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Larry Page - it's going to get tough - I know, I've been there

OK so I haven't owned a $multi-billion corporation, but I was a co-founder of a search engine company more than 10 years before Google was started, and I did sell an internet business for several £millions, so I guess I'm closer to Mr Page than most people.

Larry's just become CEO of Google replacing wise old steady Eric Schmidt. And I know why, and he's heading for a big disappointment. Larry, like I did, wants everything that he thinks needs to happen, to happen. And happen fast. Everything's a priority. "We're fucked if this doesn't happen...".

Larry, it won't. In fact the bigger and more complicated you get, the less likely any of it will happen. All that will happen is you'll get a stomach ulcer. You'll start sacking people who don't deliver what you want. You'll surround yourself with sycophants and staff will become too scared to bring you bad news. You'll be made to think everything's on track, but you know it's not. Your development budget will get bigger and bigger. The products you launch will become fewer and fewer, and will take longer and longer to appear. You'll yearn for the good old days when a hundredth the number of programmers delivered twice the number of projects in half the time. It's common knowledge in the software world that by far the most effective development team size is 1 person.

Everything's got too big and ugly. Google is stuck is a spiral of confusion and panic. You will not get the products and services you believe you urgently need, and you will become frantic - and all because you have become paranoid about the competition. Groupon, Facebook, Apple, and most terrifying of all, some kid in a garage somewhere, probably China or India (by the way, that was what Bill Gates answered once to a question about who he feared most - at the exact time Larry and Sergey were starting Google - in a garage).

Falling out with Eric won't get you anywhere. You're not a leader, you're a brilliant inventor (at least most of the time.... but there have been some stinkers too). Google cannot remain on top. That kid in a garage will invent the next Google. Actually like me and my colleagues in a tiny company called Tome Associates in London in 1986. We built intelligent search agents. Google is not intelligent. It doesn't know WHY someone is searching, so it can't help them find better results than their keyword searches reveal. [Postscript note: It's why they bought Deepmind in 2014, a British (yeah) successor to Tome.] We developed semantic networks driven by expert systems to assist users to find better search results than they could achieve without help. Not much survives about Tome Searcher, the product we tried to sell, long long before most people knew online searching existed. We ran out of money in 1991. I'm too old and relaxed these days to restart Tome Associates, but bet your arse (by the way, that's how the English spell it - the other way is a type of donkey) intelligent search agents will become meta-interfaces in front of Google, thereby enabling the world to avoid 'sponsors' ads'. Ask yourself: If people had the choice, Better search precision with no ads or Poor precision and paid-for ads, which would they choose? You can trust expert searching, you can't trust ads. Bye bye Adwords.

From the ashes of Tome I went on to build a series of companies with varying degrees of success, so I know now what it takes. But it's taken me 25 years to work it out and you've only just begun. But what I do know is that kid in the garage WILL beat Google one day, just like Larry and Sergey beat Yahoo, Hotbot, Alta vista, Ask, Lycos etc.... and there's nothing, Larry, you can do about it.

My advice. Chill. Let the Eric's of this world run the fantastic business you've created, and then rent a garage or play golf....


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