Craig Silverstein, Google’s first employee, is moving on

I’ll miss Craig Silverstein, Google’s first employee, who confirmed to me Thursday that he’s leaving Google to work for the educational beacon Khan Academy. He was always a great interview, had a great sense of humor, and seemed to be one of the relatively few people left at Google who felt free to say what he really thought about the place, on the record, warts and all, even when it came to CEO Larry Page.

He confirmed his departure in a typically irreverent email to me a few hours ago, saying:

“You’ve pretty much covered it.  It’s hard to leave Google after so
long, but I’m excited by the opportunities at Khan.  I don’t know
exactly what I’ll be doing at Khan — programming of some sort — but
I’m sure I’ll find out more next week. :-)”

A few weeks ago, I went to the Googleplex for an interview with Craig about the culture of the company, which had just been selected as the best place to work in America. Craig video-conferenced in from New York, and walked into the interview carrying a lumpy object. “Can you tell what this is?” he said, holding it out. It was bread that Craig had just baked, which he proceeded to bite into with gusto.

Craig said that he’d started baking bread at Google in the earliest days, all the way back to when Google was in Susan Wojcicki’s garage in Menlo Park. There were no good stores nearby, and Page, Silverstein and co-founder Sergey Brin didn’t want to bike or drive all the way to downtown Palo Alto, so Craig started baking bread.

Over time, Craig said, it became an important symbol of Google’s culture – not because people like fresh bread, they do – but because it was something other companies just did not do. It was a marker of Google’s uniqueness.

I can’t help but think that part of that Googley uniqueness is headed out the door with Craig’s departure.

Here’s a link to the interview I did with Craig in 2010: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_16291970

 

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  • Just met Susan Wojcicki today at SMX West. Being in the bay area in the same spot where all of the innovations of today started in garages is such an inspiration. I love the culture of Google and those little things like the bread making really does show Google’s attitude.

 
 
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