Google ‘start-up philosophy’ a lesson for start-ups

Companies have been urged to maintain a nimble, entrepreneurial mindset, following Google’s revelation that it determined to keep its “start-up philosophy”.


Martin Nally, StartupSmart mentor and founder of recruitment firm hranywhere, says start-ups who stick to their original philosophy and fail to change ultimately sign a “death warrant”.


“In my experience, the start-up experience is wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. As you go through a degree of rationality and logic, you understand what works and what doesn’t,” Nally says.


“But you also need to ask yourself, what is at the core [of the business]? What is the idea that I started with? Go back to this on a regular basis, and be prepared to morph and change.”


Nally’s comments come on the back of reports that tech giant Google is keen to keep its start-up philosophy as it continues to grow. The California-based company employs more than 28,000 people throughout the world.


“With scale there always becomes this tension of how do you keep the start-up philosophy,” Google chief financial officer Patrick Pichette said at a conference earlier this week.


“We don’t want to lose our start-up philosophy.”


In a bid to streamline its product portfolio and focus its development efforts, Google has decided to close its Google Labs initiative.


Set up as an incubator, Google Labs has been described by the company as a “playground where our more adventurous users can play around with prototypes of some of our wild and crazy ideas and offer feedback directly to the engineers who developed them”.


Google Labs has produced a range of technologies including Google Reader, Google Groups, Google Maps and Google Goggles.


A company spokesperson said the closing of Google Labs won’t affect the company’s policy to encourage employees to devote 20% of their work time to “projects of their own invention”.


“We’re going to keep experimenting and innovating but we want to do it at a larger scale. So instead of dispersing our efforts across lots of isolated individual products, we’re re-focusing our efforts on projects with global impact and making even bigger bets there,” he said.


Nally says he’s not surprised by Google’s plans given its strong entrepreneurial spirit.


“The Google example is really interesting because they were successful for a reason. They’re going back to their start-up philosophy because they don’t want to lose that,” he says.


Nally says the key for business owners is to ensure they remain in close contact with their staff, regardless of how large their company becomes.


“Mentor and coach them and act as a role model – that’s the absolute heartbeat,” he says.


“For a start-up founder, there’s nothing more enjoyable than having people talk as passionately about your business as you do… My aim is to make my business less Martin Nally-centric and more hranywhere-centric.”


“Share the responsibility as you build and grow your staff… But make sure you’re nimble and able to modify [your offering if necessary].”


Nally’s top tips for maintaining a start-up mindset:

  • Determine your vision and direction, and revisit them regularly.
  • Ensure role clarity among your staff.
  • Encourage diversity of skill and confidence in your business.
  • Maintain exceptional communication.


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