It’s the age old question that founders ask themselves all the time, when is enough really enough? When do you decide that you as a founder, can’t take the business any further than what you have? Do you wait until ‘unicorn’ status? Do you wait till you’ve personally made the most money possible? Well, in this day and age it would seem most ‘startups’ like WeWork, Tesla and Twitter are lead by individuals that believe they are the sole driving force behind their business succeeding, essentially allowing their egos to get in the way and convincing themselves that they are more important than the joint efforts of their workforces.
It would appear however, that the founders of Google are different.
After 21 years building the colossal internet/tech giant Larry Page – 46 – and Sergey Brin – 46 – announced Tuesday that they would be stepping down with immediate effect from the company, ushering in a new phase for the dominating internet empire. Not since Bill Gates told the world in 2006 that he was quitting his day job at Microsoft have the founders of a leading US tech company chosen to simply walk away. Normally they have to be dragged away kicking and screaming, announcing they will create a new company better than their original (Steve Jobs cerca 1985 with neXt computers). However shareholders believe that the pair stepped away from the business quite a while ago and this was simply a formality.
Nevertheless, the pairs exit came without warning, and at a time when Google is under considerable internal and external strain. Sebastian Thrun, who started Google’s driverless car project, and more recently has been running Kitty Hawk, a flying car company backed by Mr Page, said that Mr Page had given no indication he was planning to step down. The two men painting their departure as part of a logical progression that had already seen them pull back from direct involvement in running the internet business. On the creation of Alphabet four years ago, they handed management of Google to Sundar Pichai, a top product manager, with Mr Page becoming chief executive of the new tech holding company and Mr Brin its president.
Page and Brin aren’t ‘all-out’ however and will nevertheless stay on the company’s board and remain its controlling shareholders, with 51 per cent of a special class of voting stock, so any significant changes under new management are unlikely. But with the founders officially stepping back from running the company day to day, what are the potential impacts on the company? One thing can be said for Page & Brin, these are founders that have paid attention to all the signs and made a decision based on whats best for the company as a whole. With the valuing of their combined fortune at $123.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index we would imagine they’ll have plenty of new projects to start, or simply sit on a beach somewhere and debrief themselves on the last 21 years. Watch this space.