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Valve's Gabe Newell discusses company profitability, and getting new eyes


You probably don't need company head Gabe Newell to tell you -- as he did Forbes in a recent profile -- that Valve is "tremendously profitable." But did you know that it's "more profitable than Google or Apple" (per employee)?

And did you know that Newell has crazy robot eyes?

, okay, he actually got cornea implants instead of "robot eyes," per se -- just as interesting, however, is Newell's post-surgery statement. "Not only could I see again, but I could see better than I ever had before." As Newell suffers from Fuchs Dystrophy, his corneas were slowly degrading before correction. "I felt like I was in a fantasy story. It reminded me of how fast the future is coming at us and from what unexpected directions."

Keeping his eyes on the money, Newell declined to offer any hard numbers as to his company's financial success, though he admitted that "per employee, Valve is more profitable than Google and Apple." To put some context on that, Valve's 250-person company has an estimated value of $2 billion to $4 billion (approximately $8 million to $16 million profit earned per employee), while Apple's 49,400 employees pull in roughly $6.68 million each, and Google's 24,400 earn the company around $8.19 million apiece. [Note: statistics based on current market valuations of Apple and Google, combined with company-provided employee numbers, here and here].

Newell also wouldn't speak specifically about any attempted acquisitions of Valve or Steam in the last few years, though the company confirmed it "received interested in both Steam and Valve in the past." Considering Newell's personal investment in the company -- both financially and personally, having helped bankroll the studio's opening and still owning "more than half" of Valve -- it'd be surprising to see a sale. It certainly doesn't hurt that Steam's already dominant grip on the PC gaming market saw 200 percent membership growth in 2010, an improvement that has helped make Newell "a near billionaire, if not one already," according to Forbes.

If that weren't enough, when he's not busy making himself and many other people loads of money, Newell spends time working with boiling metals. "I thought it would be a good complement to staring at a screen all day," he says. Ironically, one of the two items that he's listed as making is specifically intended to support just such an electronic screen -- an iPad stand.

[Image credit: Forbes]

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