Why does Google have a new CEO?
Yesterday, the tech company announced a surprise reorganisation. Founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin announced the creation of a new parent company, Alphabet, which will sit above Google. Alphabet will oversee Google, investment vehicles Google Ventures and Google Capital, home devices company Nest, high speed internet brand Fiber, Calico, set up in 2013 to “cure death,” and Google X, which makes all the crazy stuff like self-driving cars. Former Google CEO Page will move, along with Brin, to the helm of Alphabet, and rising star executive Sundar Pichai will replace him.
What qualifies Pichai for the job?
Pichai has already spent around eight months in charge of all of Google’s products, Business Insider reports. “If there’s anybody that could take over as CEO one day, I would see Sundar as being a great choice for doing that,” Quest Venture Partners investor and ex-Googler Maarten Hooft told the publication last year. “There’s a lot of smart people [at Google], but in terms of the consumer products he’s worked on so far, I doubt they would be as successful without Sundar being there.”
So what’s he like?
When news of his appointment broke, the venture capitalist Om Malik tweeted that it was “proof nice guys can win.” The 42-year-old Pichai is reportedly considered to be just that; a genuinely likeable person, who came from humble roots—he grew up in India in a two bedroom apartment where he slept on the living room floor, according to Bloomberg. But his credentials within Google were hard-won. In 2006 Pichai was a director of product management for Google’s “toolbar,” which sat within other search engines like Internet Explorer to make Google users’ default search bar. According to Fortune, Pichai warned executives of his concern that Microsoft could modify Internet Explorer to make it much harder to run the toolbar. Shortly afterwards Google Chrome—a browser which has been one of the company’s biggest success stories—was given the green light.
What does his appointment mean?
Page and Brin hope that the creation of alphabet will allow them to devote more time to long-term strategic planning and major projects. Presumably, the appointment of such a trusted lieutenant to run Google will allow them to sustain this hands-free approach. It should also allow Pichai to focus on perfecting and developing core parts of Google’s business like the search engine and YouTube without more experimental projects distracting him. The markets seem to like the decision, anyway: Alphabet’s stock jumped six points following the announcement.