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The founder of Gmail, Paul Buchheit, was a Google employee. He was listed at number 23rd on the workers’ database, meaning that he was among the initial Google workforce. The firm’s motto, “Don’t be evil”, was coined by this very same man during the 2000th meeting on the company’s values (Livingston 2008). His contribution to this firm has been so immense that he is considered one of the most valuable employees. Gmail might be said to be a product of the company, but its inception and the journey through its realization makes it be a start-up, just like any other start-up ideas or businesses out there. It was created by a small group under the leadership of Paul. It also faced resistance in the early stages before it could be eventually incorporated as a major Google web-based mail system.
Paul began his work on this email system way back in 1996, thereby making it his own original idea. The latter came from the inefficiencies of Hotmail. Paul wanted to make a web-based email that would allow individuals to access their mails from anywhere, unlike Hotmail, that required one to go back to their desktops to read their emails. Google gave him an opportunity to bring his idea to life. Paul was asked to use his imagination to develop a personal product; then he immediately thought of Gmail.
This employee was bringing a new product to Google that seemed to go off the reputation of the company. Google, at this time, was recognized as a search engine firm; therefore, having email as one of its products would create a completely different impression. To align this project with the company’s vision, the developer created the application of the web-email that could search through the emails to avoid having to plough through a chunk of mails to arrive at the desired one. Thus, Paul has been always passionate about creativity and innovation. He has also created the content-targeted ad application known as AdSense. He did so because of the thirst to develop new things that enhance user experience (Ries 2011).
Further, he created the prototype which was later picked up and developed by the Google innovation team, thereby launching it as a full product. Since then, Buchheit has been the kind of employee who comes up with ideas and projects and lets the other people pick them up and develop them into full projects or products. Still, he stands out as an inventor because the original thought comes from him. During the initial stages of the development of Gmail, Paul worked with different people at different times, including Jing Lim and Sanjeev Singh. This was a solo-versus-team dilemma. The others had not fully embraced the idea of having an email service in Google. This affected their commitment to the development of the same, hence they would take time away to attend other projects.
Paul was in the dilemma of having to work alone on the project or assemble a reliable team since he was the only one at that time who fully understood the project (Wasserman 2011). This dilemma is very common in start-ups, as it is the initiator of the idea who holds the full passion for its realization. Others adopt the wait-and-see attitude. This makes it hard to work with other people in the project – even though team work is better than solo initiative since each member of the team would bring with them the necessary skills, knowledge, expertise, and experience.
The launching strategy for this product was formulated to encourage its reception in the market. Allocating a gigabyte to individuals at a time when people only received 2 or 4 megabytes was a major way of endearing the users to consider the product as a solution in the market. The other dilemma was that of alignment. The company had been established as a search engine, and the email service was going to be completely out of line. This constituted a problem of creating a product that would increase customer value at the same time trying to stick to the line of operation for which the firm had been established.
Start-ups in many occasions face this decision on whether to diversify their products and services, typically having to stick to the products or services that define the firm (Thiel and Masters 2014). The company was started as a search engine, but because of the innovation of people like Paul and the changing customer needs, products that were not in this line had to be introduced. Many people in the company at that time were not sure about the effects of these new inventions on the consumers.
They would only later appreciate the thoughts and ideas, after the products had registered favorable receptions from the consumers. Paul and his team designed a product with unique features which the other players in the market had proceeded from. For instance, the autocomplete function enables Gmail users to send their emails without having to remember the sending address. Relationship dilemma was evident in the selection of the team to work with. Paul was tasked with assembling a team that would help him develop the project to completion. His decision was not easy since this was his brain child and he harbored the thought alone.
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The other problem was that many of the employees in this company at this time were not sure if this idea was within their scope. Clearly, it was out of scope, and Paul had to identify team members who would believe in this vision by understanding its application rather than focusing on the firm’s niche market. This situation is similar to what the start-up entrepreneurs face in the original stages of inception of ideas. They have to cope with the dilemma of choosing people who would believe in their vision and assist them in developing it (Cohan 2012).
Investor dilemma was brought out in this start-up story when Paul admitted that he had been always afraid of being canned at every step of the journey. He feared that the founders of Google would not agree with his idea that was evidently out of the original vision of the company. As straightforward as it is, the most outstanding dilemma was the career dilemma. Paul was the inventor of this web-based email application. He had begun working on the idea way back before Google could ever phantom such an idea.
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Paul had the choice of developing the product separately as an individual and to patent the idea as his own. He would then have sold it to Google and other companies and through this made millions. This may have been the start of a new company. Paul, however, chose to develop the product as an employee of Google. He saw the vast company resources and huge customer base as the opportunity to grow the new product. His decision led to the other dilemma, namely that of reward.
Since he had pioneered such a major product development, many people may have thought that he would be honored with the Google’s Founders Award. However, he did not get this one despite his role in transforming the way Google would do business even at later times by leading the innovation into areas that the firm had not previously thought it would operate in. The award should have been started immediately with the invention or granted to Paul during the later years after its establishment (Eisenmann 2013).
Overcoming the Dilemmas
Dilemmas are part of entrepreneurship process because of the limited resources and the immense ideas that inventors come up with every day. Because of the changing customer needs, start-ups are required to be renovated to remain relevant in the market. The dilemmas that Google and Paul faced during the development of Gmail can be overcome by putting down flexible structures and encouraging a culture of entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity, and risk-taking. Rigidity would not allow a company to develop new ideas thus discouraging innovation and creativity (Blumberg 2013).
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The entrepreneurial culture would have prepared the employees to embrace the new product and to support it through its development process. The company management must adopt a flexible strategy that allows other employees to think freely and come up with new ideas that benefit the clients. This would aid in the creation of value for the company and its products and services. As for the career dilemma, the best solution is to formulate a special recognition formula that defines unique benefits for the employees whose innovative activities have added value to the firm (Kidder 2012).