Ran the enterprise division of Google, including Google Apps, for 8 years. Left in April to found Upstart, which is a crowdfunding platform that let's college grads raise $ in exchange for a small share of their future income. Our goal is to help people skip the "safe path" of the boring job and pursue their entrepreneurial passions with a little $$ and mentorship from backers who can help. Ask me anything!

Comments: 158 • Responses: 53  • Date: 

sgtspike17 karma

What do you think of Bitcoin?

davegirouard4 karma

don't have an opinion

The1890sAreOver13 karma

What do you think about the state of the Jacksonville Jaguars, now that you are two years removed from playing quarterback for them?

davegirouard7 karma

:-) loved that guy - and he spelled the name the right way. And it's fun to hear NFL play by play guys say your name.

safetydance12 karma

Is it too early to call Google+ a failure? Do you think it has its own place in the social networking world other than an alternative to Facebook?

davegirouard9 karma

Absolutely not. G+ has a pretty huge and hardcore following. Might not have achieved the broad mainstream adoption of FB yet, but the level and quality of engagement on G+ is better than I've seen anywhere.

Seems to be really becoming a place to go when you have passion for a particular topic or domain or hobby - started with photographers but there's all sorts of communities finding a foothold on G+.

thtanner9 karma

What do you think about Google dropping free Apps accounts? Having a smaller account was a great way to lock a company in once they broke 10 users.

As a consultant, I'll probably be pushing for other options because of this.

davegirouard8 karma

Tough call. We debated the issue regularly. And I was gone before that decision was made. Makes sense to get companies when they're small, but what if companies of that size represent a huge fraction of the market? No simple answer here, but having businesses pay for something of value makes intuitive sense to me.

davegirouard8 karma

Is there an easy way to see when there's a follow-on question earlier in the thread? seems like a little strong visual cue would help a lot.

happybazz3 karma

Be honest now, have you ever Googled yourself?

davegirouard24 karma

There are 2 types of people in the world - those who admit to having googled themselves, and liars.

closetoretiring2 karma

Both my son (a freshman in CSE at Ohio State) and my future son-in-law (a graduating senior in CS at Ohio State) are both heading down the developer path. What specific languages do you recommend they focus their efforts on? Your comment about writing code makes sense to me...in what venue do you suggest they do that? Clubs at OSU? Are there online crowd-sourcing code-writing opportunities? Sorry if that question sounds a bit clueless, but I work in Bus Intelligence, and my coding is limited to SQL, Excel & Cognos, so I don't have much advice to offer either one of them. Also, my son has been working since he was 14--great work ethic. Do employers see the value of that--are they looking for that? Thanks for taking the time to answer questions and provide this online mentoring.

davegirouard2 karma

I think what programming languages they study isn't as important as learning the basics of computer science. I took a few lessons in Javascript and they were really focused on the basics of CS that have been around forever - variables, conditionals, regression etc. The hard part for me was learning/remembering new syntax etc. Basic CS was commonly taught in Pascal back in my day!

I think strong work ethic is clearly a hiring signal. It was at Google for sure. We always took into consideration the fact that somebody worked a lot during college.

purplenath2 karma

Loving your work! Any plans to head on over to London at any point?

davegirouard2 karma

Because there's a lot of legal/regulatory issues around Upstart, and they vary a lot by country, we'll probably be US-bound for a while. But UK is definitely at the top of the list for expansion.

Towmint2 karma

Did you like working at Google and or was it just a job where you excelled at?

davegirouard7 karma

Google was an incredible experience - so much fun to work on a winning team with such crazy talent. I was at Apple way back when we were getting our tails kicked by MSFT, which was a great "learning" experience.

thoughtfix2 karma

As an amateur inventor, I am often told I should patent/market my inventions instead of open-sourcing and posting on Instructables. In your experience, at what point should an inventor consider "creating for a living" instead of just "creating as a hobby?"

davegirouard3 karma

1) when your hobby becomes and obsession and 2) when you can do so without starving

stw76512 karma

What are some struggles that come with your own company? I work for a small startup and I see the financial struggles. How does this effect your every day life. What changes have you made since working for Google?

davegirouard4 karma

Startup world is very different from working in a big company. It's wonderful to be in control of your own destiny, and to be able to make decisions fast and without the bureaucracy that comes with bigCo. But it's also very fragile (particularly in the early days) and you tend to be on a roller coaster of emotion.

