Around the Dot

22 April 2007

Live from Zillion City, Russia
While waiting for the first estimates of the first round of the French presidential election, I found this fascinating article by Rupert Wingfield-Hayes on the BBC website about Russian billionaires suburbs.

Pot-pourri of the best parts:

Ever since I arrived in Russia I've heard tall stories of a secret city deep in the forests outside Moscow where the rich indulge their fantasies in sprawling palaces of marble and gold. It sounded like a good story. I didn't expect it to be true, let alone that I'd get an invite.

According to Forbes magazine Russia now has 60 billionaires. [...] Most of them live in Moscow, which, if I'm not much mistaken, makes the Russian capital home to more billionaires than any other city in the world.

It is quite a change for a place that 15 years ago had no millionaires, let alone billionaires.

Fifteen years ago everything in Russia was owned by the state. Today a quarter of Russia's economy is owned by 36 men.

While the whole story about how Russia's riches have ended up in the hands of only a few is definitely not funny, the life of these multi-billion families would make a great reality TV show à la Real Desperate Housewives of the Orange County.

10 April 2007

Mr. Robot, give me a Job
"Mr Robot, give me a job". That's what you'll need to sing using the air of "Mr. Sandman" to get a job at Google and other large companies pretty soon.

I found this article published in January in the New York Time burried deep in my Factiva feeds by cleaning up this week-end: Google Answer To Filling Jobs Is an Algorithm! In short:

Have you ever made a profit from a catering business or dog walking? Do you prefer to work alone or in groups? Have you ever set a world record in anything?

The right answers could help get you a job at Google.

Google has always wanted to hire people with straight-A report cards and double 800s on their SATs. Now, like an Ivy League school, it is starting to look for more well-rounded candidates, like those who have published books or started their own clubs.

Desperate to hire more engineers and sales representatives to staff its rapidly growing search and advertising business, Google -- in typical eccentric fashion -- has created an automated way to search for talent among the more than 100,000 job applications it receives each month. It is starting to ask job applicants to fill out an elaborate online survey that explores their attitudes, behavior, personality and biographical details going back to high school.

The questions range from the age when applicants first got excited about computers to whether they have ever tutored or ever established a nonprofit organization.

The answers are fed into a series of formulas created by Google's mathematicians that calculate a score -- from zero to 100 -- meant to predict how well a person will fit into its chaotic and competitive culture.

Sounds typical Google and quite a good idea. I must say I'd do the same if I was receiving 100,000 resume a month. I guess it's pretty common for tech companies to solve their own problems with their own solutions - we used to automate quite a lot at SafeLogic like the tools to write generic code, etc.

As Google also has a nice habit of making public some of their best internal products (like Gmail), here are my two cents:

  1. There is now a lot that you can use from Google as a SME to solve your common issues with online tools for free (Gmail, Calendar, Blogger, Maps, Adsense...)

  2. I wouldn't be surprised if their solution for CV/profile filtering evolved in a beta (of course, if you catch my drift) public product for recruiting to complement their suite of small business applications.
On that same note, Wired's Fred Vogelstein also digged an old (2005) interview from Google CEO Eric Schmidt (I wasn't the only one dusting over the week-end). It gives a great insight into this "build-it-yourself culture" which I think is typical of most tech ventures and is best exemplified by Google:

How did you convince [Larry and Sergey] that this (inviting other executives to Google, soliciting their management advice, and installing a more systematic approach to running the company) was agood idea?

I don't know. When I came here, I came because I liked Larry and Sergey. It was an interesting little company. I had no idea it would be successful. It was not broken. But we needed leadership.

For example, we had an accounting system which was an Intuit based system designed for five users, and they were using it for 20 people. It was too slow to use, so I suggested that they implement an Oracle system. It was a huge crisis. We ended up spending $100,000 for this. Larry and Sergey nearly had a cow over it (because they thought it was so expensive). A hundred thousand dollars is the cheapest Oracle system ever implemented in history I think.

How did you convince them that you needed to do this?

Well, it was actually very interesting. Larry and Sergey suggested that we should build our own, because most of the existing accounting systems weren't any good. And I said, "I'm sure that's true, but you'll never get it audited," And I thought that was a pretty clever argument. The auditors would never pass financials (generated out of software) that we built ourselves. And Larry and Sergey today will complain about the Oracle system, but they'll also say "We had to get one that was auditable."

I've always said that if the company were founded today on an empty lot, we would build the buildings brick by brick. We can't imagine someone else building our buildings, we'd have to build it ourselves. This is a build-it-yourself culture. The good news is there's no free land, and so we have to rent the buildings, rather than build them.But the culture is around building things.

(through Paul Kedroski's excellent blog)

02 April 2007

The Future? Velocity is the new black
Well, my last post was about Lovemarks. Let's go on with a bit more on Saatchi's CEO, Kevin Roberts - not that I'm looking at a job there...

Interesting post on Mr. Roberts' blog about a speach he gave at a Youth Marketing event. The "10 things [he] said about the future young people are creating" make for an interesting view of a quite entrepreneurial tomorrow, including:

6. The future is uninhibited. Fail fast, fix fast. Most importantly, just do it. Velocity is the new black.

Close runner-ups as my personal favourite:

3. The future is open.
10. The future cares.

That's official: I love Blogger
I was visiting Lovemarks,Saatchi & Saatchi's CEO pet project, sometime last week and noticed Blogger wasn't on there. Even though I sometimes write bad things about Google on this blog, I would find the Internet pretty much useless without Blogger and Gmail! So I nominated the big orange rounded-corner square with the odd 'B'...

... and my entry has even been picked up in the Lovemarks Top-5 and newsletter. So why the love? Well, let's see what I had to say.

Blogger I started my blog in 2003 and since then, I have not found a more convenient, yet good-looking, tool to post my stories. I'm a nomad and Blogger is always there when I need to share a "post" - on my laptop at home in Paris, London or Sydney as well as in the most remote web bar in Arizona, Mexico or Bangkok. So, it's a great link with my family and friends who can read what I'm up to. Besides, as a fanatic reader of blogs, I appreciate the whole user-generated content trend that Blogger contributed to start and is still fueling.

Pretty cheesy? Ok, but still true!

Other thought: if it wasn't for the top-5 page, I wonder whether the inclusion of my nomination in the newsletter could be a subtle marketing ploy... including anyone's recent review when sending the newsletter so that people feel like superstar, go back on the site and invite more friends... That'd be interesting. :)