By on February 14, 2017

Money (Frankleleon/Flickr)

Take the money and run, Steve Miller once said, and boy, did employees at Google’s self-driving car project take that advice to heart.

According to a Bloomberg report, the financial incentive to leave the project and hit the bricks was so great, many realized they couldn’t afford not to quit. And, in the grand tradition of pulling up employment stakes, many enjoyed the fact that their departure cost the company big, big bucks.

In many cases, those employees used the money to become Google competitors.

Before the shrinking self-driving car unit was spun off into the Waymo entity back in December (bringing a normal payment structure to the workforce), the amount of compensation was apparently tied to the value of the project itself. Google expected big things from its autonomous driving project, so the value soon reached stratospheric levels.

So great was the potential compensation that long-standing team members realized they’d be foolish not to grab Google’s cash and jump ship to another company. The exodus that began in 2015 was in full force early last year. With brainpower waning and the project’s objective growing increasingly hazy, Google ultimately turned the unit into a self-driving technology company.

Two sources referred to Google’s hefty compensation payouts as, “Fuck you money.”

The payment system, created in 2010, saw some employees given equity in the company and bonuses tied to the unit’s valuation. Each individual cash pile grew over time, especially after Google added a multiplier to its value in 2015. One team member saw a multiplier of 16 placed on four years’ worth of bonuses.

According to sources, several of the payouts amounted to several millions of dollars. Ka-ching! Alphabet Inc., the holding company controlling Google (and now Waymo), claimed last year that the payouts were partly responsible for a spike in R&D costs.

Now flush with dough, many of the former executives began work on their own autonomous startups — businesses that now compete with their former employer. Among the castaways is Bryan Salesky, founder of Argo AI. If the name sounds familiar, it should. Just last week, Ford Motor Company invested $1 billion into his Pittsburgh-based artificial intelligence company.

Google’s generosity has proved a boon to its competitors.

[Image: Frankieleon/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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19 Comments on “Google Car Staffers Enriched Themselves by Giving their Boss the Finger...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    Does this mean there will be a Bing self-driving car?

    (Let the Bing jokes flow!)

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    …In many cases, those employees used the money to became Google competitors…

    Shouldn’t that be, “become.”

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    “Fuck you money.”

    Who exactly is the f*ckee here? The former employees that Google kickstarted as competitors?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Too bad they couldn’t have used a mortgage underwriter…I’d have sent them a resume.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Pretty good example of why more and more of the innovative work is moving to Asia, while all that’s left in Silicon Valley is half literate self promoting banksters on Fed welfare, hyping up “valuations” while pretending those bear some sort of relation to actual value add the way they do in non cleptocratic cultures.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      Yeah.. *sigh*.. wish I were one, too.

    • 0 avatar
      hgrunt

      Can you name an Asia-based AI or autonomous driving company?

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Weyland Yutani.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        About as many as I can name California based companies successfully building and selling autonomous vehicles….

        Thing is, the division of labor are increasingly such that Asian (and even Euro…) companies are building the components, and infrastructure supporting building the components, that look likely to be utilized by autonomous vehicle systems some time in the future. While the California based ones are…. building stock certificates, hype and zoning laws making it too expensive to hire enough engineers to compete effectively at much else. Look at Google, hardly famous for playing host to some unparalleled concentration of straight up idiots: Does the folly described in the article strike you as a cost effective way to develop anything at all? Do you think the Manhattan project was ran along those lines? What about Toyota’s autonomous vehicle tech programs? Hyundai’s? Bosch’?

        Silicon Valley has become so hollowed out over the past twenty years it no longer bears any resemblance to it’s former self. Like a friend of mine says: “HP was started in a garage. Nowadays, no young engineer can afford a house with a garage.” But, the banksters sure can. And the lawyers…..

        One can live off of make believe valuations based on what is increasingly tilted towards mere cultural exports and Stanford dormroom scifi dreams for only so long, before ones lack of clothes and serious fundamentals become obvious to even the most starry eyed of hype consumers. And when the mood swings, there is an absolutely ridiculously long, and getting longer all the time, way down, before one hits any support of substance.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      “all that’s left in Silicon Valley is half literate self promoting banksters…”

      You couldn’t be more wrong if you tried.
      .
      .

    • 0 avatar
      CarDesigner

      And millennial slackers!

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