Today is the first day Larry Page is once again the CEO of Google. (Eric Schmidt announced he would be relinquishing his CEO post in January). The last time Page was the CEO was a decade ago before he and co-founder Sergey Brin hired Schmidt for adult supervision. The founders don’t need supervision anymore, and while Google is still the most powerful tech company in the world, it is not as invincible as it once seemed even a few years ago.
Google is still king of search, but when it comes to new growth areas like social or local, the action is elsewhere: Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, Groupon. Maybe what it needs is the return of a founder CEO. Between the two over-achieving Google co-founders, Page is considered to be the ambitious one.
Consider this anecdote from Steven Levy’s soon-to-be-released book, In The Plex, which I was reading last night. The book describes the first time Kleiner Perkins venture capitalist John Doerr met Page and Brin in 1999:
The meeting was just ending when Doerr asked a final question: “How big do you think this can be?”
“Ten billion,” said Larry Page.
Doerr just about fell off his chair. Surely, he replied to Page, you can’t be expecting a market cap of $10 billion. Doerr had already made a silent calculation that Google’s optimal market cap—the eventual value of the company—could go maybe as high as one billion dolars. “Oh, I’m very serious, said Page. “And I don’t mean market cap, I mean revenues.”
Remember, back in 1999, Google didn’t even have any revenues to speak of and hardly any idea how it would make money. (AdWords and AdSense would come later). But Page is, if anything, an outside-the-box thinker.
Doer would go on to invest in Google and become a board member. The company surpassed even Page’s wild projection. Last year, Google’s revenues approached $30 billion, and it’s market cap today stands at $188 billion. But can Page inject new life into the company and keep it growing for another ten years?