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2 people can go off and change the world. Every successful project I have worked on within Google over the past 40 years has started off with 2 people working on an idea together.
An example of when not to scale was Google Wave. It was launched to great fanfare and a base of passionate users. The difficult part is you can’t tell if something is successful until 6 months after the initial wave of excitement.
Great products have this big fanfare, big drop off, then a small bump back upwards, and steady usage upwards. Google Wave on the other hand had a wave of excitement and then a steady drop-off downwards.
Once you have an app and business model that works — you can scale and go global fast.
The idea is you could ask your employees to work on the company for 80% of their time, and the other 20% of the time they could work on whatever they want.
If they are passionate about something, they could work on it as their 20% project. At Google, many of the features started as projects turned into core features. Part of the management job was to listen for those 20% project ideas and then aggregate them.
I don’t agree that you should narrow your focus, you get the best outcome when you get the broadest appeal. (...) I’d be careful to conclude to just do a small thing. All success stems from doing one thing very well — then moving broader.
I have also noticed the greatest products are typically designed for the benefit of the people who are building them.
In Uber’s case, the original product was a private car sharing for a small set of people. Google was built for Stanford but mainly for Larry and Sergei themselves. The first Google server was in their bedroom. Once they outgrew this, they put several servers in their home, the garage, then took over the whole house, etc.
There is a way to systematically hire people better than anyone else. Bob Taylor (founder of ARPANET) said to “sell the dream.”
Here is his approach:
How hard is that? If people don’t get it initially, are they really going to get it after some persuasion? Probably not. You want someone who gets it.
No product scales before it works.
One major complaint is the teams who are doing the work with the products you see are far larger than they should be.
This is a failure of architecture — when you have this many programmers programming, it means they don’t have the right libraries, aka the problem hasn’t been generalized enough.
When Eric Schmidt joined Google, they were at 150 employees. In some periods (2004–2005), he had tripled their employees; this is classic Blitzscaling.
The approach: It’s easy to double every year — you can imagine adding a person to each team, adding a country, adding a product line, etc.
It’s hard to quadruple. It’s difficult to even imagine what quadrupling looks like within an organization.
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