Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

End of an Era: Google’s Very First Employee, Craig Silverstein — Technically, No. 3 — Leaving

Google’s very first employee, Craig Silverstein, is leaving the company to join the high-profile online learning phenom, Khan Academy.

News of the departure first appeared yesterday in a line in a newsletter on education-tech entrepreneurship EdSurge, and the search giant confirmed the departure to me.

[UPDATE: Here’s a statement from a Google spokesperson — and not CEO Larry Page (classy and appreciative of others as ever!, Larry!) — on Silverstein’s leaving: “Craig’s been with Google since the early days. He was instrumental in the development of search and made numerous contributions to Google over the years. We wish him all the best at the Khan Academy and know that he will do great things to help them promote education around the world.”]

Silverstein, who was actually Google’s No. 3 employee — that would be after its pair of founders, Page and Sergey Brin — has had a variety of technology jobs at the company over the years since it was founded in 1998.

But his first — helping them build the famed and lucrative search engine itself — was perhaps his most important. An experienced techie, Silverstein worked with Brin and Page on Google, from their dorm rooms as Ph.D. students at Stanford University, to their garage days, to the giant and diversified behemoth it is today, with tens of thousands of employees.

Currently, he has been working on a variety of projects, including mentoring engineers.

Having spent some time with him over the years, I can tell you that he’s a lovely and adorkable guy, whose infectious enthusiasm and joy of tech has always embodied what I always refer to as “Good Google” (as opposed to, well, you know).

Silverstein will simply be a developer at Khan Academy’s Mountain View, Calif., offices, but I have emails for more details in to all parties.

Speaking of party — IMHO, Larry and Sergey should throw him a really nice one. Really nice — it’s well-deserved.

Here is Silverstein’s cute goodbye email to staff that I obtained (natch!):

[I couldn’t possibly remember everyone who I should be sending this mail to, so please feel free to spread the word to anyone I missed!]

It is with decidedly mixed feelings that I announce, after more than 13 years, that I’m leaving Google. My last day will be Feb 10. I’ll be joining the Khan Academy as a developer.

Some of you thought this day would never come (as one person once put it: “Will you die at Google?”), and it was an extremely difficult choice. I am as passionate about Google’s mission now as I’ve ever been, and as proud of the work we’re doing to achieve it. While a lot has changed at Google over the years, I think we’ve done a remarkable job of staying true to our core mission of making the world a better place by making information more accessible and useful. I am looking forward to pursuing that same mission, though in a slightly different way, at Khan.

I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such smart, passionate, and interesting people — not just a few, either, but (almost :-) ) everyone I worked with. I’m grateful not just that I had so many co-workers I could respect, but even more that I had so many that I could count as friends. I will miss that most of all, and I hope you will continue to be in touch. I also accept lunch invitations!

When I write my massive 4-volume autobiography, “Craig Silverstein: the Man Behind the Legend,” I will devote an entire volume to my years at Google. I can’t emphasize enough how meaningful my time at Google has been, and how meaningful all of you have been to it. I mean it literally when I say: all the best,


And here’s the video of a speech Silverstein gave at the University of North Carolina in 2008, about Google’s origins:

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.

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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo