with other social initiatives under Vic Gundotra.

This may be a way for Google to keep recently acquired employees happy so they don’t flee for Facebook or other startups. But lack of coordination between business groups can also be create problems, as evidenced by the disarray in Google’s social and music initiatives.

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