Reading this, his compensation is the least amazing part. If this article is true, it should have been titled "A Story Of Competence". Does anyone have any doubt the guy is generating Google this money many times over? It's simple math. It has nothing to do with curing cancer, economical equality or anything else. He's something that's worth X and pays back many X.
I can understand why this comes as a shock to some; it may be difficult to accept that another person doing his 9-5 job can bring so much value to a company. I always suspected such value creators exist (Jobs would be one).
So good for him for delivering, and good for Google for acknowledging and compensating accordingly. And good for me too; I'm taking my first steps as an advertiser with Google and I'm really liking what I'm finding so far.
I think the compensation is the most amazing part. There are so many competent people out there generating many multiples of value for their employers that it's surprising he's not getting screwed like the rest. That is, that Google recognizes and compensates him for his competence is the "man bites dog" aspect of this story.
People sometimes find it difficult to understand that some people are actually worth the astronomical figures they are paid. When we hear about the big pay day it's easy to focus on that number what not what was done to earn it.
True, and it's way easier to accept how someone is a successful businessman or a stakeholder in a company, than it is to accept that someone may be actually producing this kind of value on a personal level. It's easy to imagine how some trader did some wheeling and dealing for a quick buck or how someone with shrewd instincts made a profitable investment, but it's very difficult to imagine how someone creates all this value by himself, day in day out; how someone stands out like this in an organization like Google, which is both an intellectual powerhouse and far removed from the compensation culture in the finance sector - this is even more difficult to accept.
Maybe that's why people pick on CEO salaries but stay silent on the shareholder profits from the very same corporations. You can imagine 100 million dollars of oil barrels or real estate, but you can't imagine a 100 million dollars mind.
It really is a hard concept to grasp. It's one thing to have grand plans for a business. It's another thing entirely to be able to communicate those plans effectively to all of the people who will be needed to make sure the plan is properly executed. People who can do this successfully deserve everything they are given in my opinion.
I work for Google and don't think anyone alone can bring this amount of value alone, knowing well that every decision is taken very collectively. There are some many in this article that doesn't fit Google's work culture.
knowing well that every decision is taken very collectively. There are some many in this article that doesn't fit Google's work culture.
So you have a company wide vote on major decisions? That's very interesting. How did you vote on buying Motorola or replacing Yelp and other local results with Google Local? What about Google+ being added to everything?
Acquisitions are not everyday's issues, usually beyond L6 and above comments, but sometimes it'll only visible to execs. But certain topics such as "What about Google+ being added to everything?" are actively in discussion.
Disclaimer: I have never worked with Neal Mohan and not familiar with his output. But, product decisions are taken collectively and by relying on data. Anything beyond that doesn't fit Google's culture and internally you'd have a bad time to find engineers that wants to work for you. In order to be in the genius status at Google, you have be a true inventor. We're more or less capable people and giving an impression that Google's core business is run by some 500-600 slides is ridiculous.
Being that there aren't many people with this ability, and that there are absolutely no indicators as to their performance apart from letting them do the job over a prolonged period (as many companies hiring hotshots discovered), and that the position is directly responsible for billions in revenue - I'd say that it's not realistic to expect a drop in replacement.
I find it sort of odd that people, especially on HN, would resist the idea. Many founders have earned for themselves tens or hundreds of millions of dollars through their startups (either through revenue or acquisition). And we accept C-level execs to earn this kind of money without really questioning whether they are actually worth it.
This is a classic story of really good negotiation.
Getting the very serious offer from Twitter was the best thing to happen to Neal.
I can only imagine the negotiation with Google that he must of had. It probably went on the lines of something like this -
"Hey, I really love it here at Google. I am really excited with what we are working on and want to deliver it but this Twitter offer is just something that I can't ignore. I am looking at the financial future of my family and I would be doing them a disservice if I don't consider this offer seriously. Is there anything we can do to just make this offer go away."
Neal had the upper hand. Worst-case scenario for him would be that there would be no change. He would continue to work at Google. Next best case scenario would be that he would be working at another mega-tech company, and getting better compensated with potentially even greater upside.
Google was in a position of weakness in either case. If they did nothing and he left, it would amount to even more collateral damage as others would get the message that Google can't compete and Twitter would make even more offers to others.
By paying him out, they basically paid him the opportunity cost in real dollars that he may have had if he moved to Twitter.
In all of this, Neal's professionalism would have tipped the favor on his side.
I think when you start talking about the financial future of your family, it makes more sense when you're a line employee. But when you're on a salary well into the six figures, it sounds disinegenuous (to me) to say "we're struggling here". By all means go for "hey, I'm in demand and thinking of moving - business is business", but "I'm moving because I'm concerned about my personal finances"?
