October 7, 2003 6:12 PM PDT
Google CEO speaks out on future of search
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Schmidt, who joined Google in 2001 after serving as chief executive of Novell, and venture capitalist Michael Moritz, a Google investor, discussed the future of search, Schmidt's hiring as Google CEO and what it takes to build a successful young company during the Silicon Valley 4.0 conference in Mountain View, Calif.
Google plans to leave well enough alone when it comes to changing its interface, Schmidt said. However, he noted the company has no qualms in bolstering the way its search technology works.
The company is increasingly focusing on personalization as a means to improve its search results, with the acquisition last week of Kaltix, a start-up that builds search tools based on personalization and context.
"The primary mission of Google is to get you what you want, rather than what someone thinks you want," Schmidt said.
The notion that products and technology don't matter when a company is young is a fallacy, and not just an issue for older, established companies, said Schmidt, who has also previously served as chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems.
Nurturing passion is another key area when building a start-up, Schmidt said.
"It's human nature people want to do something that will matter and change the world," Schmidt said. "And it's these companies that will be built on passion."
Google has a rigorous hiring system to draw in people with these sorts of traits, from passion to a perspective of limitless boundaries.
Prospective Google employees are subjected to a peer review, which at times is tougher than the interview with executives and managers, Schmidt said. And job candidates who manage to pass the first hurdle are then interviewed by a second committee.
"A merciless hiring process in the first 60 days (of a company's life) is important," Moritz said. "That's why Google has been able to do more with fewer people than some larger companies."
Schmidt said he too went through a rigorous interviewing process with Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
The seasoned tech executive spent several hours arguing over such issues as the structure of the Internet to going over a long list of questions that centered on everything from management structure to how the company does its accounting.
"I asked about all the things that tend to get left behind when you're running a company as fast as you can," Schmidt said.
The founders and Moritz were seeking a seasoned executive to not only grow the company, but also one with an amicable personality.
"We wanted someone who would flourish and thrive alongside the founders," Moritz said.
Schmidt said the role of Google's management team is to build a great, enduring company around the founders' vision. When he decided to join the company, Schmidt said he was looking to reset his views on the direction technology was headed and felt Google had a successful founding team.