People change jobs all the time, many times within the same company. I had five different jobs at one company. But, when high profile people take a job at a different company the media reads a lot more into it. The reality is that people change job assignments within companies, or take jobs at other companies, for the same reasons. Those reasons are unique to that person, and usually not a reflection on that manager or that company. To dispell a common misconception, for high profile people, it is usually NOT about the pre-IPO stock options.
Change jobs for a change - Creative people get bored...even doing things they like. After a while we all want a change, a new challenge. Sometimes you can find that new challenge within the same company. Sometimes you just want to change everything up and experience a new city, new company, new technology, new friends, or some combination of these things.
The reasons for wanting a change are usually the same, and pretty basic. The question in the tech world is; do you create your own new challenge (startup), or do you take on a large scale challenge at a big company? Again I think the media reads too much into these decisions.
It is pretty normal to do a startup, get acquired by a big company, work there for a while, then go to a VC firm or another big company to try something else for a while, and ultimately start another company, completing the cycle. It happens all the time. It is normal and vital to our growth as an industry.
Glenn Kelman says "One in Five Facebook employees has no imagination whatsoever". What he means is, why would you leave one big company (Google) for another big company (Facebook)? Why not go to a start-up and really change things? The answer? Many people do just that. And their reasons are the same, they want a change.
Silicon Valley Circle of Life - Leaving a successful big company to build a startup is part of the normal evolution, and what makes Silicon Valley what it is. Mike Arrington calls it the Pirate Life. Danny Sullivan calls it "being California". It happens all over the tech world. Microsoft spawned hundreds of startups when employees left to build their own company. PayPal, Cisco, Oracle, Yahoo, and many other successful companies have also spawned lots of startups. Ex-Google employees, affectionately called Xooglers, have joined the parade too. All these big companies are still doing just fine after high profile people left. Still innovating, and still growing.
Talent attracts talent - Another reason many people move to Silicon Valley is because they want to work with the best and brightest in the industry. If you want to be in movies you move to Hollywood. If you want to be an investment banker you move to New York. If you want to be in the oil business you move to Texas. There are of course other centers of excellence in the world outside of the USA. These examples are just to prove a point. The best people want to work with the best in the industry.
Sometimes people will leave a successful big company because they want the opportunity to work with another high profile rock star. This is often like like cotton candy, sweet at first but it doesn't last very long. The reason is that you change jobs to get a new challenge...not to work with friends and be comfortable.
Long story short, creative people change jobs often. When they leave to join another company it isn't a signal that something is wrong with the previous company. There really isn't a lot of drama in the tech world. Sometimes the media creates drama...because they get bored too :-)
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