But then again, I'm not the guy who does salary negotiations...
I appreciate your point of view and to some extent I definitely concur.
I think that's the difference between a professional and an amateur.
Saying something along the lines of - "hey, I'm in demand and thinking of moving - business is business" even if its true, kinda just would make any company want to kick the person to the curve. Maybe not at that moment, but believe me, that person is now on some blacklist. As IT people (and yes, I am generalizing here) we don't fully appreciate the power of being blunt without being blunt. A lot of it has to do with saving face for both sides. It's a skill I even have to work on but for the people that I have seen that are very good at it, they are very effective with their work.
It's like doing a deal with salesperson and afterwards you realize that you maybe got screwed a little bit, but gosh darn it, you still like that salesperson quite a bit. I guess this falls under charisma.
In terms of the financial future, I don't think anyone is talking about anybody struggling in these positions. I wasn't implying that in my statement. What I was implying was that given any rational person (even one with millions), having a choice between making 10x more or 5x more or staying the same, all other things equal, it would be hard to not consider the choice. Money is Money. And, one thing about people that have made the millions, they still tend to consider every dollar as important as the next, since they realize quite rightly how hard it is to make money.
It's very likely that Neal was facing this 5x-10x type of multiplier. I do think that when you are facing the 0.5x-2x multiplier than the decision does become much harder.
At the level being discussed here, I don't think it's a question of avoiding struggle, but rather of ensuring your family's wealth for generations to come. It would be difficult to turn down such an offer, especially if the work would still be interesting.
Some people might be happier if more of the hundred millionaires walked out to pillage flailing competitors. It isn't obvious that VP retention is good for morale.
But it would be cool if Larry Page said "your old org, from intern to director, says you are the the grease in our money machine, we will always pay you more than any one else would offer, and we want you to find out how high we can reward you"
I find this fascinating. It almost smacks of game theory. A land-mined game of incentives, anyway.
Think of the sheer amount of considerations that go into a decision like this. Higher-ups at Google must acknowledge:
* Offering someone an enormous sum only after someone else has made you an offer can be off-putting. Consider the many articles written about never making counter offers, or never accepting them.
* Along the same lines, if you're not offered a large enough sum to stay, you might take it as an insult. "They're only offering me this much money after I've considered leaving?" Google certainly made sure the sum was large enough, by any count.
* Offering an enormous sum to one person may tempt others to fish out offers from other companies. Others may feel like they're never going to get a raise unless they are courting or being courted actively.
* Google's decision-makers (or check-writers) have to be careful about the number picked. They want to send a message to the person, and to other companies, and to the market. But they probably don't want to end up paying $100m for every high value employee. Luckily for Google, if its gonna be a cash arms-race against other companies, there are few that can do serious battle with them.
* Speaking of high value employees, while you might get person A to stay, you make make resentful group B. After all, there's already a comment here: "It's only a matter of time before us little developers get's similar packages!" It's not a stretch for anyone to sympathize with that view.
And then, at the end of all that, people in a room pursed their lips together and quietly nodded while somebody pulled out the (metaphorical) checkbook. This guy is staying, it's going to be this much money, and we're going to make it purposefully public knowledge. Signals everywhere.
It seems to be a dangerous game. Others may (as a default) suddenly feel unappreciated since Google hasn't made them an offer to keep being a Googler, and perhaps hasn't approached them with any considerable raise in some time. 100 million ensures that you keep a single employee, but how many do you alienate at the same time?
Hard to blame Google's decision, I'm sure they gave it much more thought than I have. I wish I could know what they're thinking, it's just so fascinating what goes into this.
Google is safe offering him $100M without offending the other employees, because the other employees at that level at Google already earn that much, if not more.
Giving him $100M was more of a correction because he arrived at the company later than the other equiv execs. Most of the top tiers of employees at Google, which is where he would be, are worth hundreds or millions and more through vested stock, new options, bonuses, etc.
I find that very hard to believe. I'm ok with the talk about hackers being 10x more productive than regular developers. But a $100m bonus would mean that guy is about 1000 times more valuable than the average. It defies common sense in every way. And it's not just because I'm jealous and resentful I'm thinking that, no ones time is that valuable.
A person making decisions that may lose $100 million or make a $100 million profit can be thought as "1000 times more productive", because large losses/profit depend on his actions.
Of course the average software engineer at Google can't make similar decisions, so they can't be worth that much even in theory (unless they happen to invent something revolutionary).
