I had lunch today at Google with a friend. Why do I continue to go there? It frustrates me to no end and I’m always left feeling jealous and inspired at the same time. They really put the cult into culture. Probably half the people are wearing apparel with the Google logo (which, let’s face it, looks like crap). It’s a vibrant place where you can see the best practices in the care and feeding of employees. Over on Crunchnotes, Mike talks about how Google smugness is at an all time high because of their “Google Ice Cream” stunt. He’s right about the smugness (it’s a company, people, not a family, no matter how fuzzy you feel), although this particular issue really didn’t seem like a big deal…just a few coolers with ice cream sandwiches with the Google logo on the packaging. I think moves like this are good PR because the cost is very low relative to the buzz. Another perfect example is the anecdote about how Google mailed a blogger some aspirin after he complained of a headache from their site.
It all got me thinking about what Google faces over the next 20 years. It seems like their main threat right now is focus. Something like 99% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. With Microsoft and Yahoo hot on their tail, how long can Google keep growth rates up with just one revenue stream? Google has some of the brightest people in the world working for them. But the challenge is not to hire those people and keep them happy. It’s to figure out a way to harness all that intelligence and create revenue streams. Google literally launches new products several times a month, it seems. Almost all of these products are not innovative (in that someone else has already executed the same concept) and most do not gain significant market share. Other than search, are any of Google’s products at the top of their class? Google has tremendous mindshare right now and they get a hugely disproportionate amount of attention for the moves they make, but eventually that will taper. When it does, Google will have to effectively market the great tools they turn out. And at the end of the day, I wonder if Google has the marketing prowess. They’re awesome at engineering, but marketing…I guess we’ll see. I’m not predicting the demise of Google, by any stretch. But it will be interesting to see the child that is Google grow into an adult over the coming decades.
At the end of the day, though, the world needs more places like Google for people to work, and I will do my part to create them.