Google Lost 200 Employees to Facebook, the Newer Cool Kid

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-10-05

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We in the media have spilled a fair share of digital ink over defections of Google employees, also known as Googlers, to its cross-town rival Facebook.

The New York Times noted in its feature on what Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has meant for the young company that Facebook has poached some 200 workers from Google.

Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, says he considers Ms. Sandberg to be a "superstar." But there is growing tension between the two companies, in part because Ms. Sandberg has recruited a string of former Google executives and employees. About 200 ex-Googlers are now working at Facebook.

What's great about blogs is that we bloggers get to pull out a pearl of minutiae from its cozy context and extrapolate on the ramifications, or the lack thereof.

If this were some other high-tech blog, I would justify right up front why the 200 employee figure is a big deal. It's not really; the numbers themselves aren't a big deal.

The Times said some 1,800 people work at Facebook, which isn't a little but certainly not a lot. Former Googlers account for more than 10 percent of the social network's workforce.

Some see that as a lot of people, but Google has 20,000-plus employees, which means it's about 1 percent of Google's workforce, as Business Insider noted. Not so bad, right?

No. What is bad is that the 200 employees are largely top Google talent, such as Sandberg and former Google Android Senior Product Manager Erick Tseng, who by the way is not building a Facebook phone.

Right, he's working on something else to kill Google as the head of Facebook's mobile business.

So what you're seeing is a changing of the guard of people leaving the established company for the fledgling rock star startup.

A few years back, Microsoft hemorrahged talent to Google.

For example, Vic Gundotra, said to be leading Google's Google Me social networking strategy, was a Microsoftee. Big Redmond laid off Don Dodge, who is now a developer advocate at Google. There are many more, but those are top of mind for me.

All things being cyclical in this wonderful, Silicon Valley vaccum of ours, why shouldn't Googlers grow tired of the bureaucracy or their inability to advance and leave for greater, greener ($$$) pastures.

So don't look at this as a Facebook-sapping-Google's-strength-like-a-vampire thing. After all, plenty of Googlers have left for Twitter, too.

Know that Facebook will lose talent to Twitter and vice versa, and both will lose talent to Google and vice versa.

People move up or they move out and it's only a matter of time before Facebook and Twitter are the old Internet companies on the block losing talent to some super recommendation engine startup, or some such entity we'll call Company X.

It's the nature of the beast. Capitalism at work. Free will. Blah, blah, blah.

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