Working For Google “Worst Decision”?

    May 25, 2007

It’s a well-known fact that Google frequently lets its employees do their own thing on company time.  Many of those employees then come up with brilliant ideas, but the search engine giant – wealthy as it is – doesn’t have money to pursue them all.  In the long term, do those employees go on to get rich, or get screwed?

Robert Cringely votes for “rich.”  After considering several aspects of the company’s operations, he writes, “[W]e’ll shortly see a dribble, then a river, then a flood of former Google employees with time, money, and experience, and some of them will have the drive to realize the dreams of those thousands of ideas that were rejected by their former company.”

That sounds like a pretty sweet deal – work for a famously “fun” company, then go do whatever you like best.  But Google Watch’s Steve Bryant found a flaw with the plan, and it relates to a clause in Google’s standard employee agreement form; Googlers appear to forfeit the rights to just about everything they think of while working for the company.

“In other words, everything you do here, stays here,” writes Bryant.  “So that fabled 20% free time at Google is really just 20% more time for Google. . . . Google knows what it’s doing.  And while I have no doubt that the current Google employees will go on to make wondrous companies, Google is ensuring they snatch up most of the good ideas first.  In that light, working for Google could be the worst decision an entrepreneur ever makes.”

Yikes.  I don’t know if free food balances that out.