So my point is that yes, CEOs can be "worth" thousands of times the salaries of the average employee, but that's not fundamentally about the skills of the CEO, but because the CEO happens to be in a position where his choices/strategy/etc have extremely large consequences. (In this example Mohan is not CEO though, but makes similar choices that a CEO does).
A real world example would be Stephen Elop at Nokia: some say that he has made Nokia lose billions of dollars, when another CEO might have made Nokia save that money.
Why stop at $100M? A company worth $250B could justify $50B salaries following this argument. And the same exact argument can justify outrageous salaries for traders who gamble huge amount of money that's not theirs. Yes, large losses/profits depend on their actions but it's unclear how much of that depends on their skills. A lot has to do with chance or market dynamics that nobody really grasps. And if they win, they win big bonuses, but if they lose, at worst they lose their job.
For traders, Daniel Kahneman has shown that they have no skills whatsoever (see http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/magazine/dont-blink-the-ha...). I do believe that CEOs have some skills but the expected value of these skills is much lower than the potential impact of their decisions. Having been a company owner, I have learned that how CEO decisions are executed (by all the other people in the company who don't make outrageous salaries) is often much more important than the decisions themselves.
That seems to say that stock pickers and fund advisors have no skills, not very much about professional traders. whatsoever. I've read some stuff that said that the military has studied pit traders at NYMEX due to their skill in handling vast amounts of information and making split second decisions on it.
You are right. I used "traders" a bit too vaguely. Kanheman's research applied more to stock pickers and wealth advisors. But I think the argument applies to all: none of these people's skills justify the 8 or 9 figure bonuses that Wall Street has been distributing.
Sure, CEO:s have a much greater impact on the company than the average employee. And they should get paid "lots," I don't disagree on that. But that's not the scale we are on here, we're talking 1000 times more productive. It's a larger difference than between peasants and the kings of feudal Europe.
Google either gets 1000 extra engineers or gets this probably really smart guy. I guess we just have to agree to disagree since there is no way to measure how valuable a CEO is. I do think that the burden of proof is upon those that think those salary differences is justifiable since "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
> A real world example would be Stephen Elop at Nokia: some say that he > has made Nokia lose billions of dollars, when another CEO might have > made Nokia save that money.
Not a good example since Symbian has been a dead end for years and Nokia has failed to make desirable smart phones. Putting all the blame on him ignores all the bad decisions all the other people at Nokia did.
Yes! My problem with the "CEOs make big decisions so they should get paid a lot" thing is that it encourages CEOs to set up companies where they make all the big decisions. And of course to draw all the attention to themselves. And to focus everybody on trying to figure out what the CEO wants, rather than what the customers want.
Contrast that with, say, 3M. The Post-it Note was a bottom-up invention. One guy came up with the adhesive. Another person figure out what to do with it. They've sold billions of dollars worth of the stuff. As far as I'm concerned, that makes the 3M CEOs much smarter than the hands-on ones. Instead of treating the company like a giant prosthesis, they created an ecology.
Well I know a dev at a major publisher recently messed up a canonical meta implimentation on a single job site and that cost over 1/2 a million £ in less than a week.
And in the past I was admin in charge of a billing system for British Telecom and when we had our first million pound month (about $5,000,000 in today's money) the CTO (one of Vint Cerf reports I believe) Nudeged me and said this had better be right or we are both out of a job :-)
Seems perfectly sensible to me. Are you telling me that there aren't developers out there who have thousands or even millions of times greater impact than an average coder? Some people write code that impacts literally millions of people (or even billions), code that generates literally billions or even trillions of dollars in value.
This isn't about productivity, it's about impact.
Google started out as a very small company and yet had many cornerstones of their core technology stack laid early. And the technology of pagerank, treating data centers as giant computers, massively automating IT operations, etc. is what allowed the company to dominate search and is a key factor behind their multi-billion dollar annual revenues of today. The people that built that technology are easily millions of times more valuable than the average coder in terms of their contributions to the world.
>Are you telling me that there aren't developers out there who have thousands or even millions of times greater impact than an average coder?
“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
Slightly off-topic, but your statement is the programmer's equivalent to that. We all want to be the developer that is a million of times more important (and end up making huge sums of money/having a worldwide impact/whatever). This argument appeals to the ego of a lot of people here I think.
The people aren't more valuable. Their contributions were more valuable.
I know plenty of Google millionaires, and they are indeed really smart. But no smarter than the other top-tier people I know. The reasonable explanation for their wealth versus equivalently good people is, depending on how you view it, either circumstance or luck.
That this guy can extract $100m from Google is certainly true, but that orthogonal to the point you were replying to, which is about it being right.
