Innovation After Google?

Where will many Google employees be five years from now? How many will be running their own technology companies, and pursuing their own projects? How many will be investing in other companies, and helping to drive innovation?

Georges Harik was one of Google’s first 10 employees, the Director of Googlettes and a Distinguished Engineer at Google. He’s been involved in financially backing a number of startups, and is involved in a project by Pagebites, Inc., which may be poised to bring some interesting twists to online communications with Imo.im.

Under Georges Harik’s watch, the Googlettes worked upon efforts involving Gmail, Google Talk, Google Video, Picasa, Orkut, Google Groups and Google Mobile. He was also a co-developer of the technology behind AdSense and the Google Search Appliance.

He worked upon the first product plan for the AdWords Online system. A number of the Google patent filings I’ve written about here have his name on them as inventor.

The Imo.im Jobs page tells us that they are also “Advised by several early Googlers.”

One of those advisors is Paul Buchheit, a creator and lead developer of Gmail and developer of the original prototype of Google AdSense. He’s also known for being the person who coined Google’s motto “Don’t Be Evil.”

When I saw the name Georges Harik on the following patent application published last week at the US Patent and Trademark Office, I wondered if it was from Google, until I scrolled down more and saw it was assigned to PageBites, Inc.

Looking up PageBites in Google, I saw references to it as a business/resume search engine. Visiting the PageBites site, it appears that there’s been a change of direction for the startup. The specialized search appears to be gone, and in its place is an instant messaging system that can use AIM, Yahoo, MSN, and Google Talk.

The Imo blog lists some other projects, such as a Flash video conferencing feature, a client for phones, a connection to Skype, and a Facebook Friend Finder application.

The patent provides a glimpse of an even more developed system that allows messaging between IM, email, SMS, and postings on Myspace and Facebook, and potentially even the ability to post ads through something like Adsense.

It describes the ability to track and message friends across these many different methods of communication, indicate different relationships with the contacts in the friend system.

The patent application also describes a smart way of distributing messages based upon those relationships and an economic model that takes into account how important the message may be, and historic information about previous interactions with listed friends.

Method for Information Gathering and Dissemination in a Social Network
Invented by Ralph Harik, Georges Harik, and Praveen Krishnamurthy
Assigned to PageBites, Inc.
US Patent Application 20070266097
Published November 15, 2007
Filed: April 25, 2007

Abstract

A method is provided for automatically and efficiently propagating information using previously established social methods of communication (e.g., email, instant messaging (IM), social network message posting, and short message services). In conjunction with the method, a system for collecting and disseminating information on a social network is provided, which includes:

(a) a server for providing a user interface (e.g., a user facing web site) which allows a user to exchange information with one or more external services, wherein the information exchange includes receiving a message from the user that the user intends to disseminate through the external services;

(b) a message module which prepares the message received from the user for dissemination; and

(c) a communication module coupled to the user interface, the message module and the external services to mediate the information exchange between the user and the external services.

The patent application gives us a glimpse at a pretty interesting and ambitious system, and the imo.im project page I linked to above shows some other directions that the startup may be traveling in.

Given the track record of Georges Harik at Google, it might not be surprising to see some interesting developments at Imo.im

Here are links for some other companies that he has been involved with, apparently with a primary role as an investor:

Another ex-Googler, Aydin Senkut who is the founder of Felicis Ventures, has been pretty active as an investor also. The Felicis Ventures Portfolio contains an intriguing mix of companies.

We are still a year away, but Jason Kottke’s thoughts from 2003 describing what the Googlettes program could lead to in five years is worth a look.