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拉里•佩奇应该拆分谷歌吗?

Kevin Kelleher 2011年04月20日

拉里•佩奇如果引入日式观念,进行彻底的企业重组,可能会给谷歌灌输一种永久的创新观念,避免微软式的停滞。

    谷歌究竟要怎样才能重新恢复魔力呢?2011年之初的谷歌与早些年处于创业阶段的谷歌已经截然不同了。现在谷歌面临着来自Facebook等新锐公司的压力,谷歌现在正在花更多的钱雇佣人才,这也扯了公司第一季度账面收益的后腿,使上周四谷歌股票在二级市场上的交易价格下跌了5%。

    谷歌新任首席执行官拉里•佩奇的面前横亘着一个重大的任务,到目前为止,他都忙得不可开交。他宣布了重组公司的计划——给予工程师更多的控制权,推出新的奖金方案,并力图让谷歌在社交网络领域占据一席之地。到现在为止,人们对“佩奇新政”的评论有褒有贬。

    不过最为重要的是,佩奇新政忽略了一个残酷的事实:如果谷歌想在网络建设方面保持创新,就必须把步子迈得更大,而不仅仅是重新规划一张组织结构图,或是只用奖金作为激励。谷歌是可以培养出真正的企业家文化和创新概念的,但这意味着谷歌必须对整个公司进行彻底重组。

    而这意味着要对谷歌进行拆分。

    这并不是什么新奇之论。几年以前,丹尼•苏利文曾经在他的博客“搜索引擎天地”(Search Engine Land)上撰写过一篇博文,虚构了谷歌拆分的情景。这篇文章发表时,适逢谷歌收购了DoubleClick公司,有些人担心这起收购会导致谷歌在搜索引擎业占据垄断地位。去年,一个名叫消费者看守者(Consumer Watchdog)的组织就曾以反垄断为由,要求谷歌进行拆分。

    尽管在在线广告领域,谷歌显然面临着新的竞争,但同时谷歌也正面临着来自联邦贸易委员会(Federal Trade Commission)和美国司法部(Department of Justice)的双重反垄断调查。如公司自行拆分,则可以避免陷入反垄断诉讼。不过谷歌应该按自己的实际情况进行拆分——让各个部门专注于自身愿景;使有前景的一些小项目不被宽泛的企业文化所吞噬;给员工更多的自主权,同时提供坚实的激励。

    企业重组可能以许多种方式发生,其中一些方式要更加激进些。例如谷歌可以变成一家控股公司,它可以控制若干子公司的大多数表决权。谷歌公开交易股的股东仍然可以继续拥有搜索和显示广告业务的股份,这二者占据了谷歌的大部分营业收入。

    谷歌控股公司也可拥有私营下属企业的多数股权,这些下属企业各自代表一项谷歌的业务,如谷歌文档、YouTube和Gmail都可以拆分成单独的子公司,此外还可以分离出一家负责Android软件和移动广告等移动业务的子公司。员工可以获得所在子公司的期权,如果这些子公司变得足够盈利,也可以推动这些公司上市。如果IPO市场在未来的几年里仍然保持景气,那么将这些重要业务拆分出去,可能会成为一种强势激励,促使这些业务更加盈利。

    另一个子公司可将重点放在现在的“谷歌实验室”(Google Labs)上,它是由谷歌早期赞助的一个创新项目孵化器。一旦员工培养出来的项目创意在实验室中孵化成了可行的、可独立发展的公司,这些员工就可以获得这个初创公司的创始人股份。

    总而言之,拆分后的谷歌控股公司可能成为一个企业集团,一个由一系列具有连锁的利益、基础架构和股权的独立公司构成的网络。其中许多的独立公司严格说来算不上是初创公司,但与现在的谷歌相比,届时这些公司所提供的服务要更创新、更像初创公司。

    从本质上讲,软件工程是一个创造性的行业。衡量这个行业的公司成功与否,并不看一个软件销售了多少份,而是在于人们对你的工作成果作何反应,他们是怎样把你的软件融入他们的日常生活的。当然,这种无形资产是很难量化的。因此,在硅谷这样一个遍地风投的文化环境里,成绩往往是通过财务指标来衡量的,例如收入增长、利润率以及市值等。

    不过,这并不意味着所有的工程师都是在钱财的驱使下才去努力工作的。硅谷人的贪欲只是在中等水平上下,和其他地方的人没什么区别。不过财务业绩的确是衡量成功的无可争辩的标尺。在2010年,Facebook的估值达到500亿美元,这个数字雄辩地让所有批评人士都闭上了嘴。而在过去五年里,谷歌的市值都是在1300亿到1800亿美元之间浮动。

