Google Bought His Startup - Now This Tech Exec Is Sounding The Alarm

Your tech startup being acquired by a huge company like Google may seem like great news. You may think it means no more work, no more hustling, just a big fat check with a figure higher than you could ever spend scribbled on it. But some former startup owners continue to work, sometimes they even take on roles at the company that acquired their previous business. That's what AppSheet co-founder Praveen Seshadri did a few years ago.

The AppSheet co-founder interviewed with and received offers from Google twice in the early 2000s. Seshadri eventually joined for a mandatory "three year retention period" to help integrate the software he helped create into Google's vast network of products. Now that period is over, Seshadri has moved on, and the entrepreneur has provided a description of a "once-great company" that has "slowly ceased to function." The former employee says the revenue Google makes from advertising is essentially serving to paper over the cracks. He goes on to claim the company's lack of mission and urgency, its delusions of exceptionalism, and outright mismanagement are "core cultural problems" that could eventually lead to its downfall.

Seshardi goes on to liken Google's employees to "mice" trapped in "a maze of approvals, launch processes, legal reviews, performance reviews, exec reviews, documents, meetings, bug reports, triage, OKRs, H1 plans followed by H2 plans, all-hands summits, and inevitable reorgs." He also likens the perks, promotions, and complimentary meals on offer to the cheese mice are rewarded in. He says the complaints about recent layoffs show a lack of self-awareness on the part of the employees and management, and he goes on to paint a bleak picture of the company's future.

The AppSheet founder paints a bleak picture, but insists there is hope

In his Medium post, Seshadri looked back on the time he spent at Microsoft and the issues it had, noting that the company had given him previous experience in seeing "the gradual decay of a dominant empire." He also uses Microsoft and its partnership with OpenAI as an example of the challenges Google is about to face. However, he claims these challenges aren't due to any technological advantages, but rather the differences in company culture, willingness to take risks, and the hunger for success the respective companies have. 

Microsoft is also used as a case study for how Google can right itself and get closer to the company it was when Seshardi first experienced it in 2005 and 2009. He uses Satya Nadella's transformation of Microsoft's prospects to form a checklist of what he believes the company has to do to thrive. This includes "leading with commitment to a mission," which he describes as focusing on goals with a real-world outcome instead of just profits or technological advancements. 

He describes Google management that constantly "underpromises and underdelivers" as "peacetime generals." These need to be ditched in favor of "motivated people who are capable of immense and uniquely valuable contributions," according to the post. He also describes the company's vast middle management category as "incapable of change" and a problem that builds on itself by hiring more essentially useless layers. In short, Seshardi is suggesting a vast restructuring of the company and the appointment of a leadership happy to take risks. Looking at Google's response to the current big tech challenge, he may have a point.