Google exec focuses on trends during roundtable

Editor’s note: Arthur Lipper, an investment banker, author and inventor, will periodically report on local business events and companies. Send ideas to

By Arthur Lipper


Last week, the UCSD Economics Roundtable presented Dr. Hal Varian. The dean of the School of Information Management and Systems at UC Berkeley, although currently on leave, he also is the chief economist at Google.

More important than even his impressive bio was the message he presented of how Google’s data collection technology allows for predictions to be made through the use of Google Trends.

Google Trends reflects the changing percentage of total clicks on very specific subjects. When compared with hard data such as unemployment stats or car sales.

Citing the timely examples of Toyota’s recalls and drawing laughs when he pointed out a spike in searches for “guacamole” during Super Bowl Week, Varian made the point in graphics as to the predictive relevance of inquiry patterns to subsequent behavior.

He noted the improved ability to predict is of vital interest to those considering taking actions based on the likely behavior of others — take, for example, those developing ad campaigns.

  • A couple of weeks ago at the CleanTech San Diego quarterly meeting, Jim McDermott, managing director of US Renewables Group of Los Angeles, informed the crowd that wind power generates 300,000 megawatts of electric power annually — far more than all of the other alternative energy providers combined.

He provided a great insight, when he asked the audience to show by raising their hands how many were interested in obtaining funding for wind power-related projects which prompted the raising of a slew of hands. However, when next he asked how many were interested in investing in wind power projects there were no raised hands to be seen.

  • And a week ago, the MIT Enterprise Forum San Diego held its quarterly meeting in which Alan Webber, the founding editor of Fast Company magazine, and Neil Senturia, chief executive officer of U.S. Local News Network, bantered about which of the rules in their respective books were more useful to entrepreneurs.

Alan Webber’s book “Rules of Thumb — 52 truths for winning at business without losing your self” and Neil Senturia’s “The Baby Book on Becoming a Billionaire” were frequently in agreement as to advice, though the stylistic approaches differ. The two grew up in St. Louis together.
The next MIT Enterprise Forum meeting, set for on March 17, will focus on managing exponential growth.