One interesting effect I've found - I can feel incredibly despondent and negative at one hour of the day, and then rosy and optimistic just a few hours later. And the funny thing is - absolutely nothing has changed. The facts on the ground are exactly as they were, yet you feel very differently.

Overall, I love startup life, but you have to know what you're signing up for.

andicotsteel2 karma

What stock has more growth potential next few years: GOOG or AAPL?

davegirouard4 karma

Yes they do! Sorry - have to duck that one.

PhilGarber2 karma

I'm a photographer in the NJ/NY region. Could my skillset fit at all with working for Google? Just a silly dream I've had; I go to my theater company right above their Chelsea, NYC office.

Edit - As a photo major transferring to a 4-year school in the fall, I'm VERY interested in Upstart. Thank you so much for this service.

davegirouard1 karma

don't really know about Google hiring photographers - can't hurt to ask them!

ljackstar2 karma

I'm a grade 12 student right now who hopes to be a software engineer in the future. What is the best way to get into the software business?

davegirouard9 karma

Start by writing software now - if you're not already doing it in school, there's tons of ways to learn to write software online (CodeAcademy is a great one).

ljackstar1 karma

Thanks! I'll have to check that out!

How did you get started with software and apps?

davegirouard5 karma

i studied computer engineering in college - then wrote software for my first couple of years post-college. Haven't written much in a loooong time other than codeacademy and a little foolish hacking.

Nikolai250002 karma


When you say small share of their future income...how small?

davegirouard3 karma

on my twitter feed: @davegirouard

the upstart gets to decide how much to share. We provide a funding rate (how much $ they can raise for each 1% shared). The max we allow is 7% share.

smegmabolus2 karma

Do you have any advice on investing in Google stock?

davegirouard4 karma

I have to plead "AM(almost)A" - enjoying life outside prison and hoping to keep it that way.

(no, I haven't gone to prison)

pleasekopimi2 karma

Knowing what you know now, if you could go back to your first year at Google, and pitch one idea for a Google Enterprise App/Product, what would it be and why? It doesn't have to be successful, just something you would of liked to see happen.

davegirouard3 karma

Probably something like Amazon AWS. We got started kinda late on that front


Do you want to go bass fishing with me?

davegirouard1 karma

More of a trout/salmon guy but thanks!

Mynamesjd1 karma

My passion has always been screenwriting but due to loans and the way the business works I am assuming I'll never get the chance to work it. I'm done with school and Upstart seems like the kind of thing that could essentially allow me to pursue that goal while keeping my loans in check. However, I've always wanted to open up a coffee shop since I'm a sucker for coffee and love coffee shops in general. How could Upstart help me as I am now? Thanks in advance.

davegirouard2 karma

You are certainly welcome to apply. Assuming you qualify, it's the backers you'll need to convince!

davegirouard1 karma

Was lot of fun - thanks for awesome questions! gotta run. Will check back later :-)

_HAWK_1 karma

What do you attribute your success to? Did you luck into your job or did you come from success? What tips would you give to those that don't have a strong network?

davegirouard1 karma

I think of my career as a series of opportunities presenting themselves to me, combined with readiness to take advantage of them. There's definitely luck and circumstance involved, but you have to be prepared to seize the moment when it happens.

ecret1 karma

Can you provide some stats for how backers performed year over year?

How would you address those who say that this won't work because it does not follow the typical venture model of targeting big returns from small numbers of investments(i.e most fail but the 10x returns make up for it)?

davegirouard2 karma

I only founded the company in April :-) First upstarts go into repayment in early 2013, so can't give you a solid answer on that one yet!

Great 2nd question. Our model is very different from the risk profile of venture investments. In that world, 1 big win pays for 9 failures (or something like that). But in Upstart, very few upstarts will earn little/nothing over the course of 10-15 years. So this isn't about finding the one big win - it's about lots of singles and doubles. And more importantly, helping turn singles into doubles etc.

ecret1 karma

I think this is a good idea as long as you can minimize the defaults. Other microlenders from what I understand had issues with this. Most people seeking funds there were for credit card consolidation as well and even if they pay 10%/year interest, just one default in ten breaks it.

I think you guys got a great product. Last question, how much did you pay for the domain?

davegirouard1 karma

$5K for the domain. Was sitting idle for a decade. There was a PR firm in the SF Bay Area named Upstart communications that was acquired. And the acquiring firm just sat on it.

v4mp1r31 karma

Is Upstart currently publically traded and if not, will it be?

davegirouard2 karma

no sir.

