The biggest difference between Google and Uber, from an exec who's worked at both

Jillian D'Onfro

There's a lot of Google blood at Uber.

At least that's one of the first things that former Google Express founder Tom Fallows noticed when he joined as the startup's director of global expansion products last November. 

"One out of three people is a former Google colleague," Fallows said on stage at a recent StrictlyVC event. 

That stat is likely an exaggeration (for an imperfect fact-check, there's roughly 3,000 employees at Uber according to a recent company announcement compared to 184 people who came from Google, according to LinkedIn's search feature), but even more interesting than the crossover between the two companies is what Fallows highlighted as the biggest difference.  

Via Fallows:

"In my first couple of weeks, we’d be talking about a new feature and inevitably in that conversation, the question would arise: 'How long would this take to get out?' And someone would say, 'I think it’ll be two to three . . .' And in my head, I’d just default, think weeks. And they’d finish, '…days.' And I think, what?"

Google, despite its many startup sensibilities, is a huge company with upwards of 50,000 people. It can't be as nimble as it used to be. With Google Express, Fallows dealt with "multi-week review cycles," meaning that product iterations just couldn't launch in a few days, like they can at Uber. The car-on-demand startup is just celebrating its fifth birthday, while Google's search engine has been spitting out results for about 17 years. 

"You get the feeling that nearly everything trickles up to Larry Page at Google," Fallows interviewer said. 

At Uber, however, Travis Kalanick doesn't have to sign off on product launches. Every product manager launches their project when they think they're ready and accepts all the consequences themselves. 

"It’s a very intentional, constructive environment, and it’s a bet, and you get mostly great outcomes in terms of speed," Fallows says. "And sometimes you stumble because, well, safety checks are put in place for good reasons at good companies."

Read the rest of the StrictlyVC interview with Fallows here

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