When Bret Taylor announced his unexpected departure from his role as co-CEO of Salesforce, an obvious question that sprang to mind was, what’s next? As his then fellow CEO Marc Benioff commented at the time:
I know he has created two great companies. I know he wants to go create a third great company. And you can't keep a wild tiger in a cage.
At 42, it was never on the cards that Taylor would be putting his feet up somewhere or spending his day playing golf, so the next question then became what the nature of that third start-up would be. His previous two successes were FriendFeed, which he sold to Facebook in 2009, and Quip, which was acquired by Salesforce and led to him joining the SaaS giant, initially as Chief Product Officer, then Chief Operating Officer and ultimately as co-CEO alongside Benioff, who he credits as a mentor.
Now we know what's next - or we know something of what’s to come at any rate. AI is to be the focus of Taylor’s next endeavor, seemingly particularly inspired by the rise to prominence of ChatGPT. In a post on LinkedIn, Taylor says:
Rarely do you encounter a new technology so powerful that it feels inevitable that it will change the course of every industry. I remember feeling that way when I first used a web browser in high school, and then again when I first saw Steve Jobs demonstrate the iPhone in 2007. I have that same sense of excitement and inevitability about modern AI, especially given recent advances in large language models.
And Taylor is going to be in good company in growing the next venture, announcing that he will be partnering with Clay Bavor, an 18 year veteran of Google, most recently as VP of its start-up Labs operation. Bavor's previously worked as head of product design for Gmail, Google Docs and Google Apps for Enterprise, as well leading work on Google Lens, VR and AR.
He’s departing Google next month to join Taylor as co-founder of the as-yet-unnamed new company, seemingly fired up by a common enthusiasm for recent AI tech advances. In his own LinkedIn post, Bavor says:
We share an obsession with recent advances in AI, and we’re excited to build a new company to apply AI to solve some of the most important problems in business.
Despite a long tenure at Google, like Taylor, Bavor’s entrepreneurial streak isn’t far from the surface. He admits:
I started my first business in second grade, selling hard-to-find Japanese candies for a quarter each. Later, at 13, I started a website design company, which I ran through the end of high school. It was a thrill to have to figure everything out myself, to create something from nothing, and I’ve always felt it would be when, not if, I started my next company.
His various roles at Google over the years driving innovative initiatives will be useful in the new venture, he says:
My time at Google – which is to say, my entire career – has been formative, and deeply meaningful to me. I learned how to work at Google, and I saw up close what excellence looks like. I had the opportunity to work on a myriad of important products and technologies. And I learned so much along the way, from my successes and failures alike.
We’re just getting started, but we’re excited to build an enduring company.
A dynamic duo indeed. As noted above, it was always going to be fascinating to see what Taylor decided to do next. This is a tech leader who told me back in September:
I like to code at the weekends.
Looks like he’s going to be coding a lot more than that in the months to come.
Definitely a project to keep a close eye on as more details emerge.