January 23, 2008 4:00 AM PST
From the Googleplex to the wine bar
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Former Google sales manager,
now venture capitalist
Aydin Senkut, a self-described type "A" personality, started at Google in November 1999 as employee No. 63. At Google, he worked 16-hour days, helped launch the company's first 10 international sites, and signed historic search ad-distribution deals like AOL in the United Kingdom and Fujitsu in Asia.
With some work fatigue and a significant change to his bank account, he took a leave from the company in 2005 to spend time with his family. He officially left Google in April 2005, an emotional break he likened to splitting up with a longtime girlfriend. Now running his own investment company called Felicis Ventures, he's backed as many as 35 companies, including Buzzlogic, Meraki Networks, and Mint.
"I want to make a name for myself on my own," Senkut said.
Senkut is a strong presence among ex-Googlers. He shares an office with Google veteran Georges Harik. With his wife, he is a benefactor to the University of Pennsylvania, which has a scholarship in his name, and to the University of California at San Francisco for research in the fields of longevity and cancer.
Former marketing manager,
Many old-timers trade on the Google name as they pursue new ventures in technology. But for Lisa Rhorer, leaving the search giant meant starting from scratch in a world where search didn't mean much--food and wine.
When Rhorer, 40, was recruited to Google in September 2002 and hammered with 12 interviews, she had already worked for 13 years at companies like Silicon Graphics and Oracle. Google offered her the ability to create her own job as its first marketing person in the sales department, and that entrepreneurial role eventually led her to believe she could start her own business--especially after the IPO. In October 2004, Rhorer left Google to pursue the stress-free life of meditation, boxing classes, and adventure camps.
After some time off, she set out to learn wine "from the ground up" with the ambition to open up a wine bar. She went to school at the California Culinary Institute in St. Helena, Calif., to become a sommelier, worked around Silicon Valley in wine bars in San Jose and Los Gatos, and then signed on as the wine buyer for the Los Altos Whole Foods.
She recently quit Whole Foods to prepare for the opening this spring of her first "green" wine bar on Village Lane in Los Gatos. The eco-hangout, funded solely by Rhorer, will sell sustainably made, sustainably grown wines and locally sourced meats and cheeses. The bar, called Cin-Cin Winebar, has eco flourishes like bamboo floors, a reclaimed black-walnut bar top, and in the mold of Google's cafeteria, biodegradeable paper products and straws.
"Google taught me that you can work really hard on one thing and still have a worldly view," she said.