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What People Who Worked At Google Know That You Probably Don’t

Ok, that was a totally troll title.

What I want to share though is a subtle advantage that people who’ve worked at transformative tech companies have over people who haven’t.

It’s not that the average employee from Google, Apple, Facebook, etc is necessarily smarter or more capable than any other person. I mean, maybe they are on average, but I’m not making the case that just because they passed a hiring screen that makes them worthwhile. There are certainly ineffective people who made it into Google and many, many special talents that haven’t yet been part of a rocketship or flagship company.

But there are two learnings that I’ve generally found to be more highly concentrated among those with experience at transformative companies versus those who haven’t. I think it’s learned/reinforced in those environments, not just magically inherent to the people attracted to these opportunities. It’s like athletes who have been on championship teams pick up positive habits independent of their own skill level.

Understand what motivates exceptional achievers

Know what high performance teams feel like

“How will we be able to hire that engineer. I mean he seems interested but we can’t pay as well as his current job.” Or, “It feels like our company’s pace is pretty good.”

“This is where that engineer can make the biggest impact.” And, “We’re doing ok, but it feels like a local maxima where performance will be good — but we won’t move fast enough to find a key insight.”

In The Plex, Steven Levy’s book on the first decade of Google, will bring you up to speed on their thought processes. The first few chapters detail not just the brilliance of Larry and Sergey but how top engineers, people who were in jobs that made them happy, encountered what Google was doing and just felt called to participate, almost irrationally.

Not to toot my own horn, (since I worked at Google), but rather in trying to understand what experiences the startups we — back at Homebrew — should value learning from these Google teams. And, at what stages?

There’s nothing worse than someone who worked at Google

(a) thinks they’re the shit or

(b) assumes that every process/approach done at Google was right or right for a startup. That’s absolutely horrible.

But, it’s necessary to have people within a startup who are pacesetters and know that it’s ok to push harder. It’s why I tell many new grads that fast-growing mid-stage startups are their best first job in tech. In this setting, you will learn great habits from great people at a special time.

First: Try to understand if founders have not just the aptitude but the attitude to solve a big, urgent and valuable problems. If yes, I’m on the path to funding them.

Second: Then, as a team is constructed — especially post A Round — find out how that culture is being driven throughout the organization. If that drive is not there, that startup will — at best plateau — and at worst… well, you know.

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Written by

You’ll find me @homebrew , Seed Stage Venture Fund w @satyap . Previously made products at YouTube, Google & SecondLife. Married to @cbarlerin .

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