Here we are, the last Friday of Eric Schmidt’s reign as CEO of Google Inc. On Monday morning Larry Page will park his Prius in the spot that says CEO. This move wasn’t a signal that Google was failing or that the CEO needed to be changed. There was no secret head hunt going on. The simple fact was that when Sergey Brin and Larry Page started interviewing CEO’s, they knew as founders that they needed someone to hold their hand and navigate them through their evolution.
It’s been widely reported that Eric Schmidt wasn’t even their first choice, they actually wanted Steve Jobs. However Brin and Page both confirmed in a Bloomberg documentary entitled “Game Changers” that Jobs was their first choice and Dr. Eric Schmidt was their second. Regardless, Schmidt was the right decision.
Although Schmidt doesn’t have the charisma that Steve Jobs has, and he has more than one outfit in his closet, he has led Google through 10 of the companies most influential years.
Schmidt joined Google in March of 2001 as the Chairman of the Board of Directors. At the time, Sergey Brin was the Chairman and stepped down in favor of the Chairman and CEO coming from Novell. “Eric is widely acknowledged as a brilliant technologist and savvy business leader,” said Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and CEO. “These qualities, combined with his entrepreneurial spirit and fit with Google’s culture, make Eric the perfect addition to our board of directors.”
A short five months later Schmidt took over for Larry Page as well. Page was serving as Google’s CEO and collectively on August 6, 2001 Brin and Page announced that Schmidt was taking over as CEO effective immediately. “In the short time that Eric has chaired our board of directors, he has provided decisive leadership and has demonstrated a deep understanding of our technology and business,” said Brin. “We feel extremely fortunate to have someone of Eric’s stature leading our management team.”
Now a decade later, Scmidt is passing the torch back to Larry Page and feels that Brin and Page don’t need someone to hold their hand any longer.
With Schmidt at the helm of this triumvirate Google has gone from the search engine developed by Brin and Page at Stanford to a mega conglomerate of all things internet. During the last decade Google has grown to dominate search, ppc advertising and so much more. Google has become the largest provider of free email in the world with their Gmail product and has integrated an amazing portfolio of free applications to go along with the “google account”.
In 2006 at the bottom of the internet bust Google paid $1.65 billion dollars for Youtube which signaled the turn around of the industry in Silicon Valley and the start of Web 2.0
In 2005 Google acquired Android which has quickly become the fastest growing mobile operating system in the world. Through their foundation in the Open Handset Alliane Google was able to offer their Android operating system free, thereby putting more smartphones in more manufacturers hands at more price points for more people to serve up more ads.
Many were critical of Schmidt, not because of his extreme intelligence or the ability to run the company but because he has some of the social awkwardness that is often found in people who would rather be engineering things than actually speaking to rooms full of people. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Schmidt speak in person 4 times in the last 10 years with the most recent being at MWC. It was at this Keynote where with the weight of CEO lifted off his shoulders he seemed most comfortable.
In a study released by Glassdoor yesterday ,and published by Techcrunch, it was revealed that Schmidt is at an all time high in approval rating as he prepares to leave the CEO position at the technology giant. Schmidt’s current plan is to assume the role of Executive Chairman and be an ambassador of sorts for Google with business, government and around the world, however it’s become apparent that Preident Obama may have different plans. Schmidt is rumored to be the next Secretary of Commerce.
Whatever is in the future for Schmidt he has an approval rating of 96% and even etched out Steve Jobs who is currently on medical leave from Apple. Schmidt had a 93% approval rating same time last year. Part of Schmidt’s approval may be the fact that some employees at Google are nervous about what their position may be Monday after Page takes back over.