When red-hot startups grow quickly, they tend to grow until they hit their head on the ceiling.
This is that awkward stage where the company starts making inexplicable decisions. This isnt Burn Rate, that ability to go through tons of money very quickly. Rather, lets call this the Burn Up and Implode Rate.
The pattern is all too familiar. The aggressive company that was positively anal about its focus starts branching out into unexpected areas, perhaps making a few ultra-high-pricetag acquisitions. As has been said many times, when these unorthodox decisions start getting made, the question shouldnt be, "Who came up with that idea?" It should be, "Who approved it?"
At this late stage of development, I would think Google would have grown beyond such a stage. But two recent incidents make me start to wonder if the search giants legendary discipline hasnt started to soften.
First, there was the decision to stage a party last month at eBays huge annual convention, a party designed to get eBays customers to not use eBays services for E-Commerce and to instead use Googles. Did I mention that eBay was—at the time—a huge Google customer?
eBay retaliated by yanking all of its ads and Google quickly canceled its party. eBay later said they would reinstate some of the ads. Maybe. If Google behaved themselves … and washed their cars … with toothbrushes.
It was an odd move, but one that could be dismissed as an anomaly, probably nothing more than an unchecked bit of excessive enthusiasm.
But then this month, one of Googles new corporate blogs posted this item about the new Michael Moore film, "Sicko". The post was written by a Google insider named Lauren Turner, whom the New York Times described as "a Health Account Planner at Google."
Turner tore into Moore and Sicko quite aggressively, saying, "Moore attacks health insurers, health providers and pharmaceutical companies by connecting them to isolated and emotional stories of the system at its worst. Moores film portrays the industry as money and marketing driven, and fails to show healthcares interest in patient well-being and care."
But the problem was not her position per se. It was that Googles senior people were apparently surprised that a strongly-worded opinion on an official Google blog, bylined by someone who appears to be a Google employee and clearly written as the voice of Google could somehow—gasp!—be interpreted as Googles position.
If youre unsure if it was written as the voice of Google, consider the line, "If youre interested in learning more about issue management campaigns or about how we can help your company better connect its assets online, e-mail us." Its the "us" that is the killer phrasing.
There are ways around this problem. But if a company is going to have an official blog and use employees to blog, then, yes, to be surprised that its the company view is to raise a lot of uncomfortable questions.
Google itself conceded that it wasnt watching the ball on this one, with another post where Google Product Manager Missy Krasner said bluntly, "We blew it."