tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg November 19, 2016 1:00pm-1:31pm EST
>> would you fix your taiex oh >> people wouldn't recognize me. myself at consider journalist. nobody else would consider myself a journalist. i began taking on the life of being an interviewer. how do you define leadership? what is it that makes somebody tech? when you joined google, it was a very small company. did you ever imagine it would be the second most valuable company in the entire world? >> i certainly did not. they seemed incredibly intelligent. i haven't had that good of an
argument in a long time. i wanted a company that would stay in a long building. you're the ceo at the time you were getting ready to go to google. culture to pick google? is nevertheless go pick surrogate. i just had to be there. >> search engines were not novel at the time. why did you think google had a search engine that would change the world? was thought technology unusually special. they had invented a different way of doing rankings. all the previous engines had done rankings that were easily
manipulated. larry page had invented the page rank. and it spread virally. and it was all word-of-mouth. google existed before and it google intentionally spell as? >> verizon number called 10 to the 100s. this is a very large number. and it was named by a russian mathematician. and it was hard to pronounce. so they decided it should be pronounced google. david: today the company is not called google anymore but it is called alphabet. why did they pick google
as the original name and why did you change it to alphabet in terms of the parent? eric: google has always done different things. after 15 years, the role of these other companies that were proto-companies. we talked internally at great length about, how do you get great companies founded? the answer is strong ceos, incentive programs, boards of directors. there are other problems out of the creek create that within the context of google? that is what alphabet is. it is a holding company of which google is the best known. david: many technology companies that are well known apple, microsoft, the ceos are the founders. you had a different situation. you had two people that were the founders, but they want to the ceo with more experience. was it awkward to come in and be the ceo when you are dealing with the founders that do not have the ceo title? eric: in their case they had been searching for someone to
work with for 16 months. they would have each of the candidates do something with them for the weekend, so they would go skiing with one of them in the go play sports with the other want to see if they were compatible. when i met them, we all have similar backgrounds as computer scientists but it was an immediate click. i always knew what happened with steve jobs it was their company and my job was to make their company successful. david: when you were interviewed, was it the normal interview? eric: i walked into their office and it was a tiny office in this incredibly crowded building, which google still has by the way, and this tiny little office they have a lot of food in my biography on the wall. they proceeded to ask each and every question that was possible against the biography.
i had never been so thoroughly questioned and i just gone to visit. they came to a product i was building at novell and they said, this is the stupidest product ever made. i had to respond to that. david: you did not think you are going to get the job? eric: i did not realize it was a job interview. as i left the building which was curiously a building i had when i worked at the sun years earlier, to show you how history repeats itself, i knew i would be back. david: when you did come back, a small company when you joined, did you realize that advertising would be the medium to which you would actually make the company grow? eric: no, i was convinced the advertising approach they took were not work. when i was ceo i was very concerned that something was wrong and i asked them to audit the cash accounts to make sure people selling these ads and what we learned was these target ads worked incredibly well, even though they were these little text ads and that discovery and in the subsequent algorithm improvements which allowed for auction and so forth, which were done by a possibly young a -- and creative engineers who i saw
reviewed is experimenting with things, created what is today google. david: the culture was unusual at the time. others later did but it is a culture of do what you want, where what you want, sleep in the office if you want. eric: we do have a dress code. you have to wear something. david: ok. eric: we have problems where engineers would move in and put cots on the floor and we would explain, you can do anything you want but you cannot live here. you have to have a bed somewhere else. we famously encourage people to bring pets. we had a lot of rules about the pets but no rules about the people. you had keep your pet over here. david: what about the food? free free for everybody. what was the purpose? eric: the comment was the free food changed everything but the real reason we had free food is because many of these things are marketed, but there was a serious behind them. in the case of the food,
families eat dinner together and he wanted the company to be a family, and so if you had people with proper, good food, breakfast, lunch and dinner. they would literally work and eat and work in whatever way made the most sense. larry invented something called 20% and the idea is for each of the employees, especially the engineers, if they are interested in something, they can spend 20% of the time on whatever they are interested in. david: how could you run a company that way? eric: that allowed the engineers to have conversations about what you think? anything? i will give you another example, larry page was looking at our ads as they came out and he had studied them and he put a big sign on the wall and he wrote
"these ads suck." i was looking at this and i said, this is another stupid thing. you have an ad steam, a manager, a plan. so, this was friday afternoon. i come in monday morning and a completely different set of teams had seen the sign, and had invented over the weekend what today is the underlying outline of google and delivered it on monday morning. that could not have occurred without such culture. david: 20% time, have you got be businesses that came out of the 20% time? eric: two most interesting examples are maps, the at system components. most people believe the 20% time is the source and re-creativity and what is a large company. david: one time i think you told me previously that you were out of the office and then you can -- came back to your office and somebody had occupied your office. eric: it is important to remember that at the time
google's culture was seen as unusual and i knew this and i was always careful to not commit a faux pas in a culture. one morning i walked in and my assistant has this look on her face, like something that has happened. i walk into my office which is 18 feet by 12 feet and here is my new roommate. he has moved himself in it is working and so forth. i did not know i was going to have a new roommate as i am the ceo. i want you to tell me these things. i said, hello, who are you? i go, ok. he goes, nice to meet you. i said, why are you here? he goes, your office was not occupied. you are never here and i was in the six person office and it is too loud.
