Corporate Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Silicon Valley: The Case of Google, Inc

By Finkle, Todd A. | Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, July 2012 | Go to article overview

Corporate Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Silicon Valley: The Case of Google, Inc


Finkle, Todd A., Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice


In May 2009, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of Google, Inc., were trying to determine how they were going to navigate Google through the worst recession since the Great Depression. Their primary problem was how to maintain the company's culture of corporate entrepreneurship and innovation in the face of stagnant profits and a host of other issues. Google sought answers on how to increase corporate entrepreneurship and innovation during the worst economic environment that the company had ever experienced.

Introduction

In May 2009, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of Google, Inc., watched Green Day in concert at the famous Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. The brilliant young entrepreneurs had many things on their minds. They tried to determine how they were going to navigate Google during the worst recession the United States had seen since the Great Depression (Willis, 2009). The Standard and Poor's 500 (S&P 500), one of the most popular indicators of the U.S. economy, had dropped to an intra-day low of 666.79 on March 6, 2009 from an intra-day high of 1576.09 on October 11, 2007 for a collapse of 57.7% (S & P 500 Index, 2009). Worldwide stocks had decreased on average by approximately 60%.

Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the most prolific investors of all time, foresaw the current economic turmoil in early 2008. Buffett stated, "Even though the numbers do not state it, the United States was in for a deep long-lasting recession" (Buffett, 2008).

By early 2009, U.S. retirement accounts also dropped by an average of 40% or $3.4 trillion (Brandon, 2009). Many U.S. retirees saw their pensions cut in half and many were forced to go back to work or rely on their families to support them.

Brin and Page had never witnessed anything like this in their young lives. Even the ever successful company they created in 1998, Google, Inc., was feeling the effects of the crisis. At its low point, Google's stock price dropped 51.35% from an intra-day high of $713.587 on November 2, 2007 to an intra-day low of $259.56 on November 20, 2008. The stock price picked up momentum recently and traded at $410 as of May 28, 2009.

As the young entrepreneurs listened to the Bay Area band Green Day, they pondered their next moves. Google had problems. The company's primary problem was how to maintain the culture of corporate entrepreneurship and innovation in the face of flat net profits from 2007 to 2008. As a result of this, the firm had to fire several employees for the first time in the company's history and eliminate products that made no money (Blodget, 2009). Furthermore, employees left for a variety of reasons (e.g., lack of mentoring and formal career planning, too much bureaucracy, low pay and benefits, high cost of living in the area, desire to start their own business, etc.).

In a little over 10 years, Google had grown to a company with over 20,000 employees. If Google wanted to continue its main strategy of growth through innovation, it would have to find a way to recruit the best employees and retain them (see Tables 1-3 and Figure 1).

Background of Founders

Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergei Brin, who met in 1995 while they were PhD students in computer engineering at Stanford University. Page was born in Lansing, Michigan on March 26, 1973 and was the son of a computer science professor at Michigan State University who specialized in artificial intelligence. Page's mother also taught computer programming at the Michigan State University (Thompson, 2001, p. 50).

Page spent his youth learning about computers and immersed himself into multiple technology journals that his parents read. Page had a very impressive educational background. He attended a Montessori school initially, and then went to a public high school. He later went on to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree (with honors) in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. …

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