Sometime ago, we attended an invitation-only, private session with Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and Executive Chairman at Alphabet. The special event was organized by Village Global, a Silicon Valley VC firm that defines itself as a network. Village Global invited around 150 people from Silicon Valley for this special session. It was a real privilege to listen to Schmidt who is one of the most influential figures in tech.
He served as the CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011, Executive Chairman of Google from 2011 to 2015 and Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc. from 2015 to 2017. He has an enormous impact on how Google exists and works as a company, so has in our lives. Schmidt was interviewed by Tyler Cowen who is one of the most influential economists and author of multiple bestselling books. Cowen asked many questions to Schmidt from his Google days as CEO to his views on blockchain to social media. We were lucky to listen to Schmidt but we noticed that we didn’t share our notes from this great event. So, here they are:
- He grew up in Italy and he thinks that that really changed him since according to him American people tend to think locally.
- His undergrad major at Princeton University was architecture but then he switched to Electrical Engineering. He said that he was a terrible architect :)
- He believes that he is defined by luck. He really thinks that luck is a huge impact on people to be successful.
- He worked for Bell Labs during his very early days of his career. He wrote a program named Lex which is still in use. At Bell Labs, he witnessed that the team that he was part of worked overnight to fix a product that doesn’t work. He was shocked that people were staying overnight and working hard to fix a problem. He learned his one of early lessons on leadership: Charismatic leaders can get people to do staff they would otherwise not rationally do.
- He thinks that praise is underused and underappreciated as a management tool. There is no simple formula for being a great leader but there is a simple rule to motivate people that work for you: Saying “Thank You”, “I appreciate it”, “I recognize it”.
- His advice to leaders: If you make a mistake, you better disclose it very quickly. If your employees see inconsistency between your actions as a leader and company values, they will quit.
- His advice to young people who want to be successful in business: Best things in your life will come from the people that you hang out with. Be mindful about it and pick your friends carefully.
- When Sergey Brin and Larry Page got funding from Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia they had one condition to meet: Finding someone who will run the company. Brin and Page agreed to that if only they can find someone that they will both like. So, they interviewed many people in their way: They hanged out with candidates and took them to skiing. They spent time with Eric Schmidt like they did with other candidates. They really liked Schmidt and they decided to hire him.
- He was a real sceptic about search and ad business at the beginning. He thought that search wasn’t that important and ads didn’t work. He talked to a salesperson and a finance person at Google to prove him that this ad thing is really working. They did. Then he believed in the business.
- One of the innovations that Google brought to tech space is hiring process. Schmidt told that they hired people by only looking at their schools and GPAs not at their experience. Because they believed that they need people who pivot around new challenges and inexperienced people allow themselves to pivot into new problems.
- Cowen asked him about the failure of Google Groups. Schmidt said that he takes the responsibility about this failure. He said that they didn’t use it at Google so they couldn’t understand the needs.
- Schmidt’s view on:
o Blockchain: Is it overrated or underrated? He said that in the public format blockchain is overrated but in its technical use, it is underrated.
o Social Media: He is worried the some of the ways social media works in organized around human weaknesses not human strengths. Some people can easily manipulate other people. Checking the source of information is important.
o The Bay Area Housing Situation: He thinks that The Bay Area should solve its housing crisis because The Bay Area is not going to become less desirable.
Thanks to Village Capital for this unforgettable event where Schmidt dropped his wisdom on many subjects from leadership to technology.