According to a new book about the video service, Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, secretly discussed quitting Google in 2014 to work as Elon Musk’s deputy at Tesla.
The executive, known for his loyalty to Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, discussed becoming Tesla’s Chief Operating Officer before becoming YouTube CEO in 2014, according to author Mark Bergen’s account in the upcoming book “Like, Comment, Subscribe: Inside YouTube’s Chaotic Rise to World Domination.”
According to the book, which cited people close to Wojcicki at the time, she was senior vice president of ads and commerce at Google and was looking for a more senior position.
“By then, Page had begun plotting his own exit — a plan to hand Google off to a trusted deputy, Sundar Pichai,” Bergen reports. In a conversation, Laszlo Bock, who was in charge of human resources at Google at the time, stated that he “suggested Page could more easily clear the way for his chosen successor by moving Wojcicki to YouTube.”
Many Google employees were surprised by the news of Wojcicki’s hiring, the book claims.
Wojcicki was one of the founders of Google and notably permitted Page and Brin, who currently control the majority of voting shares of Google parent company Alphabet, to work from her garage in 1998 when they founded the firm. The creator of 23andMe, her sister Anne Wojcicki, was married to Brin and had children together.
Bock compared Google to a family business in the book, and it claims Wojcicki frequently succeeded in getting Page’s attention.
“When people couldn’t get him to see reason, she always could,” Kim Scott, a former Google director and early Silicon Valley workplace influencer, described her as “a Larry whisperer” in the book.
Google’s usage of search data is one illustration.
“Wojcicki wanted to use search queries to inform ads people saw on all those banner ads Google ran across the web; if advertisers could target consumers based on searches and on websites, they might spend gobs more with Google,” the book stated.
Page had long intended to keep search data private from everyone but Wojcicki “felt this wasn’t keeping up with trends in the ad industry, which sought ever more data.”
“The founders trust Susan maybe more than anybody on the planet,” in the book, Patrick Keane, a former Google sales director, made a statement. “You could never get Susan rattled, no matter how challenging the moment was.”
According to the book, YouTube was also brought up as a potential spinoff.
Following Wojcicki’s hiring, in 2015, Larry Page unveiled the formation of Alphabet, a new holding company that will house many Google-affiliated firms, including the self-driving car startup Waymo and the Verily division of the health sciences.
“YouTube seemed like a natural splinter; it already operated with a different name and office,” the book states. “Leaders there considered plans to become a separate Alphabet unit, detached from Google. Wojcicki wanted to keep reporting to Page, who had appointed himself Alphabet CEO, rather than his successor at Google, Sundar Pichai. But ultimately it was decided YouTube was too intertwined with Google’s business and machinery to leave. So it stayed at Google.”
Under Wojcicki’s leadership, YouTube expanded to reach over 81% of American adults and produce close to $29 billion in revenue in 2021.