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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

December 7, 2010 at 8:49 AM

Dive Into Mobile: Google product boss, ex-landlord

SAN FRANCISCO — Day 2 of the Dive Into Mobile conference started with Susan Wojcicki, Google’s senior vice president of product development.

Wojcicki leads development of Google’s phenomenal advertising products, but she’ll probably go down in history as the person who rented the company’s founders their mythical Silicon Valley garage to start the company.

Setting the record straight, Wojcicki told host Peter Kafka that they didn’t actually start the company in the garage, but they went through it to reach the part of her house they were renting.

Wojcicki had just graduated from business school and bought the house and rented a portion of it to Google team for $1,700 per month.

“They used the garage for storage,” she said. “When they got really desperate — they got up to seven employees — one of the employees worked in the garage.”

Eventually she became employee 18 at the company, which now has some 20,000 employees, Kafka noted.

Wojcicki wouldn’t discuss the company’s reported attempts to acquire Groupon but praised the Chicago company’s model and said local coupon services could be part of Google’s pursuit of local advertising.

“Those are definitely things were thinking about and trying to figure out the right thing to offer,” she said.

Wojcicki declined to say whether the company will buy startups in the space or build its own versions of coupon and check-in services, but startups in the local advertising business are probably salivating.

One of Google’s biggest focuses now is figuring out “how Google can crack the local market,” she said.

“The local market’s a huge market. We’ve always wanted to be in it,” she said.

Kafka pressed Wojcicki on concerns about privacy.

“Google is ultimately a consumer brand,” she said, explaining that the company works to be transparent to keep consumers’ trust.

With its mobile Android operating system, the company gives new users choices about which information to share, when they first setup an Android phone. (She didn’t discuss how users are asked to change those settings when they use various applications.)

“I think there are a lot of controls that are built in for users to feel comfortable with the information that is passed,” she said.

Wojcicki is enthusiastic about the potential of mobile advertising, including services giving consumers the ability to “check in” with stores.

“Being able to close the loop is going to be a huge opportunity,” she said.

“I think mobile brings opportunity to not just bring people to a site, but to actually deliver them to a store and say, ‘This user came to this store and purchased this because of something they saw on the Internet or .. in a magazine.’ ”

Comments | Topics: Google

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