Google’s next big plays: clean energy and gaming

Doug Edwards became Google employee number 59 when he joined in 1999. Real Business caught up to sound him out on Google’s future.

He thinks Google’s next big innovations will be in renewable energy and gaming, rather than anything to do with search.

“There’s definitely a big focus on energy, which is extremely important to Google. It’s so core to the business,” Edwards says. “People underestimate how much it takes to run data centres and just how many Google have – if they can develop new technologies to shave off some of the cost of running them, it would have a huge impact on the business’s bottom line.”

Presumably this technology could also be sold to other large data centre users, creating a new revenue stream for the search giant.

But that’s not all – Edwards expects Google to move into the gaming space too. “Gaming is also important for Google, it’s set to become a massive sector. 

“They’ll definitely get into this space, but I’m curious to see if they manage to do anything different with gaming. I’d like them to develop gaming as an interface for acquiring knowledge.”

Google’s alternative approach to innovation is what has made the company so successful. This is the at the heart of its entrepreneurial culture. “Google allows its employees to work across department lines, beyond the boundaries of their job descriptions. If you find a problem, you fix it. This is the notion that defines an entrepreneurial organisation, no matter its size.”

This was one of the key lessons Doug Edwards took away from Google – it isn’t enough to say something is broken, you need to say “this is broken, and I am going to fix it”.

Doug Edwards remained with Google, as brand manager, until 2005; a point when the time was right for him to leave the business.

Five years and four months is “a lifetime” in Silicon Valley, says Edwards, and it was the right time for him to get out of the company and spend more time with his family. 

Five years later – after taking some time off and working with not-for-profits – Doug Edwards is publishing a book about his career at Google. It was time to “exorcise Google from my brain”, he says.

“I wanted to tell the story behind the technology that everyone is using every day. I’ve had a lot of stories bouncing around in my head – every time I go online, or turn on the TV, all I see is Google, Google, Google. I finally decided to write everything down, just to get it out of my head.”

The book – I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 (published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) – is out now, and offers superb insight into what it was like to work at what has become one of the most important companies of our time. 

Our final question: where does he see Google in 50 years? 

“You won’t recognise the company – you won’t even remember that Google started as a search engine. Especially with Larry in charge. This is a guy who has an enormous long-reaching vision of what technology can become. Google will just be unrecognisable.”

We’ve got a signed copy of Doug Edwards’ book, “I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59″, to give away to a lucky Real Business reader. Email me with your contact details to enter the draw.

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