Vivek “Vic” Gundotra

Senior Vice President, Google

Mountain View, CA

Born in Mumbai (Maharashtra) in 1968, Vivek Gundotra is perhaps one of the most talented platform/social evangelists in the world. His love for software and electronics is almost genetic. His father was an electrical engineering and owned his own company. This sparked an early fascination with electricals in Gundotra and having been introduced to software in his adolescence, he was smitten. He completed his early schooling from Don Bosco Institute of Technology, and then attended the Indian Institute of Technology (Madras).

He engaged in extensive programming as a student. At a young age, he recalls, he was fortunate enough to meet Bill Gates. This was a great source of inspiration for someone like Gundotra, who had an organic passion for software. In 1991, he started working for Microsoft in Washington DC. He impressed his peers and then head of sales, Steve Ballmer so much that he was soon promoted to the headquarters in Redmond. In Washington, Gundotra and his team created a new architecture that supported software applications across different computers. ‘.NET’, as this skunk works project came to be know, was an industry sensation. It was preferred over several established projects. MIT Technology Review credited Gundotra for putting this framework in play and listed him as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35. On further evolution, Gundotra transformed .NET to become the next PC operating system (Longhorn) that Microsoft would end up launching in 2005. As the General Manager of Platform Evangelism, Gundotra actively improved and promoted Microsoft’s software development platforms. He engaged third-party developers and developed a strategy that embraced open-sourced computing, and substantially grew the company’s commercial ecosystem. He believed this was the best approach to compete with Google’s web-based presence and development tools. Little did he know that he’ll be playing ball for the competition in no time.

After 15 years at Microsoft, Gundotra departed in 2006. A year’s hiatus and several charity endeavors later, in 2007, Gundotra joined Google. Although his official designation was Vice-President of Social, Gundotra’s duties were quite diverse. Because of Google’s tight knit integration systems, Gundotra found himself managing and guiding several Google products. One of his early additions was the introduction of Google I/O, a developer-focused conference that showcases Google products and solutions to the world. Being in charge of all of Google’s mobile applications, Gundotra thought such an annual event would prove extremely beneficial in giving users/developers insight into upcoming products/technologies.

His biggest challenge however, was the creation of Google+, Google’s take on social media. Seeing the success Facebook and Twitter were enjoying, Google was adamant to take the social media market by storm. Gundotra’s version of ‘Plus’ was a marriage between Facebook and Twitter; a ‘best of both worlds’, if you will. He recognized Facebook’s appeal in terms of how the whole platform was built around photographs, and Twitter’s use of ‘Trends’. Further, by limiting users to 140 characters (at a time) Twitter boasted brief posts and a constantly rolling feed, which catered very well to the average human attention span. But most importantly, Gundotra realized Plus should offer some of its own unique features. Its USP should really resonate with the definition of ‘social networking’. In comes ‘Hangouts’. A multi-party-video-chat tool essentially, it lets you connect with multiple people at the same time. It’s a free service and today is being used not only by friends around the globe but also for hosting seminars, lectures, talks, etc. It also allows users to broadcast publicly that can be received by anyone with a Plus account. Plus also offers very powerful photo and video editing tools, which Facebook and Twitter lacked, and still do. These are perhaps the major reasons why Plus, as of 2016, is the third most popular platform behind Facebook and YouTube. But Google+’s journey has not been easy. Even before it inception, skeptics were not sure whether Google would succeed. To make matters worse, Gundotra was seen as a polarizing figure. Sometimes even referred to as “The Vic-tator”, for his vocal disagreements with Larry Page’s inner-circle members. Gundotra never held back. He was quick to put his opinion forward, no matter how confrontational he may sound. His ability and his courage complimented each other exceptionally well. Perhaps that’s why it wasn’t a surprise when he attacked Apple for its closed-source, monopolistic view on technology. And somewhere in there Gundotra’s true self can be seen. His challenges at Google, even with all of its resources and expertise, were monumental to say the least. Coupled with all the skepticism and cynicism surrounding him, it felt like Gundotra was trying to solve a Rubik’s cube that kept fighting back. Even today, Google+ boasts more users than Twitter, but few would guess. His resolution and determination made Plus what it is today. It may not be perfect but he created a platform that could be improved. He created a platform that brought something new. He sought a platform that would evolve with time despite the odds. Just as he did.

 

References

Townsend, Allie. “People Who Mattered: Vic Gundotra.” Time. Time Inc., 14 Dec. 2011. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

Review, MIT Technology. “Innovator Under 35: Vic Gundotra, 34.” MIT Technology Review. N.p., 2003. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

Mangukiya, Piyush. “Social Media by the Numbers [Infographic].” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 22 Apr. 2016. Web. 07 June 2016.

Newton, Casey. “Google+ Boss Vic Gundotra Is Leaving the Company.” The Verge. The Verge, 24 Apr. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.

“Vic Gundotra.” Bornrich. N.p., 30 Mar. 2014. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

Fuld, Hillel. “An Interview with Google’s Senior VP Engineering, Vic Gundotra about Google+ and Misconceptions.” TECH N’ MARKETING. N.p., 11 Mar. 2011. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

Swisher, Kara. “Google+ Head Vic Gundotra Leaving Company.” Recode. Recode, 24 Apr. 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.

Lardinois, Frederic. “Vic Gundotra, The Father Of Google+, Is Leaving Google After 8 Years.” TechCrunch. TechCrunch, 24 Apr. 2014. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.

Yarow, Jay. “Star Google Executive Vic Gundotra Is Out.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 24 Apr. 2014. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

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