NEW YORK (
) -- Dear Larry:
There was a time -- just before you IPO'ed in 2004 -- when we really thought
was a kooky company. You put that strange letter to shareholders in your S-1. You said you wouldn't pay attention to the short-term demands of Wall Street. You set up a dual-class share structure so that none of our activist hedge fund brothers could throw you out if you did a terrible job. You said you were going to be a different kind of company.
We don't like different. It's hard to figure out. It's random. Worst of all, it suggests your margins are going to suck.
Google CEO Larry Page
Luckily, Eric Schmidt won us over. He was very articulate, if not a little professorial. He seemed to listen to our concerns and communicate back to us in a way that conveyed understanding and serious intent. In short, we liked him and our confidence was bolstered by your results since IPO.
However, since you pushed Eric out so that you could retake the CEO title, we're a little freaked out.
All those early fears of ours about a bunch of kids running this company in some haphazard way came back to us. The day you made the announcement that you were taking over for Eric, you released a picture of you, Sergey and Eric sticking your heads out of a Prius that drives itself around the Google parking lot. Driverless cars? That's in the Google R&D budget?
More recently, we've read that you're investing in wind farms in Oregon. Hundreds of millions of dollars in wind farms. Your recent quarter's results showed operating expenses up 40% because you gave everybody one-time 10% pay hikes across the board.
In short, we're seeing lots of spending and it's not at all clear how this is going to benefit us -- the shareholders.
We know you call us Wall Street people and you look down on us. You think because we're not engineers or Rhodes Scholars that we're not as smart as you. You think we're slick guys in flashy suits who don't deserve what we're paid. You put us down in private -- until you need our money.
But we've got news for you. We're not a group of fast-talking hucksters. We're investors. Some of us work in New York. Some of us trade your stock at home. Some of us work for Google in Mountain View and go home every night and look at the stock price to see how it's translated into greater or less value for their stock options.
You see, you used us -- when you needed us -- to pay for more engineers and enticing them to stay with options that would be very valuable one day (or so you promised). But now you see that you can't take something out of our pockets (stock options tied to Google's stock price) without giving us something back in return.
Larry, you need to sell us on you as a leader and the strategic direction you're going to take this company. You're a 38-year-old guy who helped start a great company. But, if we can be frank, you've never had a real job where you had to lead a mature business. Heck, you haven't even ever really had a boss to learn from. (Eric Schmidt had to suck up to you and Sergey. And your doctoral advisor and parents don't count, either.)
We, the investors, stand here not as ingrate used car salesmen with the collective attention span of gnats. We stand here as intelligent skeptics. You talk about making Google an egalitarian culture where the best ideas win out in a Darwinian fashion over others. Well, we are treating you in an equally egalitarian way. You shouldn't have a problem with that -- unless, of course, you favor crony capitalism and an Emperor-Has-No-Clothes culture at your company.
You don't get special points from us for being a co-founder and certainly not for being a billionaire. You started a great company a long time ago. What's next? What are you going to do now to succeed? Sell us. And guess what? If your ideas suck, you don't deserve the CEO title.
You think you're so brilliant? Listen. We've got news for you. We're pretty bright too. There are lots of bright people in the world and running company. One thing you need to understand: bright is not enough to successfully lead a company.
Like it or not, as CEO, you're going to have to learn to give a speech, rally the troops, show some passion, follow up on key details to execute a strategy, hire good people around you, fire bad people around you, don't piss off the good people around you that you've already hired without making them prima donnas. And you have to scare the bejeezus out of your smart executive team that, if they don't work harder and lose the attitude that they will succeed just because they work for Google, Google will fall behind its competitors.
You think you can delegate that stuff off to someone else and just focus on what most interests you? Sorry, Larry, you're not in Montessori school anymore. There are some tasks a leader can't delegate.
Last warning: if you ignore us, we will ignore you, which will mean a lower stock price. That means more of your existing talent will be attracted to Facebook's or Twitter's options than yours.
Oh, and if you think you can get around that by simply paying more cash, we suggest you look at how that's worked out so far for
Even though we're deservedly a tough crowd, let us close by saying that we'd like to see you succeed -- just the way Eric succeeded. Just eat a little humble pie, take a few PR communications classes and start selling us on your vision. We're waiting.
At the time of publication, Jackson did not hold positions in any stocks mentioned in the article.
Eric Jackson is founder and president of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd. You can follow Jackson on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ericjackson or @ericjackson