Lyndell1 karma

Android or iPhone?

davegirouard7 karma

recently moved to iPhone. Might have moved back if the new GMaps and Gmail apps weren't so good.

supercouille1 karma

Care to explain why the switch?

davegirouard8 karma

more of a hardware choice than anything. my android phone had lame battery life. The USB charging was always flaky for me - connector would get broken and some chargers didn't work etc.

I also really dislike all the craplications that the carriers put on Android phones. So nexus phones were only real option - and see above.

blandassand1 karma

What do you think are Google's long-term prospects?

davegirouard5 karma

I'm bullish, naturally. Love what Larry has done to bring focus/execution/speed to the company.

BullShitsEverything1 karma

Did you start Upstart for money or to have more impact on the world? What end goal do you see for it?

davegirouard3 karma

I'm in the group that thinks having a positive impact and making $ aren't mutually exclusive. We believe we can have biggest impact on the world as a for-profit company. I definitely want to see our employees and investors (and yes, me) make $$ from Upstart, but it wasn't the primary motivator.

brastein1 karma

It seems the idea behind Upstart is investing in people, not ideas. I am a grad student with some brilliant ideas (in my humble opinion), but admittedly nebulous goals. If I want to become an Upstart, how should I market myself, and how much should I focus on specifically what I plan to accomplish?

Also, I'm American, but I study in Germany. Am I eligible for becoming an Upstart if I choose to stay in Germany (e.g. use the funding to master the language and find a job here)? Do you think this is an appropriate use of Upstart funding?

Thanks for your time!

davegirouard3 karma

In general, what we see on upstart is that you don't need to have crystal clear path in front of you to get funded. But you also can't be entirely nebulous in your goals. Saying I'm considering a, b, or c and will figure it out in the next year is solid. "I want to make the world a better place" may fail to inspire backers :-)

For now, Upstart is only avail to American citizens, unfortunately. And we focus on people residing in the US as it makes a lot of things easier (we're quite new).

brastein1 karma

Cool, thank you!

One more question: how close to the end of the university tunnel must I be in order to apply? Would I be eligible if, let's say, I am just beginning my master's thesis?

davegirouard2 karma

as of now, you have to be graduating (or graduated) from 4-year undergrad or master's program between 2010 and 2013. This will broaden over time.

Denault1 karma

what does google look for when hiring new employees/interns?

davegirouard3 karma

1) general congnitive ability - ie brainpower 2) signs of leadership 3) Interesting person and plays well with others 4) role-related knowledge

whyunolikey1 karma

What's your best advice for an up and comer in corporate america?

I asked my VP this and he said don't share what you know with people on your level and always know more than the next person. Only show off what you know when the time is right and in front of the right people. Sounds solid I suppose.

davegirouard5 karma

sounds like crap advice to me. Learn everything you can and share what you know with those it can help. And let other people take the credit.

whyunolikey1 karma

Sounds a bit counterintuitive to let others take the credit. Is that really the mindset you had while you were working your way up the ladder? If so congratulations for making it while keeping your integrity!

davegirouard4 karma

have never seen a really successful person (over time) who doesn't generously share the credit with others.

krattr1 karma

Gates and Jobs dropped out. Non-traditional education provides another route to learning, ofter cheaper and faster. How do you justify funding college graduates only, with most of them being already in debt?

davegirouard7 karma

The most popular use of Upstart funds is to actually retire student debt. We want to create a financing instrument that's friendlier to people whose future income streams might be lumpy. Starting with college grads is just a starting point for us - our pricing algorithms depend on that, but we hope to make Upstart as broadly available as possible over time

krattr1 karma

The most popular use of Upstart funds is to actually retire student debt.

If the startup is going to be successful. What percentage of startups do you project that will be able to do that?

davegirouard3 karma

Great question. but fairly impossible to say. We certainly believe that participation in upstart (and getting the mentors that come with it) will increase your likelihood of success over a few attempts. I'm about to write a piece about whether or not entrepreneurship actually pays, relative to taking the usual F1000 job. The results are interesting!

will6501 karma

iGoogle's been my homepage ever since it came out in 2005 and I'm extremely disappointed that they're retiring it 11/1/13. Their official statement of "the need for something like iGoogle has eroded over time" is the exact opposite for me. Are there any other Google dashboard applications that I can use in lieu of iGoogle?

