I first met David in the summer of 1993, when I was an intern at Wilson Sonsini. He was a young, hotshot partner at the law firm who very kindly allowed me to work on a few of his cases. Over the years, as we became better friends, I watched him move from law to business, and I’ve always known him as someone who can play in many fields. But when we sat down last week, even I learned a few things. Reflecting on OZY’s three-part series with David, here are my top takeaways.
One of the biggest “wow” moments in talking to David was hearing the impressive breadth of companies that he has bought. Sure, I knew about Motorola, YouTube and Nest. But Android? The predecessor to Google Maps? Even Blogger? I had totally forgotten about them. What an interesting journey he’s had already.
The importance of HR
One of the most insightful things David told me was that a key to Google’s epic success was the discipline the company maintained around its hiring. (A hot topic these days, as ever.) During his first seven years, the executive team met every week to review every single hiring candidate. Not just for the first year or two, but for seven years — whether they were hiring Sheryl Sandberg or Dick Costolo or a new engineer.
When book nerds grow up
A personal note David shared with me was that his folks owned an independent bookstore when he was growing up in the ’70s. A younger David would spend his afternoons helping his mom shelve and organize the books. I’m a bookstore junkie myself, and it warmed me to hear about someone else — someone who grew up to be curious and enterprising — learning to love books as a child.
The almost NFL star
He hates to talk about it, but David probably could have played in the NFL. At 6-foot-4 with a 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash, he was a legitimate professional prospect in college. In fact, he was so good as a freshman at Santa Clara University that his coaches moved another promising player from wide receiver to tight end. That player? Brent Jones, future Super Bowl hero for the San Francisco 49ers. David broke his leg badly in college and ultimately shifted away from football. But if he had wanted it, well, who knows?
The good life
Getting to see something go from wild-ass idea to towering global icon is a rare, special opportunity. Few of us see that kind of transformation up close — an Obama rise, an Oprah emergence, the revival of Apple. But David has occupied a front-row seat for one of the greatest of all time. To my mind, that’s powerful — because participating in such an epic success from the ground up forever makes you believe that anything is possible. It broadens and emboldens you in dramatic and lasting ways. David is among the very few to have had that great opportunity.
David Drummond is an investor, adviser and contributor to OZY.
This OZY encore was originally published Feb. 28, 2014.
Why you should care
Not only does David Drummond have a unique inside view at Google, but he’s also one of the few to speak openly about race in Silicon Valley.