By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Four months after leaving Google Inc, the former head of its enterprise business has a new mission - helping college graduates avoid big corporations like Google.
Upstart, a service that is launching in limited form on Wednesday, lets university graduates raise money from other people online so that they can start their own businesses, pursue a research project, or chase a personal dream, rather than take a "safe" job in the corporate world.
"There's this overwhelming desire to not follow the traditional path of bolting yourself to a desk and climbing the corporate ladder," said Upstart founder Dave Girouard.
But he said too many graduating students have college loans they need to repay and do not feel they can take a chance.
Part social network, part crowdfunding service in the style of Kickstarter, Upstart provides an online forum where participants post personal profiles with their background and goals in the hope of attracting at least five financial backers.
The backers - acquaintances, alumni or other accredited investors - provide funding that will typically range between $20,000 and $50,000 in exchange for an agreed share of the graduate's future income over a 10-year period. Upstart determines the portion of future annual income to be shared based on the total sum raised and the person's qualifications, including academic record and field of study.
Girouard noted the funding is different than a loan because there is no guarantee of repayment.
"It's really a contract that has some contingent payments in it," he said.
Upstart is the latest example of so-called crowdfunding and peer-to-peer online lending services that have sprouted in recent years. Kickstarter, which lets people raise money online for "creative projects" such as films, clothing and even building robots, has seen $250 million pledged to projects by more than 2 million people since its 2009 launch, according to the company.
However, Upstart is not just about providing young people with capital, but to connect them with backers who can act as mentors, Girouard said.
Girouard, who was president of Google's online apps business that competes with Microsoft Corp, said large companies offer plenty of important benefits for some graduates, but going corporate is not right for everybody.
For new graduates setting out on their own, the funding can provide a way to make payments on college loans or take care of living expenses for a year.
The maximum amount of future annual income a borrower can be on the hook for is seven percent and a borrower is never responsible for repaying more than 15 percent of the total sum received. No payments need to be made in years when the borrower's annual income is less than $30,000, according to the company.
Upstart, which Girouard started with a team that includes several former Google employees, has received $1.75 million in seed funding from backers, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Google Ventures.
The service will initially be available to students and recent graduates of five schools - Dartmouth College, Rhode Island School of Design, Arizona State University, University of Michigan and University of Washington - but Girouard hopes to expand to many more in the first year.
And with the U.S. unemployment rate now in its fourth year above 8 percent, Girouard said it is a good time for those entering the workforce to think outside the box.
"In 2011, there was zero net job growth in large companies," said Girouard. "You have this kind of really ugly situation, where tons of kids are standing in line ... and they're standing in line for jobs that essentially don't exist anymore, or are really harder to get."
(Editing by Andre Grenon)
I'm not sure if it's an actual perk not to have to leave the office when you're sick, but on-site doctors ensure that this is a reality at Google's Mountain View campus. <a href="http://www.google.com/intl/en/jobs/lifeatgoogle/benefits/#bbb" target="_hplink">According to Google's benefits site,</a> physical therapy and chiropractic services are also available.
Japanese Toto Toilets
Is it really any wonder that Googlers have access to some of the most high-tech toilets around? <a href="http://sfist.com/2008/06/26/behold_google_offices_toilets.php?gallery6095Pic=1#gallery" target="_hplink">These Japanese johns</a> offer washing and drying of your nether regions as well as the mysterious "wand cleaning." Both the wash water and the seat itself can be warmed or cooled depending on your preference. Want to see what it's like to be a Google employee? <a href="http://www.totousa.com/Washlet/TryaWashlet.aspx" target="_hplink">On its website,</a> manufacturer Toto lists restaurants around the country where you can have your own luxury toilet experience on one of their Washlets.
Endless Lap Pools
One perk about not working at Google is that Gawker never posts a photo of you swimming <a href="http://gawker.com/217775/man-in-google-lap-pool" target="_hplink">in one of the Googleplex's lap pools.</a> The outdoor mini-pools are like water treadmills: a strong current allows the Googler to swim and swim and go nowhere. <a href="http://computer.howstuffworks.com/googleplex3.htm" target="_hplink">Luckily, according to How Stuff Works,</a> lifeguards are always on duty in case someone gets in over their head. Google is big on water sports. In August, the company installed a temporary wave pool on campus to celebrate the Google+ team, <a href="http://www.launch.is/blog/sergey-brin-surfs-at-google-beach-party-id-1-that.html" target="_hplink">reported Launch. </a> See a picture of Google co-founder Sergey Brin riding the waves <a href="http://www.launch.is/blog/sergey-brin-surfs-at-google-beach-party-id-1-that.html" target="_hplink">here.</a>
<a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2344010,00.asp" target="_hplink">According to PC Magazine,</a> Google's Conference Bike is used as a team-building exercise for new employees. It has four wheels and five riders who work together to move it around.
Google's food program may not be the most creative perk at the company, but it is probably the most valuable to employees. Everyday, Googlers get three full meals and unlimited snacks from the campus' 25 cafeterias totally cost free. <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/07/what-googles-famous-cafeterias-can-teach-us-about-health/241876/" target="_hplink">According to The Atlantic,</a> the company makes an effort to keep the meals as healthy as possible by putting vegetables in every dish, using small plates and giving healthy items prime real estate in the cafeterias. <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/07/what-googles-famous-cafeterias-can-teach-us-about-health/241876/" target="_hplink">Google has also developed a creative pricing system</a> for vending machine food (the only edibles that cost money). The more sugar and fat contained in the snacks, the more they cost, which Google hopes will be enough incentive to keep its employees from gaining weight. Image via Flickr: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/brettlider/" target="_hplink">Brett L.</a>
Employees who don't have the time or inclination to get haircuts in the real world can get trimmed up at Google for free. <a href="Haircuts just one of Google's employee perks" target="_hplink">According to Reuters,</a> the service is provided by a company called <a href="http://www.onsitehaircuts.com/" target="_hplink">Onsite Haircuts</a> which operates out of mobile homes that travel around cutting the hair of Silicon Valley's tech army. Image via Flickr: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mwichary/" target="_hplink">Marcin Wichary</a>
Google has two things in common with McDonald's: an inclination toward primary colors and a ball pit. The Google Chrome ball pit is as you might expect a ball pit filled with plastic balls in the yellow, red, blue and green of the Google designed browser, Chrome. Check out the video above to see employees having too much fun at work.