davegirouard1 karma

You and me both. Have loved iGoogle for quite a while. I actually re-activated my Yahoo account -I used myYahoo before I joined Google, so will have another look at that.

irish6751 karma

how was it creating a deal with apple for google maps

davegirouard2 karma

Wasn't involved - not my area!

compliments11 karma

How does Upstart differ from traditional angel investing? Or perhaps why is it a better route to take for these college grads than something like Y-Combinator?

davegirouard6 karma

We're very different in that it's an investment in the person, not in any particular idea. The idea is your backers are supporting you regardless of whether your idea or startups don't work out. We're finding it's typically useful before somebody would be at the stage of trying to fund a company. And many are pursuing self-employment (artists etc) who will never raise angel $$ for their companies.

ecret-1 karma

You are investing in artists? I think this is a bad financial idea.

davegirouard4 karma

not me - it's about artists investing in artists. patronage in the arts has a fairly long history.

Thurokiir1 karma

Your business idea strikingly reminds me of the book "The Unincorporated Man".

Where all people are incorporated at birth and thusly given money or shorted based on their performance. I think you might like the book.

davegirouard2 karma

yeah a few people have mentioned the book but i haven't read it. Sounds a little Willie Loman to me!

bobmuluga1 karma

Best advice to give someone about business?

davegirouard5 karma

Don't let fear keep you on the safe path. And always give back more than you take.

brianfalther1 karma


davegirouard1 karma

Upstart funds can be used as you see fit (you're asked to disclose your plans for the $$ on your profile, but it's not contractual) - so they could definitely be used for your graduate studies.

nofuture091 karma

Can I invest in Upstart even though I live in Germany?

davegirouard1 karma

Unfortunately, limited to US investors as of now. We will be expanding in the future.

fucommant1 karma

Where do you think google is heading? They seem to be buying up new shit every day. A few months ago the app store on my android phone updated from 'android marketplace' to 'google play' without me doing anything. They have functional monopolies on various parts of the web. What are their plans for expansion?

What is the success ratio of Upstart projects? Some of the 'entrepreneurs' came and did a presentation at my university and several of the showcased projects seemed frivolous to me.

davegirouard6 karma

I think Google is actually getting more focused, rather than less. They've killed a lot of ancillary products in the last year or so (see complaints about iGoogle below).

I think you're confusing upstart with something else that might have visited your school?

deka011 karma

Why does apple hate any outside source making their products better?

davegirouard5 karma

they don't think you're actually making them better

thirdrail691 karma

Why does Google suck so hard at hardware launches? I mean, here I am with money in hand wanting a Nexus 4, but it is not possible to buy one because they're continually out of stock. The Nexus 7 had the same problem. What gives?

davegirouard2 karma

hardware is hard - Apple sucked at it for a long time. You never run out of searches.

discman1 karma


davegirouard1 karma

we are definitely designing the service to avoid such a circumstance. As a a starting point, the % of income shared is quite small, and their is a cap on the amount you will ever have to repay.

PC_30 karma

I always try to encourage people and tell them that sometimes experience is better than school. I tell them this so they apply for jobs and not be discouraged. What is your take on someone with exp. and someone with school exp. (ex. Someone has better work exp but did not graduate, or someone with school exp but not so much work exp.) Who would you hire or wouldn't?

davegirouard1 karma

As you try to assess a candidate, all they've done or not done are just contributing signals. Finishing school is a good thing, but not finishing school doesn't mean the candidate isn't exceptional regardless. Leaving school to pursue something awesome that couldn't wait may well be a sign of greatness and willingness to take on risk. But overall, I tend to have an appreciation for people who finish what they start.

smphillipinoboy0 karma

Why'd you leave google?

davegirouard3 karma

couldn't stop thinking about Upstart

compliments10 karma

I see your statistical model for pricing, but do you use a similar algorithm to determine risk? I assume these loans are unsecured?

davegirouard3 karma

Yes we do have an approach to measuring risk. We filter out a lot of applicants based on that (min credit scores, volume of debt etc). While the agreements aren't exactly debt (at least not traditional debt), they are effectively unsecured.

falcorbeam0 karma

A "small share"?

The ideas are what make the money to begin with, what's your reasoning for only giving them a small share of the earnings made from their ideas?

davegirouard0 karma

Ideas are worth about 10%. Execution is about 90%. But the income share is determined by estimating a reasonable return to backers.

[deleted]0 karma


davegirouard3 karma

Richness is measured by the quality of the relationships with those around you! And thanks.