Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Ex-Googlers Flock 35 Miles North to Twitter

A significant portion of Twitter employees — something like 13 percent — used to work at Google.

According to LinkedIn, 87 of the 641 people who say they currently work at Twitter were formerly employed by Google. (Twitter said this week that it has 600 employees, so that number’s a bit off, but probably in the general neighborhood.)

Early Google employees don’t get as much credit as those of, say, PayPal, for founding and funding a new generation of start-ups. But former Googlers seem to have made a practice of infiltrating promising new tech companies as they look for the next big thing.

At one point last year, it was noted that 200 former Googlers worked at Facebook, making up 12.5 percent of its staff at the time, including top executives like Sheryl Sandberg and many of the product people Facebook brought in through acquisitions.

Something similar seems to be happening at Twitter, though it’s still much smaller. CEO Dick Costolo was with Google after it acquired his start-up FeedBurner (but some say that means he’s not truly born-and-bred Google). Co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone (both no longer in operational roles) were also formerly at Google, though again, Williams came in through an acquisition (of his Pyra Labs, which made Blogger).

The Google influence seems especially prevalent on Twitter’s product team. Satya Patel, who is director of product management, was formerly a well-respected Googler, and nearly every Twitter product manager seems to have had some history at the Plex — save for the four who were recently let go.

Twitter creative director Doug Bowman came from Google (in fact, he left in a huff), as did general counsel Alex Macgillivray and VP Katie Jacobs Stanton, who leads international strategy.

Glenn Otis Brown, Twitter’s newly added director of business development for media, was formerly products counsel at Google and head of music partnerships at YouTube.

Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner, who herself came to Twitter from Google, said she could not provide any specific numbers about how many of her coworkers matched that description.

A Twitter insider said that Twitter’s Googliness is less apparent than Facebook’s, because fewer members of the core leadership team came from Google. Even if head honcho Costolo did stop through Mountain View en route to hipper San Francisco, execs Jack Dorsey (executive chairman in charge of product), Adam Bain (revenue), Ali Rowghani (CFO) and Michael Abbott (engineering) did not work at Google.

Google isn’t entirely happy to be spawning other people’s workforces. The company has famously paid dearly to keep its top employees from departing to take roles at Facebook, and more recently, Twitter. Twitter and Google have been partners in the past, but more recently have had testy relations over renegotiating a data distribution deal.

Thomas Korte, the ringleader of start-up incubator AngelPad and an early Googler, noted in a recent conversation that following former Googlers’ successful infiltration of Twitter, Square and Foursquare seem likely to be the next ex-Googler targets.

Korte pointed out that Foursquare recently hired the well-connected and respected former Googlers Morgan Missen and Benjy Weinberger (both actually worked at Twitter en route!) and Square recently appointed former Googler Megan Quinn as its director of products.

Besides the beginnings of strong referral networks, Korte added, these up-and-coming companies have one other thing going for them: “They’re the only ones that can cough up the salaries to match Google,” he said.


Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus