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.
"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."
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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