How Google Refined the Entrepreneurial Spirit by Applying Strategic Focus to Invent a New Industry test05/28/2015 12:00AM
By Glenn Llopis
One of the most powerful tenets that defines the immigrant perspective on business leadership is the entrepreneurial spirit. That spirit is marked by an ability to strategically focus on the seeds that leadership has sown, constantly monitoring their growth and promise. To sustain momentum, this opportunity management is critical.
For instance, you must always know when one opportunity can be neglected in order to give more attention to another that is growing more rapidly. You must know which seeds of opportunity are not growing as fast as you thought. And above all, you must know which opportunities require your greatest focus.
One brand in particular has carried out this entrepreneurial focus so well that today it is both a noun and a verb. I am speaking of Google.
Google began in 1996 as a mere research project for Stanford PhD candidates Larry Page and Sergey Brin. While the average researcher would have been content with that, these two pioneers took their findings much further. In his doctoral research, Page noted similarities between the process of “backlinking” in the World Wide Web and the process of making citations in academic publishing. He theorized that just as the credibility of an academic work is often weighted by the number and diversity of other works it cites, the importance of any given Web page could also be determined by the number of other pages to which it is linked.
Page quickly enlisted the help of math prodigy Sergey Brin to further test his theory. Together, they developed the system known as PageRank, named after its creator. As it happens, their strategic focus produced a momentum of good fortune beyond their expectations. Their PageRank system began delivering far more relevant Web search results than the search engine giants of the day, Yahoo and Lycos.
Growth, from there, was rapid and before long would become more abundant then either ever imagined. We might say the two had clearly applied their immigrant perspective, circular vision, and now their entrepreneurial spirit through focus to capture the opportunity before them.
Just one year after their first meeting, Page and Brin created the fully functional search engine named Google, a direct reference to the base number “googol,” one followed by a hundred zeros. Their search engine soon became the standard for Stanford students and faculty and then most of Silicon Valley.
It was 1999, and the industrialized world was flush with investment capital—much of it attracted to the dot-coms. It was then that Page and Brin made their first attempt at monetizing Google through ad sales. While their initial efforts were marked by only fits of growth, they continued to water their deep-sown seed of opportunity so it might flourish into full bloom.
Perhaps they were not even sure themselves what this would look like, but of one thing we can be certain: Both were committed to growth. By 2002, the outlines of this growth became clear when they introduced “relevancy” to the search ad market. Then Google truly became the preeminent expert in the search engine model we might call “focus and discovery.” One inserts a focused entry into Google in order to discover an abundance of results.
This model is the very embodiment of opportunity management. But Google hasn’t stopped there. By allowing engineers to devote 20 percent of their paid work time to the pursuit of personal projects, Google continues to germinate additional seeds that keep its harvest growing. The company’s vice president of search products and user experience estimates that approximately half of Google’s new products are the result of this 20 percent personal time, including Gmail, Orkut, Google News, and its flagship AdSense program. By creating an environment that promotes seeing, sowing, and growing seeds of great potential, Google sustains not only its perpetual harvest but also its good fortune of being king of search engines.
My father often said that the most important entrepreneurial seed a company grows is the talent that represents it. Google is an excellent model worth emulating in this regard. The seeds of greatest potential are often already within our reach: they reside, dormant, in the hearts and minds of those around us until they are allowed to flourish. The leadership and the company that pays attention to this entrepreneurial spirit will find no shortage of momentous opportunities.
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