When Vinod Khosla interviews Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the world sits up to listen. This interview by Khosla Ventures is something everyone in technology and beyond would be interested in. Here is the video and we’ve extracted some of the key points from the interview for easy consumption:
On why they didn’t sell:
The reason I think we really didn’t sell the company was that we talked to all the search companies at the time, and they just weren’t interested in what we were doing. It was obvious they didn’t want to buy this company that didn’t really have anything without the people. So they wanted us, but we were like, “Why are we going to work with this place that doesn’t believe in search?” That’s not going to cause anything good to happen. So ultimately, we didn’t sell for that reason.
Why 4 years is not a long enough tenure for CEO’s of very big companies:
I think our whole system is setup in a way that makes it difficult for leaders of really big companies. Eventually, what you’re doing doesn’t makes sense over time, for whatever reasons – environmental or social or whatever it is. I think companies have a big problem making a big transition, so leaders get replaced.
On one of the many big bets Google is making:
If you look at the self-driving cars, for example, I hope that that could really transform transportation around the world, and reduce the need for individual car ownership, the need for parking, road congestion and so forth. If that was successful in its own right, we would be super happy. It’s obviously still a big bet. It’s got many technical and policy risks. But if you are willing to make a number of bets like that, you’ve got to hope that some of them will pay off.
Changes the self driving car can bring in:
I hope it can be a really dramatic change. Off the bat, of course, there are the many people who currently cannot get around if they’re too old, too young, disabled and so forth. But that’s still just a fraction of the population. I think the bigger changes can come to the community, the lifestyle, the land use. So much of our land in most cities, about 30 to 50-percent is parking, which is a tremendous waste. Also, the roads themselves, which are both congested and take a lot of space are just unpleasant. So with self-driving cars, you don’t really need much in the way of parking, because you don’t need one car per person. They just come and get you when you need them. You can also make much more efficient road use, if you– and this is not something we’ve developed yet, but it’s certainly been simulated by many. They can form trains. They can go at high speed, perhaps much higher than our highway speeds here. Fundamentally, they can just make much more efficient use of the space and therefore, people’s time. So I think that can be really transformative.
Why computers are still pretty bad:
We feel like right now, computers are still pretty bad. You’re just messing around. You’re scrolling on your touchscreen phone, and trying to find stuff. You’re in a car. It’s bouncy, and you can’t– it doesn’t really work. I think the actual amount of knowledge you get out of your computer versus the amount of time you spend with it is still pretty bad. So I think our job is to solve that, and most of the things we’re doing make sense in that context.
On doing too many things:
I’ve been thinking about this change quite a bit over the years. I think it sounds stupid if you have this big company, and you can only do five things. I think it’s also not very good for the employees. Because then, you have 30,000 employees and they’re all doing the same thing, which isn’t very exciting for them. So I think, ideally, the company would scale the number of things it does with the number of people in a linear fashion. As far as I can tell, that never happens. It’s logarithmic with the number of people, if that. I would always have this debate actually, with Steve Jobs. He’d be like, ‘You guys are doing too much stuff.’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah that’s true.’ And he was right, in some sense. But I think the answer to that – which I only came to recently, as we were talking about this stuff – is that if you’re doing things that are highly interrelated, then there is some complexity limits. It’s all going to escalate to the CEO, because you have things that are interrelated. At some point, they have to get integrated. A lot of our Internet stuff is like that. The user experience needs to make sense. It needs to feel like you’re using Google, not that you’re using something else. So I think there is a limit on how much we can do there, and we have to think carefully about it. Everything about the automated cars is like– Sergey can do that, and I don’t have to talk to him. I like talking to him. But I don’t really have to talk to him about that, because there’s almost zero impact on the rest of our business. Although it does use some great engineers who we have on mapping and other things. Naturally, they move to that project, but that’s a scalable process. I don’t have to talk to those engineers. They just move magically. So I do think companies usually try to do very adjacent things. They figure, “We’re going to know exactly how to do something that’s very similar to what we already do.” The problem with that is that causes a management burden. Whereas, if you did something a little less related, you can actually handle more things.