Archive for May, 2008

Brains Are Doing It for Themselves

Monday, May 12th, 2008

This is an interesting article about Google, about it’s a great place to work, so why are so many people leaving? To paraphrase the Eurythmics and Aretha, brains are doing it for themselves. I was just thinking the other day that there must be a huge brain drain happening at Microsoft. The days of becoming a millionaire from stock options are over. Microsoft is not doing anything exciting or interesting. The original smart people have all already cashed out. Microsoft has a terrible reputation among the cognoscenti. Why would anyone want to work there? They’ve always hired people mostly straight out of college with no experience, at low wages, who join for the cachet and the stock options. But there is no cachet or stock options anymore. They must be getting the Computer Science dregs these days.

Google is another matter of course. They may be slightly on the downside of the glory days, but they are still a happening company. However, the internet, and Google for that matter, are bringing about the age of the individual entrepreneur. Being one myself, I can say that all of the stresses and sacrifices of being on one’s own and trying to start a business from scratch, are made up for by not having to put up with jerks and fools. I lament the many years I spent taking orders from idiots and making other people rich.

These guys who are leaving Google are leaving with vastly more money than I have ever had, access to venture capital, youth, and considerably more technical chops. Of course they’re leaving! I’m very happy being out here on my own, but I only did it because I had no other choice, and after two years of no income, I make a middle-class living. The ex-Googlers have options I’ve never dreamed of.

As the future unfolds, this is going to be a problem for every company that succeeds and becomes huge as a result. They will lose all their brains, the only capital asset that matters anymore, become stupid, and die. Microsoft is now in a death spiral, albeit a very slow one. Google is not there yet, but the end is inevitable. Not that Google will disappear. They will become a utility. Everyone who has played Monopoly knows what the utilities are worth. Microsoft, on the other hand, will just go under.

Apple is somewhat of an anomaly. It is really an example of an individual entrepreneur. It is Steve Jobs’ baby. You can still get rich on options there, and it is exciting, and has plenty of cachet, but without Steve Jobs Apple is dead meat. Apple stock is my entire retirement plan, and so far it is working out nicely. As long as Steve Jobs is alive, Apple will continue to take market share from Microsoft until it is all gone. They will also become the dominant player in music, TV, and movies. At that point, they may become a utility, but I will have already retired.