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Google’s CEO Comes to Pittsburgh on Eve of G-20 Summit

Posted on | September 23, 2009 | No Comments

The Pittsburgh Technology Council hosted a session this morning that featured Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google, which has an office on the Carnegie Mellon University campus here. Hundreds turned out to hear Schmidt talk and answer questions from the audience. 

I personally remember Schmidt from his Novell days when I was doing PR and marketing at Banyan Systems … and the companies were marketplace rivals.  I always wondered what it would have been like to go from the culture of Novell to Google, but Schmidt doesn’t seem any worse for wear for the transition. 

As I listened to Audrey Russo, head of the Tech Council, describe Schmidt’s background and accomplishments, it occured to me that, perhaps, going to Google somehow completed a circle for Schmidt. He started, after all, as a programmer at Xerox PARC, one of the most prolific and inventive companies of all times and whose accomplishments — ranging from the mouse to the graphical user interface — we still benefit from.  But Xerox could afford its open-ended research program because it basically owned the market for making printed copies.  

Schmidt moved from Xerox to Sun (’the-computer-is-the-network’) Microsystems and then to Novell, a local area network company whose technology became a seed in the wall of corporate IT departments and helped plant the idea of distributed computing.  Now,  360 career degrees later, Schmidt is at Google, which proposes to make “all the world’s content” available to all the world.  It’s a perfect mash-up of Xerox (content reproduction), Sun (content storage), and Novell (content distribution).  Talk about meeting your destiny!

That said, Schmidt is engaging, thoughtful, a champion of the young and inventive, a proponent for transparency and for empowering employees to follow their passion.  How much of that is his own personality and how much is the culture of Google?  I don’t know, but it was refreshing to hear him speak.  Here are some  nuggets worth sharing:

His advice to young people: “Everything you want is in your mobile phone.  Think about how to capitalize on that.”

To entrepreneurs: “Before Sarbanes Oxley, it was easy to go public. Now it’s hard for small companies to do an IPO. People call us every day for help with their exit strategy.”

On democratization of content: “Not everybody wants all information available to everyone. The Internet is the best antidote to a lack of transparency and despotic regimes. The Internet is a threat to repressive countries because it allows the truth to come out.”

The collapse of the financial market: “The answer to financial catastrophe is transparency.”

On recovery: “We originally assumed the US would recover first and the rest of the world would follow. But now, it’s apparent that countries fall together and climb back together.”

On innovation: “Growth comes from private sector innovation and from developing things that people care about.”

Schmidt introduced “Gutenberg’s Law:” The amount of information available to the average citizen of a country is directly correlated to the potential for economic growth of that country.” Given that we’re producing one zettabyte (1021) of data a day, according to Schmidt, our future looks bright…as does Google’s, given all the searching it will do…

What’s the moral of the story?  Well, I can think of about a 1,000 but for emarketers, here are my three take-aways:

1. There will never be a shortage of content: work with passion to make yours meaningful!

2. Search paves a path to your message: make sure you lay down the right bricks (keywords and links).

3. Transparency is a gateway to better relationships — between you and your customers and partners — as well as among the citizens of the world.

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