Acquisition Gives Google a Welcome Presence in L.A. Area
By MICHAEL THURESSON
Back in the salad days of the Internet boom, tech workers could choose from scores of prospective dot-com employers in L.A., or sign up with recruiters parachuting in from Northern California.
It hasn't been that way for some time, but news last week that Google Inc. one of the few remaining Internet wonders had purchased a local company and planned to step up hiring in the area was greeted favorably at several of the area's top engineering campuses.
"Google used to recruit here several years ago before the tech bust. We haven't seen them here since," said Bob Calverly, a spokesman for the USC School of Engineering. "We are certainly interested in having them recruit here again."
When Yahoo Inc. bought Santa Monica-based Geocities in 1999, other companies snapped up laid-off employees. But employment among L.A.'s Internet service provider and Web search industries has fallen sharply, to 11,600 in March, compared with 18,900 in January 2001, according to the L.A. Economic Development Corp.
Google's April 23 acquisition of Applied Semantics Inc., a software developer based in Santa Monica, gives the Mountain View-based company its first physical presence in L.A.
"The acquisition enables Google to grow its engineering team and recruiting efforts in the Southern California region," said Susan Wojcicki, Google's product management director.
Google's Pasadena-based competitor, Overture Services Inc., is known for grabbing local talent at Cal Tech. The company currently has 40 employees from the school, located just a few miles from its offices.
Now Google is likely to give Overture some competition on the hiring front as well and the lure of Google's name is certain to appeal to job seekers.
"Even top level graduates are dying for jobs. Google is an exciting company to work for," said Eric DeDominic, president of CT Personnel Services, a Los Angeles recruiter specializing in engineering positions.
Applied Semantics, which has grown to 40 employees since it was founded in 1998, makes technology used for advanced information retrieval on the Web, a key component to search engines.
The company changed its name from Oingo in 2001 after it decided to focus on selling its technology to search engines. Previously, the company had operated its own search engine destination site.
Both Google and Overture have been buying up companies to bolster their technology. Earlier this year, Overture acquired two search engines, Palo Alto-based Altavista Co. and Fast Search & Transfer of Norway.
Overture has stepped up its Cal Tech recruiting in recent weeks, conducting on-campus interviews for the first time last month. "We didn't have to recruit on campus at Cal Tech before because it was all word of mouth. Now, our requirements have grown so we're being more aggressive," said Paul Ryan, chief technology officer at Overture.
Google declined to comment on specific hiring plans.
A few other Silicon Valley companies have built large software teams in L.A., including Yahoo.
Electronic Arts Inc., a video game developer based in Redwood Shores, established an L.A. studio three years ago and since then has more than doubled its head count by hiring software developers from a variety of places, including local universities and the defense and entertainment industries.
"We seek talent from areas (one) might not normally think of," said Carol Brickner, director of human resources at Electronics Arts Los Angeles.
Google may adopt a similar strategy. Adding different perspectives to the mix addresses a long-term challenge for search engines mimicking human thought. The complexity of this will require technology from a variety of fields.
"The problem is the human brain, and the people who can solve it do not grow on trees. L.A. has talent in both the technology and cognitive sciences," said Richard Koffler, executive director of the Software Council of Southern California.
Year Founded: 1998
Core Business: Internet search engine
Headquarters: Mountain View
CEO: Eric E. Schmidt
Employees in 2002: 800
Revenues: Not disclosed
Web Pages Searched: More than 36 billion
Worldwide Users: 73.5 million per month
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