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Ben Chow
Private Investor, Accountant
Private Investor, Accountant

Ben's posts

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Being rich, is not about how much you can get, but about how much you can give.

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Exciting future...
We started designing the world’s first fully self-driving vehicle to transform mobility, making it easier, safer and more enjoyable for everyone to get around. Now we're ready for the next step of our project: this summer, our prototype vehicles will leave the test track and hit the familiar roads of Mountain View, California, with our safety drivers aboard. Learn more:

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First Ever 3D Printed Thyroid Gland Announced by Russia’s 3D Bioprinting Solutions -
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+YouTube now supports 360° video! Watch this in Chrome or on your Android phone.

Prepare to have your mind blown.

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Really a touching letter...
After nearly 7 years as CFO, I will be retiring from Google to spend more time with my family.  Yeah, I know you've heard that line before.  We give a lot to our jobs.  I certainly did.  And while I am not looking for sympathy, I want to share my thought process because so many people struggle to strike the right balance between work and personal life.

This story starts last fall. A very early morning last September, after a whole night of climbing, looking at the sunrise on top of Africa - Mt Kilimanjaro. Tamar (my wife) and I were not only enjoying the summit, but on such a clear day, we could see in the distance, the vast plain of the Serengeti at our feet, and with it the calling of all the potential adventures Africa has to offer. (see exhibit #1 - Tamar and I on Kili).

And Tamar out of the blue said "Hey, why don't we just keep on going". Let's explore Africa, and then turn east to make our way to India, it's just next door, and we're here already. Then, we keep going; the Himalayas, Everest, go to Bali, the Great Barrier Reef... Antarctica, let's go see Antarctica!?" Little did she know, she was tempting fate.

I remember telling Tamar a typical prudent CFO type response- I would love to keep going, but we have to go back. It's not time yet, There is still so much to do at Google, with my career, so many people counting on me/us - Boards, Non Profits, etc

But then she asked the killer question: So when is it going to be time? Our time? My time? The questions just hung there in the cold morning African air. 

A few weeks later, I was happy back at work, but could not shake away THE question: When is it time for us to just keep going? And so began a reflection on my/our life. Through numerous hours of cycling last fall (my introvert happy place) I concluded on a few simple and self-evident truths:

First, The kids are gone.  Two are in college, one graduated and in a start-up in Africa. Beautiful young adults we are very proud of. Tamar honestly deserves most of the credit here. She has done a marvelous job. Simply marvelous. But the reality is that for Tamar and I, there will be no more Cheerios encrusted minivan, night watch because of ear infections, ice hockey rinks at 6:00am. Nobody is waiting for us/needing us. 

Second, I am completing this summer 25-30 years of nearly non-stop work (depending on how you wish to cut the data). And being member of FWIO, the noble Fraternity of Worldwide Insecure Over-achievers, it has been a whirlwind of truly amazing experiences. But as I count it now, it has also been a frenetic pace for about 1500 weeks now. Always on - even when I was not supposed to be. Especially when I was not supposed to be. And am guilty as charged - I love my job (still do), my colleagues, my friends, the opportunities to lead and change the world.

Third, this summer, Tamar and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary. When our kids are asked by their friends about the success of the longevity of our marriage, they simply joke that Tamar and I have spent so little time together that "it's really too early to tell" if our marriage will in fact succeed. 
If they could only know how many great memories we already have together. How many will you say? How long do you have? But one thing is for sure, I want more. And she deserves more. Lots more.

Allow me to spare you the rest of the truths. But the short answer is simply that I could not find a good argument to tell Tamar we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road - celebrate our last 25 years together by turning the page and enjoy a perfectly fine mid life crisis full of bliss and beauty, and leave the door open to serendipity for our next leadership opportunities, once our long list of travels and adventures is exhausted.

Working at Google is a privilege, nothing less. I have worked with the best of the best, and know that I am leaving Google in great hands. I have made so many friends at Google it's not funny. Larry, Sergey, Eric, thank you for friendship. I am forever grateful for letting me be me, for your trust, your warmth, your support, and for so much laughter through good and not so good times.

To be clear, I am still here. I wish to transition over the coming months but only after we have found a new Googley CFO and help him/her through an orderly transition, which will take some time. 

In the end, life is wonderful, but nonetheless a series of trade offs, especially between business/professional endeavours and family/community. And thankfully, I feel I’m at a point in my life where I no longer have to have to make such tough choices anymore. And for that I am truly grateful. Carpe Diem.

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Contacts conveniently merged...
Big launch for the team today!  We've hugely improved Google Contacts.  The once tedious task of "managing" your contacts on Google has been made a lot easier, more intelligent... and more beautiful...  The launch is still a 'preview', so go to, check it out, and let them know what you think!

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The break out of Photos and Hangouts from Google+ has now been double-confirmed, first by +Sundar Pichai in Forbes ( and then again by +Bradley Horowitz here on G+ ( Here, in a comment on that post, he notes that this move will open these services up for more people:

"The improvements referenced aren't a step backward - they're a step forward!  This is about making sure these products reach more users - and are simple, elegant and delightful to use.  I look forward to sharing them with you, and invite you to suspend any concerns you have until you've had a chance to use them yourselves."

Last April, +Mark Traphagen, I and others were anticipating just this move and suggesting it would be a good thing ( I still believe that it is. 

Today, my wife and I were out shopping at Costco and were going to have to drive home, pick up our son and head out again to buy him some new soccer cleats. So, there we were in the parking lot and we look up and see a sporting goods store fifty yards from our car. We walk in, I start a Hangout with my son and I become his virtual shopper, allowing him to use my phone to scan the shelves real-time and pick the right pair of shoes. That was a huge time saver, and it really had nothing to do with the core of Google+. This functionality needs to be opened up and applied in countless more varieties of applications like this. 

All I will say here right now is that there is some seriously cool functionality that is already at your fingertips, if you just know how to look for it. If you have photos here on Google+, from Google Search just try typing "my photos of X" where "X" can be anything in particular that you're looking for. A few weeks back, I was looking for a particular photo I took of some stained glass windows in Notre Dame five years ago, so I just typed in "my photos of stained glass" and boom in a few seconds there they were - not just those images, but all of the cool stained glass windows I've shot over the years. 

Google is focusing some really powerful machine learning on image recognition and it's already starting to show up if you just know how to look for it. This is just one more example of the integration of personal information into your search results; something I wrote about three years ago as a kind of tiering of search into global, social and personal. A lot of that - not all, of course - is coming true:

The bigger point though is that the Photos opportunity also needs to be broadened out and freed up so that it can fulfill the full potential of the investments that the company is making in image recognition and who knows what else. Sure, a lot of these images will still be distributed on Google+ - that seems very unlikely to go away - but to fulfill its full potential Google+ really shouldn't be a requirement for interacting with those images. 

The Google+ Stream
Clearly, there are big changes afoot here on Google+ these days. My hope, as I've stated many times, is that Google will more clearly position the network as an "interest graph" - a way to connect people around shared interests, rather than as some sort of also-run social graph that tries mistakenly to chase after Facebook and a market opportunity that has already been largely filled. That's my hope. In the meantime, I think that this coming separation for Hangouts and Photos will be a good thing. 
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