Google’s very first employee—hired when the company was still working from its founders’ Stanford dorm rooms—is out of there. It came out today that after fourteen years at Google, Craig Silverstein would leave the company to work for Khan Academy, an educational startup that is itself a child of YouTube.
Craig was known for many things, but in the past few years most reporters connected with him as a mercurial commentator on Google culture. His gentle touch was instrumental in forming that culture. In the early days he would bring go around the cubicles crying out, “Bread!” and distributing loaves he’d baked himself. For the past few years he seemed to have a flexible portfolio, moving between New York and Mountain View. He was one of a surprising number of very early Googlers who, though rich enough to live like pashas without ever working again, have stuck with thecompany. Every so often one of those early employees peels off. Still, a number of the first group of employees— like Susan Wojicki (ads), Urs Hölzle (infrastructure), Salar Kamanger (YouTube), and Marissa Mayer (local) — still work long hours at key Google jobs. They can recall when just about the entire company could fit into a van for a ski trip. Now, if the Motorola Mobility deal goes through (word is that’s imminent) Google’s headcount will approach 50,000. That’s a lot of vans.
Though Craig has concentrated on culture in recent years, his technical chops were instrumental in getting the young company off the ground. A number of early employees I talked to mentioned that Silverstein’s tech prowess was one sign that the company was serious about hiring the best talent. And Craig himself was a great source for In the Plex, enduring multiple interviews.
Best of luck, Craig! Google will miss you.