January 22, 2008 4:00 AM PST

Life after Google, with millions

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Evan Williams, co-founder of Google acquisition Pyra Labs, now entrepreneur and investor
If Evan Williams, founder of Blogger creator Pyra Labs, were to have gone through Google's notoriously difficult hiring process in February 2003, he's fairly certain he wouldn't have been hired. He's an entrepreneur, but he's not formally trained as an engineer, nor does he have a degree. Williams only stayed at the company a year and eight months after the search giant bought Blogger for an undisclosed sum.

Evan Williams
Credit: Sara Morishige
Evan Williams

"Part of the reason I decided to go to Google is because when I came out the other side I would be able to operate at a higher level. It was clear that they were playing a bigger, better game than I had ever played," said Williams, a self-described guy from the sticks.

Now, with enough money not to work (though like most ex-Googlers, he wouldn't say how much), Williams is still on the entrepreneurial track. Last May, he sold the podcasting company Odeo he started right after Google to rival Sonic Mountain, and now he's advising messaging service Twitter, a company he also co-founded. And through his company Obvious, Williams is investing in new start-ups and developing a prototype of a new consumer Web product, yet to be introduced.

Bonnie Brown, former massage therapist, now author and philanthropist
Down on her luck from a fresh divorce and a failed business (she ran a private Christian school for 10 years), Brown was starting a new career as a masseuse in 1999 when Google, then with only 40 employees, hired her over a rival who couldn't start right away. At the time, in her mid-40s, she was savvy enough to ask for stock options to complement her lower-than-standard wage of $45 an hour, versus the average $65. She accrued a special deal of automatically vested stock through 2003. That, she said, worked out "incredibly great."

Bonnie Brown
Credit: Courtesy
Bonnie Brown
Bonnie Brown

Now, with millions in the bank since leaving in December 2004, she has retired, set up a charitable foundation, and written a book called Giigle, which went on sale at Amazon.com last week. She spends her time between a house in Nevada and a Southern California beach house, where she sees her grandkids. She calls her book an "I Love Lucy" account of her experiences at the search giant. Prone to laughing a lot herself, she said she wrote the book to make others laugh because "it's the best medicine."

She's also spreading another kind of medicine through her foundation, which also helps her indulge a travel bug. Brown just got back from Uganda, where she visited an orphanage to evaluate whether she should help fund the development of a new water system. Against that lifestyle, she said she feels "filthy rich," even though she doesn't indulge in things like first-class travel. Because she knows money can be fleeting, she's also back at school learning about alternative medicine. "I have learned in life that money comes and goes. You never know."

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5 comments

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Google Up = US economy and our business Down
This is great during the same 5 years that Google shares have gone up 500% US economy has gone done the toilet as evident by the US Dollar that has
fallen an amazing 50% vs Euro and vs every other developed nations currency, as evident by home prices going down in US while going up in Europe and elsewhere and of course as evident by the unprecedented 75 basis cut in Fed funds rate
today, etc. etc.

So who cares that Google has produced a few Millionaires when during the same time 100s of Millions of Americans have gotten vastly poorer. And indeed can't one summarize from the above facts that Google's profit have come on the back of 10's of 1000s of small businesses as Google has entered business after business to maximize
its profit at the expense of every body else?

That is why I and every body else who is independent thinking and not brain washed by Big
media has been recommending this "Not-Profit-Motivated" search engine called AnooX.
You can see them of course at:
www.anoox.com

So if you want to benefit from much lower cost of advertising, if you want to be free from funding a search engine that tomorrow can be your competition and thus kill your business, I suggest switching from Google to Anoox or any other search engine that you like as long as it is not not-for-profit like Anoox. Less you want to see, your business, US economy, going doing another 50% over next 5 years while Google keeps going higher and as it takes away your profits.
Posted by Sea of Cortez (67 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So very true
WOW, I find myself in total agreement with both posts here. I agree too that you should go with Anoox if you want much lower cost of advertising and no competition from the search engine that you are advertising on.
Posted by Info_Max (52 comments )
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Xooglers
Strangely enough, one's chances of hitting it big by taking sub-par pay with stock options at a startup are slim to nil. I would like to have a bit a balance in this piece, with a proportional part of the coverage devoted to those who did not strike it rich, the Google way.
Posted by anthonykuhn (7 comments )
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So very true
This article and similar puff articles about a few who have gotten stock options and made Millions in Silicon Valley fails to mentions 100s of Thousands and even Millions whose stock option never got any value.

In fact you have a higher chance of winning the Lottery than getting VC funding and seeing your company go public and your stock options have Millions of dollars in value.

But this is the HOAX that the big media has sold to the American public in exchange for not asking for Universal health care & Education , etc. that the Europeans get as a result of which their economies are doing so much better than US econ.
Posted by Info_Max (52 comments )
Link Flag
Great article. Talk about being at the right place at the right time or going for the right interview.

Early birds do get the best worms.
Posted by Chrishen_Bijay (1 comment )
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