Based on a virtual napkin math based on what's in the story and GOOG's current stock price, I'm speculating the entire deal was simply "200,000 options." I'm sure he got a promotion/raise out of it as well.
$7b revenue will put you in the 300s on the Fortune 500.
Since the display ads is one of Google's high margin cash cows, would guess quite a bit higher on the list in profits.
Google has about 1/2 the earnings of JPM, about 1/3 the book value, but a larger market cap than JPM, and let's just say there's some wiggle room in what JPM reports, loan loss reserves, 'debt valuation adjustment', non-marked to market 'whale' losses, etc.
Anyway, as a shareholder I have no problem at all with that kind of pay package if it's for a legitimate superstar who could otherwise run a competitor, it's reasonably tied to performance, not guaranteed if he pulls a <name a disaster/CEO scandal>. If he's adding 0.5% of earnings growth compared to the next best candidate it's a bargain.
Article says that Goole gets 32% of that $7 billion, which is not out of line with JPM's profits on its revenue. Yeah, Google has a lot more growth potential, but on the flip side, I'd imagine Mohan isn't in the line of fire as much as the CEO of a Wall Street bank...
Point is that he's not clearly getting low-balled at that number.
very true. and if he's a legit key man and it's reasonably tied to performance, not irrational either, to match a Sheryl Sandberg type offer.
$2.2b in profit will put you in the 90s on the Fortune 500. Google is 16th in net profit margin at 25.7, JPM 49th at 17.1 . the saying is, earnings are an opinion, cash is fact.* JPM's earnings are more of an opinion than most.
Kind of a long way of describing that big company big wigs get paid a lot of money, and it isn't really a big issue because no worker bee is as irreplaceable.
He knows a lot of similarly well placed people and knows a lot of Google's business which competitors would be interested to learn about (nothing informal on paper of course), and like a tin pot dictatorship, stability is better than churn, regardless of whether the stable leaders are amazingly good or not.
Wow. Definitely, an interesting reading. And a special guy, no question about it. On the other hand, the guy didn't cure cancer. Doesn't it give anyone pause to thin that the topic of conversation is 'ads'? You know, those little annoying things you would never click, and which get in the way of your normal life.
I mean we're talking about billions of dollars. So much human talent, skill, intelligence taken away from really important things... Just sad...
I'm not about to say that this is as noble as curing cancer- but then again, the skills aren't one to one. Generally the kinds of people who are able to think at such a high level strategically for a business, have very different ways of thinking from those who do hard science. Science is slow, arduous, and full of rigor in a way that would probably make Neal into a mediocre scientist at best. Things that Neal accomplishes at Google in a week, he wouldn't see movement on as a scientist in his lifetime. They require different sorts of people.
Not to mention- while he is getting paid a monstrous sum of money, think of how many people he is also enabling to have jobs, both at Google and the businesses that use their services. The direct effect is obviously very different, but I'd bet he does a lot of good for the world in his own way.
Equally plausible to the 'providing value' theory are several possible scenarios of externalities that can't be mentioned without asbestos underwear. And as for thinking about how many jobs a person is enabling, we'll just call that the 'dear leader' argument.
Ads are also the thing that enables really amazing things to exist. Regardless of your feelings about facebook, the community it has created has had drastic impacts on the world at large. Almost the entire knowledge of humanity is now in anyone's grasp with a simple click of a button (Google). That was only possible because Google was able to make money off of it through ads. How do you propose that the internet pay for its self without ads? The whole freedom of the internet is because they can make money off of ads.
Not everyone needs to cure cancer to do something great.
What's deeply ironic is the modern internet is bankrolled by brand trademark monopolies, but programmed by a bunch of people who complain about government-granted monopolies...
There's a quote from the 1950's from a judge very skeptical of extending trademark law to the effect of "we shouldn't allow building brands too much, because then people will buy things for reasons other than product quality and that'll undermine competition in the marketplace by making products non-fungible."
I personally like monopolies, so it's cool with me, but you have to wonder what the internet would look like if Adidas sold shoes and not "footwear experiences."
 There is no profit in perfectly competitive industries, and thus no money to do cool stuff. That's why, e.g., Microsoft is so screwed. It keeps hoping for innovation out of companies like Acer, Lenovo, Asus, etc, that have profit margins of just a few %.
'cure cancer' was just a placeholder for anything of greater importance to the human condition. However, maybe you are onto something. Maybe ads are indeed the lifeblood of the new interconnected, networked world of century 21 and beyond. I guess nobody figured out a better way to sustain life on the 'internets'. Yet...
