Why Google Vets Aren’t Attracted to Your Startup

on 04 | 13 | 2015

No doubt, Google finds some of the best talent, and they often spend years nurturing that talent. It’s no wonder nearly every startup in existence wants a Google veteran on its team. But growing up inside of Google–or other huge companies like Facebook or LinkedIn–isn’t necessarily an ideal characteristic for a potential hire. These people are certainly some of the smartest people working in tech, but the environment they’re used to doesn’t reflect the reality of most tech companies. Plus, those people aren’t likely to leave for a startup anyway. Here’s why (and where to look instead).

Google compensation

These guys are making seven figures. We’re talking 1.5 to 3 million dollars a year at the mid levels of leadership.  If you’re a Series A or B, you need to give them more than a point of equity and exit at over a billion to equate back to what they’re walking away from. To really get someone to leave a seven figure salary for your opportunity, you need to offer about three times the amount in equity. Say they’re set to make $12 million over four years–you need to serve up the potential to make $30 million in equity.

And there’s no guarantee. In four years, they could make the same than they would have anyway, or they could walk away with next to nothing. Although there has been an uptick in billion dollar companies of late, there aren’t very many overall–just 73 out of thousands of startups. Those aren’t very good odds. If the person you’re going after is in fact the risk-taking type, chances are they’re more likely to start their own companies. If they start their own company and raise one round of capital at $20 million, it results in a bigger payout than the 1-2% they’d get at someone else’s startup. So unless you can convince them you’re the next unicorn, chances are you’re wasting your time going after them.

Google employees have limitless resources

Google veterans are accustomed to having access to essentially unlimited resources and funds, and they’re dealing with technology problems at immense scale. Scaling down to a startup is sometimes tough, unless it’s a person who came in through an acquisition and thus has the startup life imprinted on his or her brain. And it’s not even just the resources it takes to get a project done. On a visit to the campus, one employee complained to me that the fall blend of coffee just wasn’t up to par with the summer blend. This is just the type of amenities they’re used to.

Failure at Google isn’t as dire

Within Google, if a project fails, chances are you get reassigned to another project at the company. The failure is more than likely a miniscule blip on the overall Google radar. Failure at a startup is much different. You have to answer to shareholders, you feel the burden of letting coworkers down, and you may very well lose your job. Which sounds more appealing? For those that have never worked at a startup, the easy choice is to stick with the comfortable position with a safety net.

But all is not lost

For the most part, these observations only apply to someone who has been working at Google pretty much his or her entire career. Someone who works for a company that was acquired by Google (see: Nest) would be a good target. Not only do these individuals have the chops to handle a startup, they were part of a company that was successful enough to be bought by Google. It’s a win-win.

In general, it’s best not to focus on hiring people only from the majors. Sure, there’s a great concentration of talent, but remember that there’s a plethora of other great organizations to pull from. Rather than focusing on brand, focus on the individual and what he or she can bring to your team.