Google’s CEO on the Enduring Lessons of a Quirky IPO

The Idea: When Google announced its intention to go public, in 2004, all eyes were on its unorthodox strategy. Here’s how it played out.

It happened six years ago, but I still remember every detail of our journey to becoming a public company. It was a uniquely “Googley” experience that to this day says a lot about who we are.

An IPO can change a company. Many in the media seemed certain that if we went public, the Google ethos wouldn’t survive. A public offering would be “one of the worst things that could happen to Google,” said Danny Sullivan, editor of the Search Engine Watch newsletter and a well-regarded industry commentator. People predicted that we would suddenly be divided into haves and have-nots on the basis of how many shares of Google stock each of us held. The talent would cash out and quit. A new focus on pleasing Wall Street would cause us to lose our prized objectivity and independence. Developing the infrastructure to become a public company would dull our edge. Ultimately, people feared that as Google transitioned from a bright young start-up to a mature public company, it would lose the quirky spirit that had made it so innovative.

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