CXO

Play it loud: Google employee 59 on the Bob Dylan attitude of Google's early days

Interview: Doug Edwards, author of <em>I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59</em>...

Doug Edwards

Doug Edwards was Google's employee number 59, joining the company's marketing team in 1999Photo: Doug Edwards

When folk singer Bob Dylan faced cries of "Judas" for playing an electric guitar during his 1966 world tour, he famously turned to his band and told them to "play it f*cking loud".

Three decades later that same attitude would propel Google to become one of the world's largest internet companies, with an annual turnover of more than $30bn.

The analogy between Google and Dylan comes from Douglas Edwards who, as one of Google's early employees, found himself expected to "play f*cking loud", no matter how much Google's business strategy flew in the face of accepted wisdom.

Edwards was employee number 59, joining Google's marketing team in 1999 - just three years after Stanford engineering graduates Larry Page and Sergey Brin decided to turn their PhD research project into a Silicon Valley start-up.

Specifically, it's Page that Edwards compares to Dylan - linking the men through their unquestioning belief that they are doing the right thing and their conviction that the rest of the world will fall in step behind them.

"That's Larry Page - if people don't get it, he knows he's right and he just turns to the band and says, 'Play f*cking loud'," said Edwards, whose book on the company's early days, I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59, was published last month.

'Just do it' was Google's modus operandi in those early days - get an idea out the door and then test it to see if it works, no matter how many people told you it couldn't be done.

This iconoclastic approach allowed Google to squeeze operating costs extremely tightly - cramming 1,500 servers into a datacentre cage that normally held 50 machines - and to adopt new business models - such as selling user-generated ads against search keywords - that secured its multibillion-dollar ad revenues.

During Edwards' six years with Google, the moment that perhaps best embodies the company's refusal to set limits on what it could achieve was its decision in 2000 to...

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Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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