Facebook v Google: The tech tug of war

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Rivalry between Facebook and Google has led to a ferocious bidding war for the best brains in Silicon Valley. Simon Usborne reports on the geeks who are cashing in

When Kevin Rose starts work as the new boy on Monday morning, he will be showered with more perks than a millionaire geek could dream of. A valet will park his car, he will eat in a canteen whose chef is a veteran of some of California's best restaurants, and, if things get too stressful, he may visit one of four massage therapists. He will also reflect on his new bank balance as the latest winner in an increasingly fierce tug-of-war for the brightest talents in technology.

Rose, 35, was reported yesterday to have been hired by Google, whose headquarters are renowned for their generous facilities, after a bidding war with Facebook. The internet entrepreneur and founder of the social news website, Digg.com is ditching his start-up and taking his small team to the vast Googleplex. Each man will pocket an estimated one to two million dollars – and Rose stands to make much more as a new talent at the web's biggest company.

As unemployment in some US states climbs above 10 per cent, the giants of Silicon Valley are throwing increasing piles of cash at people like Rose. Google had not confirmed their new signing, and while speculation was rife that Rose had been drafted in to work on Google+, the company's troubled social network, it was not clear what he would be doing between gourmet lunches and hot stone treatments. But it is Rose's record that Google competed with Facebook for, and in the current technology arms race, talent has become an elusive prize.

"I've never seen things as white hot as they are at the moment," says Mike Butcher, the editor of TechCrunch Europe, a technology news blog. "Google isn't hiring Kevin Rose to sit in front of a computer and code programs. They're looking for the vision of the sort Mark Zuckerberg has. These people aren't just creating a product, they're creating something that people will want, whether or not they know it now."

Rose was raised in Las Vegas, where he dropped out of a computer science degree. In an interview in 2002, he said his most treasured possession was his sealed copy of Windows 1.0 ("no joke"). Obsession paid off and in 2004 he co-founded Digg, which allowed web users to like, or "digg" links online. The site first attracted Google in 2008, when a $200m buyout deal was on the table before collapsing. Rose left the company last year to found Milk, a mobile applications company.

The talents of people like Rose make them rare commodities. "Many people in the tech community are saying that what will limit the growth of tech companies over the next few years is not the technology, but the people," Butcher says. "There's a real shortage." The American Society for Training and Development has predicted that, by 2015, 60 per cent of new jobs will require specialist skills held by just 20 per cent of the population.

When talent emerges it's usually in the shape of a small start-up whose product acts as bait for the big fish. The real catch for them is the brains behind the company. There's an ugly neologism for the buying of companies to get to the people: You "acq-hire" them. At tech conventions across the world, competing companies and young entrepreneurs circle each other. "You get people going round with some of the most ridiculous iPhone apps hoping someone will think they are a genius and bring them on board," Butcher says. It's not like Roman Abramovich flying in a striker for a meeting on his private yacht, but the stakes can be as high, with winners receiving cash and share options worth millions.

"They call it the 'three Ts'," Butcher says. "Tech, team and traction. If you have those things you become a hot property and hope a CEO turns around and says, 'we've got an amazing offer'."

But the meat market that the tech world has become at events like SXSW is causing concern even among investors. Seth Levine, a tech investor based in Coloardo, blogged, before the Rose deal: "I'm worried that in all the hype... and the SXSW parties...we're losing sight of the hard work that is creating and building a business."

But Rose has also attracted criticism. His now-scrapped smartphone app, Oink, which he made with Milk, earned a respectable 150,000 downloads in its first month but was no sensation, and Digg hit troubled waters before he jumped ship. Google has been accused of throwing big money at a big-name signing rather than a player with something specific to bring to the team. What Rose will do for Google remains to be seen. Meanwhile, he can enjoy the perks.

$200m proposed buyout deal by Google for Digg.com in 2008, before it collapsed

Google

April 2010 Mark Cummins and James Philbin, Plink. Sold to Google

August 2010 Rohit Khare, Angstro. Sold to Google

November 2011 Tristan Harris, Apture. Sold to Google

March 2012 Regina Dugan, Darpa. Hired by Google

Facebook

March 2012 Kevin Rose, Milk. Hired by Google

December 2011 Scott Raymond and Josh Williams, Gowalla. Sold to Facebook for $3m in Facebook shares

October 2010 Sam Lessin, Drop.io. Sold to Facebook for a rumoured $10m

May 2010 Adam Wolff, ShareGrove. Sold to Facebook, price not disclosed

August 2009 Paul Buchheit, FriendFeed. Sold to Facebook for a reported $50m

April 2010 Sam Odio, Divvyshot. Sold to Facebook and Odio, price not disclosed

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    IT Systems Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

    £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

    £18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

    £40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

    Day In a Page

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album