Google exodus: Lars Rasmussen + Kate Vale gone


update Search giant Google has suffered several high-profile local departures, with both its first Australian employee and current local head of YouTube Kate Vale and Google Maps and Wave co-founder Lars Rasmussen signalling they had left the company.

Rasmussen’s loss was first reported on TechCrunch this morning, with the publication directing readers to the engineer’s Facebook profile, which notes he is “temporarily unemployed”.

Google confirmed the departures. “Kate Vale has decided to take on new challenges and a new career direction outside of Google – we wish her all the best, and thank her for her enormous contribution in building Google Australia,” said a spokesperson for the search giant.

Alan Noble, engineering director for Google Australia and New Zealand, said Rasmussen had made “great contributions” to Google in products like Google Maps and Wave. “He was also instrumental in starting engineering in the Google Sydney office,” said Noble. “We wish him all the best.”

TechCrunch’s suspicion that Rasmussen is about to leave Australia for the United States — possibly to join Facebook — will be compounded by a post on the Silicon Beach mailing list several days ago, where local entrepreneur Kim Chen wrote that Rasmussen was “leaving Australia in just a few short weeks”. The engineer as the guest of honour at the Silicon Beach drinks in Sydney last night (Friday).

Meanwhile, Vale also noted on Rasmussen’s page that she, too was “temporarily unemployed”. The YouTube Australia chief also wrote on her own Facebook profile on October 16 that she was an ‘Xoogler’ — referring to the industry term for an ‘Ex-Googler’. Vale’s LinkedIn profile also refers to her Google experience as having ended this month.

The news will see Google’s Australian operation simultaneously robbed of high-profile engineering talent as well as commercial acumen.

Vale was Google’s first employee in Australia as its head of sales and operations, and led the company locally for quite a few years after it entered the local market in 2002. She was shifted to the YouTube portfolio in April 2009, several years after the search giant appointed its first local managing director, Karim Temsamani, in late 2007.

Temsamani himself recently left Australia to take up a position in Google’s Mountain View headquarters. The executive has not yet been replaced.

Danish-born Rasmussen is one of Google’s most high-profile Australian technical employees, and has been an engineering manager since 2004, according to his LinkedIn profile. The engineer came to prominence through the success of Google’s Maps product, which the search giant launched after acquiring Where 2 Technologies, the startup Rasmussen and his brother Jens had formed in Australia.

However, Rasmussen also has a high profile due to his role founding Google’s Wave project, an ill-fated attempt at building a next-generation internet communications platform and marrying disparate ideas from email, instant messaging and even wikis together. In August, Google’ shelved active development of the project, after it failed to achieve traction with end users.

There is no suggestion at the moment that Jens Rasmussen will leave Google following his brother’s departure. The engineer’s LinkedIn profile still shows Google as his current employer.

Image credit: Charlie Brewer, Creative Commons, Google


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