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Ex-Toledoan with Google shares insight

Souder talks to Toledo Club about thriving in tech boom


Ted Souder, right, of Google talks with his wife, Lori, and J.B. Rorick during the President’s Dinner at the Toledo Club.

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For two decades, former Toledoan Ted Souder has surfed technology’s roiling waves of change, at times getting swept away but also riding its crest.

And what a ride it has been.

“It was a really incredible time,” Mr. Souder said of the 1990s, when he spent time at online industry landmarks such as America Online, Excite, the @Home Network, and Echo Networks.

Since October, 2001, Mr. Souder, a 1989 Ottawa Hills High School graduate, has found a permanent home with Google Inc., the California firm that has morphed into a $55 billion entity.

“With Google, we’ve been so lucky to do such incredible things and be good at a lot of it,” said Mr. Souder, who oversees Google’s industry and retail operations.

Now a resident of Chicago, Mr. Souder, 42, spoke Thursday at the Toledo Club’s President’s Dinner. In unscripted remarks, his topics included the benefits of technology, the history of Google, and the Toledo Club.

“I have so many fond memories of spending time here,” Mr. Souder said in an interview afterward.

“The club always had such a nice sense of community. I’m really here to celebrate Toledo.”

He is the son of the late William Souder, a well-known Toledo-area financial planner, and Vickie Souder, a longtime leader in cultural and arts groups. His mother was with him for the dinner.

Mr. Souder left Toledo to attend the University of Denver. Upon graduation he went to work for the Denver Business Journal to sell ads, but about that time, the Internet became more commercial. He took a job at America Online to help small businesses get online.

“I’d tell them, ‘You need a Web site,’ but they’d say, ‘What’s a Web site?’ ” Mr. Souder recalled.

Then the Internet took off.

Heading to San Francisco, he worked for Excite, an early Internet search engine, and later @Home Network and finally Echo Networks, an early music-sharing site.

Unemployed in 2001, Mr. Souder decided to leave Silicon Valley and head to Chicago, where he got a job with Google, then just a three-year-old startup.

Google, he added, was different from others he had worked for. Its leaders knew they wanted to change people’s lives, weren’t quite sure how they’d get there, but knew the employees would find a way.

“I very much bought into their philosophy, the elegance of the product, and the leaders who were on a mission to change the world," Mr. Souder said.

In Chicago, he took over retail and industry.

When he joined Google in 2001, it had 200 employees and estimated revenues of $100 million.

Today, it has nearly 55,000 employees, and revenues of $55.8 billion.

Mr. Souder said the report doesn’t surprise him.

“The goal has always been to go out and hire the best and the brightest and to allow those people to thrive," he said.

Staff writers Jon Chavez and Mark Zaborney contributed to this report.

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