Google execs explain how the company spurs innovation, kills projects

Innovation Leader editor Scott Kirsner, with Google developer advocate Don Dodge and engineering director Leonidas Kontothannasis.

Innovation Leader editor Scott Kirsner, with Google developer advocate Don Dodge and engineering director Leonidas Kontothannasis.

Google executives Don Dodge and Leonidas Kontothannasis kicked off last week’s Innovation Leader Field Study at the tech company’s Cambridge office by giving participants an inside look at deals like Google’s 2005 purchase of a small startup called Android; how employees set big goals every quarter; and why internal projects gain or lose momentum. This was our only on-the-record session at the Field Study — and it covered a lot of ground. Key points are below, or you can listen to the complete audio of the 30 minute session.

    leonidas• Google acquired a small startup called Android in 2005, which had several employees in Cambridge. That led to an outpost in Cambridge. The office now has about 1000 employees; roughly half work for ITA Software, a travel data startup that Google acquired. “At the time that Google acquired Android, it was mostly a set of PowerPoint slides,” Kontothannasis said. Dodge added, “It was the most amazing acquisition ever in the history of Google. Part of my job is looking for great companies to acquire. We don’t acquire revenue streams, typically, or products. We acquire talent. [By that standard, Android] was a great buy.”

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