Search giant Google has suffered several high-profile local departures, with its first Australian employee and local head of YouTube Kate Vale as well as Google Maps and Wave co-founder Lars Rasmussen signalling they had left the company.Silicon Beach mailing list several days ago, where local entrepreneur Kim Chen wrote that Rasmussen was "leaving Australia in just a few short weeks". The engineer was the guest of honour at the Silicon Beach drinks in Sydney on Friday.
Meanwhile, Vale noted on Rasmussen's page that she, too was "temporarily unemployed". The YouTube Australia chief also wrote on her own Facebook profile on 16 October that she was an 'Xoogler' the industry term for an 'Ex-Googler'. Vale's LinkedIn profile refers to her Google experience as having ended this month.
Google confirmed the departures. "Kate Vale has decided to take on new challenges and a new career direction outside of Google. We wish her all the best, and thank her for her enormous contribution in building Google Australia," the search giant said in a statement.
Alan Noble, engineering director for Google Australia and New Zealand, said Rasmussen had made "great contributions" to Google in products like Google Maps and Wave. "He was also instrumental in starting engineering in the Google Sydney office," said Noble. "We wish him all the best."
The news will see Google's Australian operation simultaneously robbed of high-profile engineering talent as well as commercial acumen.
Vale was Google's first employee in Australia, hired as its head of sales and operations. She led the company locally for quite a few years after it entered the local market in 2002. She was shifted to the YouTube portfolio in April 2009, several years after the search giant appointed its first local managing director, Karim Temsamani, in late 2007.
Temsamani himself recently left Australia to take up a position in Google's Mountain View headquarters. The executive has not yet been replaced.
Danish-born Rasmussen is one of Google's most high-profile Australian technical employees.
In early 2003, he and his brother Jens worked on a mapping start-up, Where 2 Technologies, and sold it to Google in October 2004. The Denmark-born siblings joined Google as lead engineers in the team that turned the acquisition into Google Maps.
Rasmussen also has a high profile due to his role founding Google's Wave project, an ill-fated attempt at building a next-generation internet communications platform and marrying disparate ideas from email, instant messaging and even wikis together. In August, Google' shelved active development of the project, after it failed to achieve traction with end users.
There is no suggestion at the moment that Jens Rasmussen will leave Google following his brother's departure. The engineer's LinkedIn profile still shows Google as his current employer.
Lars and Jens Rasmussen were named NSW's Entrepreneurs of the Year in the information and communications technology field earlier this month.