i thought, what to say to this? if i say, get out of my office, they are going to fire me or something. i thought, ok. did you ask permission? he goes, yes, i asked my boss and he said it was a great idea. i said, ok. we sat next to each other. he would program and i would do my work, literally next to each other for a year and we became best friends. david: do you think united states government is better at cyber terrorism than other governments are against us? eric: the one i worry the most about is russia. they are not shy about it. ♪
your father was an engineering professor? eric: international economics. david: you grew up in virginia? eric: yes. david: what made you want to be an engineer? eric: i was a boy at the time of the space program where everyone wanted to be an astronaut. in my high school they had a terminal with paper tape and my father had the good thought to get one for our house which is highly unusual at the time, so i was spent every easy working in reprogramming. today, if i was a 15-year-old home i would have five personal computers and the super network and a sound blaring out of the speakers. david: you went to high school in virginia, must've done pretty well to get into princeton? eric: well, it was easier back then. david: you knew you wanted to be an engineer at princeton? eric: i actually applied as an architect and when i got to princeton i discovered i was not a very good architect but i was a much better programmer. princeton was kind and that i was advanced enough that i could be able to skip the introductory courses and go straight into the advanced courses in the graduate courses.
david: you must've done pretty well because then you got a scholarship to go to berkeley and get your phd. was it hard to move across the country? eric: no, but to give you an example of how naive people were back then, i decided i wanted to move to california because i heard it was nice and sunny beaches but of course i went to the wrong part. this is of course before google maps. i worked at bell labs where you next which is the basics of computing today, i was a junior programmer and i worked at xerox for the workstation and screens and many of the editors and many of the networking things were invented. i was unusually fortunate to be as a young person, and this is to doing that kind of research. from there i would work on micros systems. david: from there you were recruited to novell? eric: i was at sun for 14 years, google for 16 plus. david: as the company became
bigger and bigger, it dominated the search business, 90%, more or less. why did google say, we want to do other things. we do not want to just be in the search business. let's talk about a few of them. eric: google's motto was not only search the web, but all of the world's information. the company set out with all of the hiring we will able to do and begin to solve problems and became very interested in maps. developing their own maps and was hugely successful. we bought a company called youtube which is incredibly successful today, another form of information. i can go on and on. in some cases we bought little companies that we grew like google earth. and in some cases these were technologies we grew ourselves. the whole idea was to integrate around information.
at some point for five years ago, it became interested in solving other problems, not just information problems but problems for digital technology could make a material difference. eric: the most obvious is self driving cars. we have been working on that as a research project. david: you feel safe when you are driving? eric: i get on the car on the highway in california and it is driving and i decided, it is following too close and i complained to the engineer who said, no, no we are exactly right and of course they got it right. it gets off of the freeway and parks itself and all of that. in another case, i am driving, non-driving in the self driving car and it turns left with a mother and a child crossing the street illegally. i am going, oh no this is the movie we see, and it stops. the technology works. it works because it has a very powerful laser imager which sees more accurately than we do.
