Thanks to all its money, Google is a big winner in the war for talent in Silicon Valley. The latest evidence is a story we just heard from the founder of a large, successful enterprise startup. This founder told us that his startup tried to poach a programmer currently working at Google.
The startup made the programmer what it thought was a big offer: a $500,000 salary. "He blew us off," the founder said.
The programmer told the startup thanks for the offer, but Google was currently paying him $3 million per year in cash and restricted stock units. (Restricted stock units, or "RSUs," are as good as stock in that the programmer won't have to buy them to get them.)
A compensation of $3 million per year, or even $500,000 per year, is well above the Silicon Valley average for an engineer. Recruiter Scott Purcell says the software engineers he's placing typically make a base salary of $165,000. The average base salary for a Google engineer is $128,000. But there are outliers besides our $3 million engineer. Twitter's senior vice president of engineering, Christopher Fry, earned $10.3 million last year.
Google has an industry-wide reputation for getting—and keeping—the people it wants. It's pretty impressive, for example, that Google was able to remove Andy Rubin from the top of Android and still manage to keep him inside the company, working on robots.
This is a credit to CEO Larry Page. He's made Google into a place where really bright people get to work on extremely ambitious, large-scale projects. Before he took over Google as CEO in 2011, the company was losing a lot of people to startups like Facebook and Twitter. Now, not so much.
It is also a credit to the power of money, which Google has a lot of.
Update: On Twitter, ex-Googler Hunter Walk (now a VC) warns other startups: "The *worst* way to recruit from Google is with money. For anyone really good, Google will outbid you. So you're left with the ones they don't want to retain."