    除了薪酬问题之外,谷歌的拆分还可以解决一些前任高管和工程师都曾抱怨过的企业文化问题。在谷歌曾出现有前景的创意从公司中流失的情况,例如在收购社交网站Dodgeball时所发生的那样(在Dodgeball被谷歌收购后,因不受重视,Dodgeball的两位创始人负气离开谷歌——译注)。但在谷歌拆分之后,这种情况将不大可能再度发生。此外,谷歌甚至可以通过投资某个初创公司的一部分股权、而不是整个收购的方式,将外部的一些初创公司拉入自己的阵营中。

    如果这些原因还不够让谷歌进行拆分的话,这里还有另一条理由。如果谷歌不采取某种彻底的措施,它可能难免演变成一个人浮于事、墨守成规的科技巨头。它会变成另一个微软,试图用自己已经过时的观点来塑造互联网,而不是灵活地适应网络自行演化出的各种惊人的发展方向。而后者才是谷歌最擅长的。

    或者说,这正是谷歌在还是一家初创公司时所最擅长的事。

    译者:朴成奎

    What is it going to take for Google to get its mojo back? Google in the spring of 2011 is a far cry from Google in its startup days. Facing competition from younger companies like Facebook, Google is spending more to hire new talent, and the resulting weight on first-quarter earnings pulled its stock down 5% in aftermarket trading Thursday.

    Google's (GOOG) new CEO Larry Page has a big task before him. And so far he's been busy. Page announced plans to reorganize the company -- giving engineers more control, rolling out a new bonus program and finding a place for itself in the social web. So far, those changes have drawn mixed reviews.

    Most importantly, the changes overlook the hard truth that, if Google is to stay innovative in shaping the web, it needs to take much more dramatic steps than redrawing org charts or using bonuses as cudgels. Google can return a genuinely entrepreneurial culture and nurture innovative ideas, but it would mean radically restructuring the entire company.

    It would mean splitting Google up.

    This is hardly a new idea. A few years back, Danny Sullivan penned a fictional scenario of a Google breakup for his blog, Search Engine Land. That came in the wake of Google's purchase of DoubleClick, which left some worrying the combined company would create a search monopoly. Last year, a group named Consumer Watchdog called for a Google breakup on antitrust grounds.

    Google is facing antitrust investigations from both the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice. A breakup could head off any antitrust suits, even though Google is clearly facing new competition for online ads. But Google should consider a breakup on its own merits -- to keep units focused on their visions, to keep small but promising projects from being swallowed by the broader corporate culture, and to give employees more independence as well as strong incentives to deliver.

    A corporate restructuring could happen in any number of ways, some more aggressive than others. For example, Google could become a holding company controlling the majority of voting rights in a number of subsidiaries. Shareholders of Google's publicly traded stock would continue to own shares in the search and display businesses, which accounts for the majority of its revenue.

    The Google holding company would also own majority shares in private subsidiaries, each representing an initiative like Google Docs, YouTube, Gmail, a mobile subsidiary composed of Android software and mobile ads, and so on. Employees would receive options in their subsidiary, with an eye to IPOs when they become profitable enough. Provided the IPO markets remain friendly in coming years, this could be a strong incentive for these initiatives to deliver profits.

    Another subsidiary could be focused on what is now Google Labs, an incubator of innovative projects funded by Google early on. Once employees nurture ideas into projects in Labs that grow into viable, standalone companies, they receive founders shares in that new startup.

    In short, Google the holding company would oversee a keiretsu -- a network of independent companies with interlocking interests, infrastructure and shareholdings. Many of the independent companies may not be, strictly speaking, startups but they would be a lot closer to startups than what Google offers now.

    Software engineering is at heart a creative profession. Success isn't measured through box-office sales or the number of books in print, but in how people respond to your work, how they incorporate it into their daily lives. Of course, such intangibles are hard to quantify, so in Silicon Valley's venture capital-steeped culture, achievement is often measured through financial metrics: revenue growth, profit margins, market value.

    This isn't to say that all engineers are driven purely by avarice. Garden-variety greed may be as common in Silicon Valley as it is elsewhere, but financial success is also an indisputable yardstick for achievement. In 2010, nothing silenced Facebook's critics quite as effectively as reports of a $50 billion valuation. Google's market cap has vacillated between $130 billion and $180 billion for the past five years.

    Beyond compensation, a Google breakup could also address some of the cultural issues that former executives and engineers have complained about. Promising ideas are less likely to get lost in the company's conglomerate morass, as happened with acquisitions like Dodgeball. Google could even bring outside startups into its fold without buying the entire company, but simply by investing in a stake big enough to incorporate the startup into its keiretsu.

    If these aren't enough reasons for a breakup, here's one more. If Google doesn't do something dramatic, it risks an inevitable evolution toward the bloated, sedentary life of a tech conglomerate. It will become another Microsoft (MSFT), trying to shape the Internet into an outdated vision of its own imagining, rather than lithely adapting to all the surprising ways the web evolves on its own. Which is what Google is best at.

    Or was best at, back when it acted like a startup.

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