Google is hoping to make its Chrome browser a better social experience, and it’s looking to Montrealers to help make that happen.
“Right now, you go to a website, and then you go to your social network,” said Shibl Mourad, the director of research and development for Google’s Montreal office. “We’d like to make it so that when you are browsing the Web, you’re always within your social universe.”
Mourad said Montreal is taking a leading role in adding social networking to Chrome. He said, however, the difficulty will be to add on to the browser while keeping it simple and fast.
“Everything we do is about that,” Mourad said. “The idea is not to have little things popping up all over the place. The idea is to make your life easier. That’s the challenge. We don’t have the answers, but we have the questions.”
Mourad said this is still a research project for the company, so he couldn’t say when the change would be coming to the browser. One thing is sure: Google Montreal is still looking to scoop up top local talent in part to help with this project.
The Montreal office recently underwent a major renovation – tripling its surface area and adding an entire floor to its digs on the first and second floor of 1253 McGill College Ave.
Within the last year, the company has doubled the number of employees to about 50, and it’s got room to grow, though local Google brass won’t quantify the number of people the company plans to hire.
“We’re looking for very, very good developers who are good generalists and can switch to different projects,” Mourad said. “We change projects every six months. We build something, and then we build something else. We’re always working on the Chrome browser, but within that, there are hundreds of projects.
“The hiring process is very long, and it’s more driven by how many good candidates we find,” Mourad added.
On Monday, Google held an open house for local media that included a tour of the expanded office.
The office looks more like a playground than a place for serious business. Right next to the reception area is the main stairwell, which has a climbing wall adjacent to it, with ropes hanging off the top of it. The wall, which is made out of clear plastic, is reserved for Google employees.
Other features include a games room, several coffee machines, a large cafeteria with free food, a gym, showers on each floor, a games room, a recording studio, a massage room and a washer and dryer located next to the gym.
Google spokesperson Andrew Swartz explained that the employees had a lot of input in the redesign of the office. The climbing wall and the recording studio were particular features that they had requested.
“People work really hard, so it’s really important to have a great atmosphere,” said Nicolas Darveau-Garneau, the general manager of Google Quebec.
In addition to the engineering team, Darveau-Garneau is also building a sales team that will work with local businesses to help them get the most out of Google’s advertising products, and its business tools.
“We want to help companies really make a digital turn,” he said. “We’ve seen that Canada is the No. 1 country in the world when it comes to web usage. However, companies are behind in terms of how they use the web to talk to their customers.”
Darveau-Garneau, an entrepreneur who started several successful web businesses, said Google is also taking an active role in Montreal’s community of web entrepreneurs. While he said Google is always on the lookout to acquire promising companies, his support of the local startup community also helps his company remain innovative.
“Innovation comes from large companies, but a lot of innovation also comes from people who are in a garage right now. If we can continue to innovate within Montreal, it helps everybody.”
jmagder@ montrealgazette.com Twitter.com/jasonmagder
For the second time in a year, Google Quebec is expanding.
Last January, the company announced it would roughly double the number of engineers that work at the downtown office. However, with 40 software engineers working behind the scenes to help maintain the company’s Chrome Web browser, Google’s Montreal profile has remained low.
No longer. The search giant hopes to raise its profile in the community by adding a new business office that will focus on helping Quebec businesses establish an online presence, or to improve their Internet marketing.
Nicolas Darveau-Garneau a Montrealer who spent the last 15 years in the U.S., is charged with that task.
Darveau-Garneau, who founded two San Franciscobased ventures and is also an Angel investor in several other startups, said he feels his role as Google managing director for Quebec is that of the head of a new business.
“I feel like I’m running a startup with the budget of a big company,” he said.
He added there is no specific budget for how many people the company will hire, saying the market will dictate the demand. Renovations at Google Quebec are already under way. The half-floor office located on the second floor of 1253 McGill College Ave. will occupy one floor and a half by January to keep up with the growing staff.
Darveau-Garneau said Canada lags the U.S. when it comes to spending in online advertising, and in this country, Quebec doesn’t pull its weight. However, he said that also represents a tremendous opportunity for Google.
While Montreal-based Yellow Pages Group Inc. has floundered in trying to grow revenue in the online space, Google hopes its approach will pay dividends. Last March, the company started a program that would allow businesses to build their own websites for free called Get Your Business Online (gybo. ca), with the goal of getting 100,000 Canadian businesses to build websites within a year. The initiative included free advice for Web design, free Web hosting for a year, and a credit to Google Ad-Words – the company’s online advertising platform.
Google’s Montreal office will follow up on that effort by approaching businesses and selling them on Google products, not just its advertising platform, but also its productivity tools, like Google Apps for Business.
“Our job is to be a good consultant or adviser to Quebec companies,” Darveau-Garneau said. “The more successful we make Quebec businesses, the better we do, and the more people we can hire.”
Why does he think Google will succeed where others have thus far had little success?
“We will be successful if we help Quebec companies improve their bottom line using our products,” he said.
He added that Google also will start to play a bigger role in the city’s technology community.
“I’m going to be spending some of my time meeting the entrepreneurial community and some of the amazing incubators and accelerators that are here,” he said.
“We absolutely want to be involved with the innovation community here.”
Does that mean Google Quebec is looking to fund tech startups here in the future? Darveau-Garneau said he’s no talent scout. However, part of his mission is to be on the lookout for opportunities.
“We always have our antennas up for talent. So anyone in Montreal doing anything interesting, we always want to meet them.”
GOOGLE QUEBEC IN HIRING MODE
Nicolas Darveau-Garneau, managing director of Google Quebec, talks about the expansion of Google in Quebec and hiring talent in Montreal. montrealgazette. com/videos