This guy facilitated the ads that support google's wide range of quality services given free to anyone anywhere in the world. Google maps alone has had a positive humanitarian impact to a great many people. It's not the stereotypical marketing exec in an advertising company that only makes adverts.
Find a way to cure cancer while serving ads and you'll be both rich and famous.
EDIT: This sounds snarkier than I meant it to, sorry. I agree that there are many things that I look at and I think "This is nuts!" - like how cheap products are that get mass produced in China. Someone gets oil from a deep sea well; refines it, turns it into plastic, ships it to a factory, who do stuff with it, put it in a box, put all those into other boxes, ship it, distribute it locally, someone takes all the little boxes out of the big boxes and puts them on display, and I can buy this for a couple of dollars.
Yes, it's weird that we spend millions on Barbie dolls, and not so much on cancer or malaria or HIV or hunger.
If you compare this with full professorship (academic tenure), that will cost the university about $4 million (assuming $60k/yr - probably $6-7 million if the university is upper echelon). So conservatively this is 10-15x what tenure is.
Neal Mohan sounds like the business equivalent of Jeff Dean 
I think the GP is saying that a tenured professor typically has the option of a wide range of job freedom. You work on pretty much what you want and when you want. The GP is contrasting this with being the head of advertising at Google, which one might guess is fairly demanding.
It's only paper, and Google is under the spotlight for anti-poaching collusion. This story makes them look like in-demand workers benefit from their policies rather than the worker just laboring away unaware that other companies have already agreed with Google not to try to hire him away.
Sounds like the kind of document that the distribution of would be tightly controlled. It was probably shown to select people, but not actually emailed to anyone. You get to see the slides, but you don't get a copy.
Not really. I have been curious on what kind of compensation Paul Buchheit obtained for his creation of gmail and adsense, the former being the one of the two GOOG services I depend on daily, the latter built the empire financially. I am pretty sure that that amount could be far lower than $100M, which is a very depressive fact for our programmers.
The article makes a point to say that he started with a job that paid a "humble" $60,000 per year in 1997. Based on my quick and dirty run on wolfram alpha, that is the equivalent to $120,000 per year today. Not so much of a humble beginning for a second job out of college.
That is the same salary I was being paid as my second job out of college at WebLogic in San Francisco in Dec 1996. It was a step down from the consulting company I had come from in Chicago but so much better!
Step 1 is to be really fucking good at your job, whatever that job is. Ideally that job would be in a unit that is directly responsible for driving revenue growth. That will probably lead to you becoming an executive at some point, but that would be a symptom of your success, a necessary evil, not the starting point.
Especially in a company like Google, which has a cultural disdain for empty suits, if your goal is to "become an executive" you'd never find yourself in his position.
I've always been curious what display advertising is and how it generates so much revenue for Google. Are there any good resources to learn more about what exactly goes on behind the scenes? Do those little ads on my gmail sidebar really create billions in wealth? Or is there some super secret illuminati-esque subliminal advertising going on?
It's distinguished from search-based advertising (e.g. adwords). It's basically just ordinary online advertising, and there are a great many different ad networks out there already. However, google's network has been gaining a huge amount of traction recently and took the top spot in marketshare within the last year or so, even pulling ahead of Facebook. In total these sorts of ads are worth around $2 billion a year in revenue for google but both the size of the market and google's share of it are growing at double digit rates so google's revenue from it is likely to double within the next few years.
I'm thinking either this story is entirely sensationalized, or Google are scared that this guy will take his roadmap and go execute it elsewhere. Like he has seen upcoming trends and Google know they have to be first to act on them. I wonder what they could be...
Nothing against this guy. If it were $1 million, or $3 million, I probably wouldn't bat an eye.
A hundred million for a non-technical executive would be OK, if engineers had basic autonomy and open allocation. Then (and only then) they'd actually be able to afford (morally speaking) a $100M payout to a non-technical executive.
Don't call yourself a technical company if engineers in the $100k-200k range can't even fucking change projects until 18 months in (and often not even then, due to a corrupt performance review system) but you're running a private welfare system for non-tech executives.
I know all about Hanlon's Razor ("never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence") but somewhere around the 5-standard-deviation incompetence level I go back to malice because 5-sigma is just awful rare. Paying a non-tech executive $100M while engineers making < 1% of that struggle to get a decent project is 8, 9 sigma at the least.
Choke on a fucking taint, Google. Choke. On. A. Taint.
(Or just implement basic autonomy/open allocation for all engineers. Then we're cool no matter what you pay your execs.)
To use an anecdote from just this morning, if you Google the terms, "google tasks android," you'll see that the inverse may also be true: Google engineers able and interested to work on something that is a no-op for mysterious reasons.