Sydneysiders quit Google to fix … Gmail


blog There’s been a couple of interesting stories published over the past two days about a trio of Sydneysiders who quit the Googleplex in order to found a startup, Fluent, to “fix email”. Probably the headline article was published at the Sydney Morning Herald, although there’s another great yarn at StartupSmart. The key paragraph from the SMH yarn:

“Cameron Adams, 32, and Dhanji Prasanna, 31, began work on Fluent full-time about six months ago, after becoming frustrated at Google’s work culture and leaving the company about the middle of last year. The third co-founder, Jochen Bekmann, left Google to join them in November.”

Personally I don’t find Fluent that interesting yet. There’s been a stack of startups launched over the years to “fix email”. Frankly, from my perspective, it’s not really broken. It works well for what it does, which for me, is primarily shuffling documents around. For other things there is social networking, which also works well. And, of course, the ubiquity of standards around email make it very hard to evolve the system at all.

However, what is hilarious and very telling about Google’s current corporate culture is that the three felt it necessary to resign from their (no doubt high-paying) jobs in the supposedly innovative GooglePlex in order to push the envelope forward on email, an area which Google itself revolutionised almost a decade ago with Gmail, which many people of my generation (including myself) swear by as the One True Email Platform. And when they left, what platform did the trio try to innovate on? Why, Gmail, of course.

These articles do much to validate what I wrote in November 2010 about the decline of Google’s startup culture and the loss of the company’s overall mojo. This is what I wrote at the time, and all of the same problems still plague the company now:

“Google is no longer a startup — it is now a company like any other — and one with a sizable headcount: More than 400 in Australia and 25,000 globally. It is struggling to get new products to market, or even to keep up to date with its existing product set — look at the poor adoption of Google Apps in corporate Australia, for example (because of its lack of local hosting), or the delays pushing its Netbook operating system, Chrome OS, into irrelevance. Or even the way that it appears unable to get updates for its Android handsets pushed out through manufacturers in a timely fashion.

Because of this fact, the company is no longer attractive to entrepreneurial change agent types … There is simply too much management inertia.”

It is becoming more apparent every day how accurate those comments were. And if you continue to doubt that Google is turning into the worst kind of stultified corporate juggernaut, I encourage you to check out the company’s Australian blog today, where it ecstatically discusses one of its latest sinister marketing programs: Turning Australian university students into “Google Student Ambassadors”, who “get the chance to learn about Google products and programs and organise campus events for their fellow students”.

Sinister. And remind you of anyone? Yup. Microsoft.

Image credit: Robert Scoble, Creative Commons


  1. After having both a Galaxy S and a Galaxy S2, I can comfortably say that android updates are near on non-existant. It would seem that while Optus is only one of my two handset provides (Other being Vodafone) Optus is a consistent offender at doing a boatload of nothing on updates.

    Fragmentation of Android is its worst enemy, Windows Phone’s worst enemy is its lack of apps and Apple’s worst enemy is itself.

    So I think its unfair to pick on Google, after all … the other two certainly seem to strive to colossally stuff it with their customer base. Apple’s good at either making a phone that cant make calls (iphone 4) or a phone which is only marginally different to the last one (4s).

    Here’s hoping Nokia’s Windows Phone implementation is better than Google and Apple’s attempts?

  2. At the moment the thing is to bag out Google. Unfair and definitely unprecedented. People leave Google all the time for start-ups. It’s their decision to move on, to create their own thing. Not because of the way Google is.

    Have you ever thought to ask one of these ambassadors why they are doing it? Rather than assuming they are just another pawn in the the supposed Google game?

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