Then just arrived Californian Swedish Rikard Steiber, new top executive at search engine Google, was lunch speaker at SACC San Francisco.
Title: Director: Global Ads Marketing, GOOGLE.
Who is this guy? He’s Rikard Steiber, responsible for two million customers, working with the bulk of Google’s $23 billion in revenue, barely 40 and already with a long industry track record, starting with teaching TBV classes in programming BASIC (remember that?) at age 15.
If you missed the luncheon you may meet him in person at the regular SACC SFO/SV events. The earlier event offered some insights about the workings of the company that has become synonymous with the Web. Attendees could learn about new trends in digital marketing, including the tools and strategies that may make your company or product a future winner online.
Steiber relocated to northern California and Google HQ in June 2009 after two years with Google in Europe, where he marketed the company’s new products in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
His road to Google may seem like a straight line: early tech fascination, education at Chalmers Institute of Technology, a brief time with Procter & Gamble in brand marketing. After that, he co-founded the Swedish arm of Scandinavia Online, an AOL knock off and the leading public Internet portal company in Scandinavia. The involvement with Scandinavia Online lead to his co-founding and running Digiscope, which evolved over seven years into XLENT Consulting group. But managing a consulting group didn’t look like the future he was striving for. And with a nearly one-year-old at home, he did something very Swedish: took time off, spending eight months on child leave, finding some time along the way to ponder a future outside consulting.
Subsequent talks with a headhunter lead him to the tedious process of being cleared for an executive position with Google.
“Google is different,” says the extraverted Swede. “It took eight interviews for us to find each other. Google is looking for just the right education, just the right career path and a life outside of work – in essence, you need to be multi-talented at life.”
What Google saw in him is what he’d look for in someone else: “If I were to replace myself, I would look for someone who understood the product technology, had a passion for it. It would have to be someone with an audience focus, who understands users’ needs and can work with people in a variety of cultures.”
That flexibility is key, he says. “In Global Ads, we launch close to 200 new products every year. We have to adapt to local environments, decide on priorities, form strategies and implement campaigns based on the situation in 15 to 40 individual markets. It takes a profound understanding of the product and what it does for users in general and an ability to somehow immerse oneself into the customs of a variety of cultures.”
As director for Google ad products Steiber is responsible for roughly two million advertisers, accounts in 40 countries and 6,000 sales people. The revenue from this area represents 95% of the $23 billion cash register that is Google. A former colleague says he has “exceptional abilities to identify opportunities and make sure they happen,” a skillset that he flexes every day in his latest position.
"Web meets phone”
What’s next? With increased mobility and extended applications, handheld smart devices – those things we used to call cell phones – will likely be the computers of the future. Google spearheaded the development of Android, a handset operating system that in some ways rivals the Apple iPhone’s OS. They then entered online retailing with their own smart phone, Nexus One, in early 2010. The Nexus One was launched under the slogan “Web meets phone” and follows the acquisition last fall of AdMob, an advertising company targeting ads to mobile phone users.
There’s been much speculation about Google’s increasing, direct competition with Apple. Apple itself recently acquired Quattro Wireless, AdMob’s only substantial competitor in the as yet small mobile advertising market, estimated at 3% of the overall web-based marketing. As Steve Jobs said in a keynote address in January, “Apple is the largest mobile device company in the world.” That may be true, but if the equally iconic brand of Google decides to give Apple a run for its mobile money, as it seems to have done, then this is a battle that will dwarf any and all of the earlier brand wars, in- and outside of the electronic sector.
This is not an area Steiber wants to address or even comment on, naturally, but as for Google’s future in general, he feels that [10 years from now], “Google will still be in search, in digital advertising, it will be an advertising technology corporation still. A lot in the future will be based on cloud computing—with applications running unrelated to your personal desktop and hardware—where Google will have a definite role to play. A lot of language barriers will be solved. Today, searching for documents in English is one-dimensional; the future will bring searches in other dimensions, other languages.”
The way things are heading now, however, a lot of those searches will take place on a tiny device in the palm of your hand—and enveloping this market is the dominant basis for Google’s ability to grow in the future, not just geographic and product expansion.
by Ulf Mĺrtensson
, Nordstjernan /
SACC San Francisco/Silicon Valley
Rikard Steiber, In Brief:
Family: Wife Annika, daughters Alexandra (4y) & Athena (3m) and the dog Papi
Greatest achievement/Most proud of: My girls and spending 8 months paternity leave with Alexandra
Role model: None come to mind.. maybe Steve Jobs
Time on computer every work day: I live on the Internet, too much!
Favorite computer: MacBook Air
Last played computer/video game: World of Warcraft
Last read book: “How to change diapers faster” (joke, no time for books!)
Last vacation: Kauai, Hawaii
Best Cal. experience so far: Kite running and lunch at Sams in Half Moon Bay
Favorite SFO restaurant: Still looking...
Favorite car: Lexus hybrids
Something that might surprise you: Rikard Steiber is an avid cave diver.
For more information on SACC San Francisco luncheons, contact
(415) 781.4188 or see www.sacc-usa.org/sf