imagine a car that has vision all around it than just in front of it. with more than 32,000 people scheduled to die this year in america, we just do not know who they are. that is how bad this is. imagine if we could reduce it by half or one third or one quarter. most of the accidents are driver induced. we may be able to make driving accidents a very rare event. david: you have been involved in artificial intelligence better known as ai. is it dangerous for humans or is it going to be helpful? eric: i would say this is extraordinarily useful. let me give you examples. today, artificial intelligence is being used to do things which are hard for humans to do which is data. there is a disease called diabetic neuropathy. we can detect that 99% of the
time. why are we so good at it? we see more eyes. we can train the computer. there is a lot of reason to think this kind of intelligence will allow things which are either repetitive or require deep pattern analysis will be much, much better. david: do you think the united states government is better at cyber terrorism than other governments are against us? eric: u.s. government has never acknowledged it plays an active role in cyberspace and is active offensively, although the people who might be our targets certainly claim we have been doing this. the consensus of people that do not know any of the details, which includes me, is america is very good at this, but other countries are as well. the one i worry the most about right now is actually russia. if you look at their actions,
they have done a number of very publicized invasions, tax and alterations which can only be understood as cyber activity and they are not shy about it. they do not mind people knowing about it. this must be part of their strategy. david: the europeans seem to not like google as much as americans do. have you resolved those issues with europe? eric: the core issue is the european governance model is not set up to build global companies. ♪
david: a few years ago you gave up the position of ceo. you were ceo for a decade. now you are the executive chairman of alphabet. in that role, you have become a technology advisor to the president of the united states, secretary of defense and the well-known commentator and advisor on technology to many people. do you enjoy this role? eric: i do. it is important in life as you get older to not do the same thing your entire life. there are better people now doing the work i used to do and this is something i can uniquely do because of the background i have. it is always hard to know when to get off the stage and join the next stage, but from my perspective, this is the right time and a decade is a perfectly good amount of time. david: you have been an advisor
to president obama. is he a person that understands technology? eric: he does now. when he started, i do not think he knew a lot about technology but he educated himself a lot. he appointed a group of scientist advisors and two spent a lot of time listening to these signs, the impact of technology and he is also become very successful and popular in the new forms of social media. remember that today, the five most successful companies or technology companies. it is not just an interesting thing but a core growth of share growth and financial growth. david: i assume they are apple, google, facebook, microsoft and amazon. eric: that is correct. david: it seems when you pick up the paper, they all want to be the business somebody else is
in. eric: that is called competition. david: everybody wants to have driverless cars, do you expect them all to be in everybody else's business? eric: what i love about this question is, this is how it is supposed to work. people are supposed to identify business opportunities and they are supposed to produce a better product. i believe our products are better than our competitors, but our competitors keep trying and i can assure you in areas we are not quite as strong in market share, we have a new idea, you approach we want to solve the problem in a new way. in the tech industry you cannot do the exact same product as somebody else that is already there, so why would you switch? the switching cost is too high. you have to come up with a new idea, new approach.
for us, we have decided the new idea is the use of machine intelligence to be an assistant. everything we are doing will make you smarter because it anticipates and helps you and make suggestions. larry says this is going from search to suggest. we want to go from you telling us what you are searching for to make suggestions for what you are interested in. david: you have been a visible spokesperson for google around the world. let's talk about europe. the europeans seem to not like google as much as maybe because it is american company. have you resolved those issues? eric: we have not been able to resolve those issues in europe. we have more than 10,000 employees in europe and love europeans. they are incredibly smart, capable. many of the products you use in america were developed partially or completely in europe. the core issue i think for the european governance model and
with the universities are set up, venture capital is not yet set up right, not set up for these global companies. they have every piece, every tool that they need. they have the people, the discipline, the educational system but they have not congealed it together. we are furthermore funding a number of innovation banks and also doing our own venture capitals. we need europe to be more competitive against the american companies. david: one of the effects of building a successful company is that you have made a fair a lot of money by any normal human standard, but it is hard to spend that amount of money in your lifetime. what have you decided to do with it? eric: i am most interested in climate change and science. science is what has gotten us to this point, and so my philanthropy has been focused on the underlying issues around
environmental causes, philanthropy and oceanography. oceanography is interesting because there is almost no private philanthropy in it and yet there is a mass extinction going on in the ocean where we are losing most of the current lifeforms. 70% of the world's humans are dependent for fish for daily food. all of the carbon we put into the air goes into the ocean, so even small changes in how the ocean works could have debilitating impacts on society. david: what would you like to do in the next 10 years and what would you hopefully like to have as your legacy? eric: hopefully i do not need to answer the legacy question any time soon, but from my perspective what i'm doing now is the most interesting. i do not want to work in any government. i have seen government up close to know that i'm not a government person but i would like to make sure that the governments around the world promote technology, innovation and make the world a better place. i am very concerned this is happening so quickly that governments, which are designed to move slowly will either miss out on opportunities or worse, pass laws that prevent things from happening. every once in a while we will have a near miss so i like working on that. i personally believe the learning and ai technology is going to be transformative and
far deeper. david: you are a leader in the science and technology world. do you think leaders are born, educated? eric: leadership is a little bit of both. you have to have some skills but it can certainly be learned. i also believe as leaders you need to do something very well. that sort of stereotype of a general manager is not how the world works today. now the managers are uniquely good at something and then they learn other things. i do not think it matters for you start but i think you need to be incredibly good at that one thing and then you broaden in your skills. discipline, hard work and loving what you do will get you very far. ♪
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