Pull a 'Schmidt' and Jump at Opportunity

Susan Hall

File this one under "Who knew?" In a post entitled, "Why any great career move should be known as 'a Schmidt,'" Paul McNamara at Network World doubts very much that Google CEO's Eric Schmidt's reaction to the buyout of Novell was:

Dang, I could have worked at Attachmate.

In 2001, Schmidt, then the CEO of Novell, was asked to take the top job at Google. This wasn't 2010 Google, but 2001 Google, when the wisdom of such a move wasn't apparent. This was 18 months after the dot-com bust.


The article quotes a skeptical Wall Street Journal asking how a company could make money from those little text-only ads:

... Google's basic business model remains questionable. Because Google doesn't offer banner ads or other general advertising displays on its Web site, it must rely on discreet ads that are supplied only when users search for specific key words. These so-called sponsor links are text-only and are highlighted in different colors to distinguish them from search results.

McNamara also guesses that Schmidt had no idea that in 2010 he'd be worth more than $5 billion.


Business Insider has a post by Don Rainey, an early-stage tech venture capitalist from the Washington, D.C., area on how to recognize opportunity when it knocks. He points to the "Anti-Portfolio" of Bessemer Venture Partners, where the company lists big opportunities it didn't recognize, including Apple, Google and eBay. So Rainey says no one will always be right, but he lists four pointers.


  1. It won't be perfect-The ideas that will develop into great opportunities tend to be fully thought out when you hear them. ... Your ability to see the imperfection shouldn't blind you to the larger possibilities.
  2. The future is built with today's tools, not tomorrow's tools-Many great opportunities are not driven by a breakthrough as much as a re-packaging or a better combination of advances.
  3. Appreciate the evolution of previous failures-Most great opportunities aren't realized on the first attempt of an idea's execution, but rather as the perfected evolution of previous failures.
  4. Timing can be everything-Is right now the right time for this idea? There are a lot of great ideas that don't become great opportunities until the time is right for them.


Of course, he's talking about startup companies, but so was Google when Schmidt went there. Recognizing that opportunity and being willing to accept the risk put him where he is today. (And yes, I've worked at startups and landed in the unemployment line, so I, too, have to work on my opportunity-recognition skills.)

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