The search giant's former employees are seeding tech startups—and shaping another wave of innovation
During the holidays last year, Aydin Senkut and Elad Gil gathered 50 of their friends at a health-food restaurant in Palo Alto. Over turkey burgers and tofu wraps, they talked about tech trends and how to get rich. Or, more precisely, how to get richer.
Senkut, Gil, and their dining circle are alumni of Google (GOOG), one of the greatest engines of wealth creation the U.S. has ever known. Since going public six years ago, Google has generated more than $170 billion for its employees and investors. Many of the millionaires the company has produced are young, wired into the latest developments in tech, and at ease with risk. Which explains why so many Google alums—including many of those at Senkut and Gil's gatherings—are active angel investors, attempting to add another zero to their bank accounts and another innovative company to their list of accomplishments. "I feel like we have such a strong network, it's almost like we've recreated Google outside of the Google walls," says Andrea Zurek, a 39-year-old backer of 26 startups.
More than 40 ex-Googlers have invested in about 200 fledgling companies since 2005, according to the research firm YouNoodle and reporting by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. At least a half dozen current Google executives, including CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are also financing young companies. Numerous angel-watchers say the Google group has more in common than just pedigree. Unlike many venture capitalists, the Googlers like to swap investment ideas and back startups together. They're also willing to take big chances. "[They're getting into] very risky deals that can be extremely rewarding," says Jeff Clavier, a veteran venture capitalist who founded Palo Alto-based SoftTech VC in 2004. "They have been very active as a group over the past two to three years."
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