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Ex-Googler: 'Tons Of Engineers' Want To Leave Google

Google employees, Googlers, holding balls
Google employees, Googlers, holding balls

kengz Googlers. Ex-Googler and Beeswax CEO Ari Paparo tweeted on Thursday night that "tons of engineers" were "looking to leave the goog after bonuses."

"The goog" that Paparo is referring to is, of course, Google.

Paparo was responding to a tweet from venture capitalist Hunter Walk, also an ex-Googler.

Walk wrote that for his firm, Homebrew, and the startups in its portfolio, there had been a "seasonal January increase in big company people looking to leave their jobs."

Walk said he thought exits from Google would not really pick up for "another month" — after bonuses are paid out there.

Then, presumably, Googler poaching season will be on.

(For startups, it's the hap-happiest season of all …)

It's important to remember that in the tech industry the migration of talent from big companies to startups is an ancient cycle, as regular and as expected as San Francisco's frigid temperatures in August.

That said …

During a trip to Palo Alto earlier this week, we spoke with another high-profile venture capitalist who said he also expected talent to flee Google in increased numbers during 2015 — but only if the company is unable to get its stock growing again.

Google's share price is down to $501 from $577 per share on this date a year ago. In Silicon Valley, where employees are often compensated as much or more in stock as they are in cash, a down stock price like that means Google is literally paying its people less money in 2015 than it did in 2014. That makes retention harder.

It's always hard to say exactly why a stock is going down, but it's clear that Google had a relatively rough 2014. In December, an ex-Googler told us: "I think 2015 is going to be disastrous."

Some data points to back that claim up:

In 2014, CEO Larry Page, frustrated with the pace of innovation at the company, took a big step back from daily operations, turning over control to Sundar Pichai.

Google's core business, search advertising, is looking shakier than it has in years. The problem is the rise of mobile. Search advertising is the best way to make money on the web. But people aren't using the web as much on their mobile phones as they did on their desktops. Last quarter, Google's advertising business grew at its slowest rate in six years.

People are searching for products on Amazon, rather than using Google. The only reason search makes money for Google is that people use it to search for products they would like to buy on the internet, and Google shows ads for those products. Increasingly, however, people are going straight to Amazon to search for products. Desktop search queries on Amazon increased 47% between September 2013 and September 2014, according to ComScore.

The executive in charge of running the moneymaking side of Google, Nikesh Arora, quit for a new job at SoftBank. Internally, Arora's departure has been the source of some tension and disappointment. Before he left, Arora was planning to throw a huge conference for Google sales employees in Las Vegas. Now that Arora is gone, the event has been canceled in favor of more regional meetings, and we've heard some Googlers are bummed. These same Googlers are under the impression that the whole company is in the middle of a hiring freeze. After speaking to several more sources, we're pretty sure there is not actually a hiring freeze at Google. But it is interesting that some people inside the company think there is. Clearly, there are pockets of pessimism.

Google is getting knocked around overseas. Google just pulled its engineers out of Russia. It shut down its news aggregator in Spain. The EU wants to break up the company. The situation isn't looking great in Brazil, either.

Facebook has decided to compete with YouTube for video-advertising dollars, and Facebook may win. Facebook is working on bringing YouTube-like video to its News Feed. It is also rolling out video ads. Many in the industry believe Facebook is in a better position than YouTube to eat into the advertising dollars that are leaving TV. JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth writes: "Facebook appears better positioned to capture new dollars coming online given its 21% share of mobile time spent, strong leverage to news feed ads, and nascent opportunities in video and Instagram."

The prominent venture capitalist with whom we spoke last week says he doesn't expect Google CEO Larry Page to sit back and allow Google's stock price to flounder much longer.

This VC says Page knows the health of the stock is directly correlated with retention and that it has become far too easy for people like him to poach Googlers.

This source said he expected Google to get revenues accelerating again by taking more advantage of its massive footprint in mobile, where it owns the world's largest computing operating system, Android.

Specifically, this VC predicted that Google would soon begin charging manufacturers more for using Android and developers more (or, as much as Apple) for selling apps through the Google app store.

Nicholas Carlson is the author of a new book called "Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!"

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