Saturday, June 04, 2011

The turning of Larry Page

SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Google co-founder...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeThere's no doubt that Google owes everything to Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They've had incredible help along the way but these are the two who started the ball rolling. Larry Page is now the CEO. Is this a return to the values that made Google great?

I was reading Greg Sterling's excellent article Google CEO Larry Page Plays Nice With Investors At Annual Meeting which addresses the $100 dip in share price and on-going investor concern with Page.

Investors worry that Page is too aloof. Page was present at the start of the quarterly earnings call about a month ago before bowing out at leaving the call in the hands of the CFO. He barely stayed at all.

At the annual meeting Page made some keypoints to investors. The Mercury News summed it up by saying;
"Page affirmed his focus on fiscal discipline, lauded Google’s successes with Android smartphones, display advertising and its Chrome Web browser, and defended the company’s forays into unproven technology like driverless cars as necessary to not ‘choke innovation.’"

The promise of fiscal discipline stood out for me.

Why? I've always been impressed with Google's pre-IPO letter to would-be investors. It was great. It had Google balls.

The letter began by saying;
Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one. Throughout Google's evolution as a privately held company, we have managed Google differently.

In the introduction to Google's long term focus, they wrote;
As a private company, we have concentrated on the long term, and this has served us well. As a public company, we will do the same. In our opinion, outside pressures too often tempt companies to sacrifice long term opportunities to meet quarterly market expectations. Sometimes this pressure has caused companies to manipulate financial results in order to "make their quarter." In Warren Buffett's words, "We won't 'smooth' quarterly or annual results: If earnings figures are lumpy when they reach headquarters, they will be lumpy when they reach you."

If opportunities arise that might cause us to sacrifice short term results but are in the best long term interest of our shareholders, we will take those opportunities. We will have the fortitude to do this. We would request that our shareholders take the long term view.

It seems to be a little bit of a shame. Have Google's founders gone from being bullish on the fiscal front, doing what was best for digital and trusting that is what is needed for success in the digital landscape? Are they now dogged by spreadsheets and investor concerns - trying to find the best digital solutions from within those confines?

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