Larry Page - 26 March 1973, Sergey Brin - 21 August 1973
In short, Sergey Brin and Larry Page are the two computer whiz champs who changed the world as we knew it. Their irreverence made them creative. Brin and Page had the same vision and that was to organize all of the world’s information and make it available to everyone through the power of technology.
But to an ever-increasing number of people, Google’s access to their user’s information is frightening. Experts believe that in a sense, Google is the Big Brother that people have been talking about all these years. They are the kind of guys who keep Bill Gates up at night.
Meet the Google Inventors
In an industry where innovation is just part of the job description, Brin and Page have become masters of the world of information and gathering. Their creation is part of our language and daily routine—what we don’t know, we Google. But most of us don’t understand how it works or how Google manages to stay ahead of its competitors.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page’s Early Biography
Sergey Brin was born in the Soviet Union in 1973. His parents were mathematicians and Jewish, which limited their career opportunities and forced them to migrate to the United States. His parents brought them up with a sense of purpose which boiled down to a simple message—make it first always.
Larry Page was also born in 1973. His family lives in Michigan and his father, Carl Page, is the first person in their family to obtain a college degree. Both of his parents were on similar field as Sergey Brin’s. Larry, as a student, was always willing to take risks in building something different and never cared about grades. But both share the same attitude—they never give up.
Inspiring Quotes from Larry Page
Coming from a home where parents talk about ideas and think outside the box, their parents have instilled in them a mission that is important. And that mission was shared by Larry Page to the graduating students of Michigan in 2009 when he said:
"You know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night with a vivid dream and don’t have paper and pencil by the bed? It would be completely gone by the next morning. I have one of those dreams when I was 23 when I suddenly woke up I was thinking, ‘what if we could download the whole web and just keep the links,’ and I grab the pen and started writing soon after I told my adviser, Terry Winograd, that it would take week for me to download the web which he knowingly enough it would take more but wisely enough not to tell me."
Meeting at Stanford
In 1995, at Stanford University, the headstrong over–achievers—Sergey Brin and Larry Page—first met. Brin is more outgoing than Larry. Larry has an audacious dream and that is to download the entire web, which was coincidentally similar to Sergey’s.
In the 1990s, searching the internet was rudimentary—a hit or miss activity—that was often turning results that were useless and misleading, not to mention the amount of time it took to turn out results. Page and Brin developed a much better approach to web searching.
Using pages downloaded web, the young engineers developed a more useful search engine. The two found patterns and backlinks to enhance web surfing. Page noticed that behind every web page where hundreds or even thousands of pages linked to it.
The Birth of Google
It was a Eureka! moment for them, something that eventually altered the information age. They realized that backlinks can be used for ranking, which led to their theory that a website with the most backlinks can be considered a top site. The more links the website gets, the more reliable it must be.
Page and Brin discovered their secret formula and came up with Google from the word “Googol” or number 1 followed by 100 zeros—a number and a name that symbolizes grandiosity. In September of 2007, Page and Brin registered Google as a website.
With their growing idea also came the need to increase computer power and capacity. They quickly overwhelmed Stanford resources and started getting complaints from people who run the network facilities, saying that Google, during that time, used up half of the facility’s computing capacity. It came to a point that the capacity increased overtime, resulting in a crash of computer department facilities.
Dropping out of Stanford to Focus on Google
In 1998, Brin and Page dropped out of their Ph.D. program to focus on attracting investors to their growing company. However, it wasn’t a walk in the park because both of them are engineers by profession and not businessmen. When Google started, most tech start-ups had a simple goal—to invent something, sell it to tech giants, and walk away rich. That was the very thing their school adviser told them.
But most of the big companies declined to buy or invest in Google because it doesn’t fit what a search engine should be during those times. Investors wanted something that keeps users from transferring to another page by containing search within their resources. Google did the opposite and the unthinkable by helping users explore the other web pages because Brin and Page wanted users to find results the fastest way possible.
Andy Bechtolsheim Gives Google $100,000
The first investor of Google was Andy Bechtolsheim, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, who handed them a check worth $100,000. Larry Page recalled, “At that time we have no company at all and in fact we couldn’t in-cash the check… and we don’t have legal documents.” Brin and Page also raised money amounting to $1 million from other investors including Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com.
New Office: Googleplex
In 1998, the duo incorporated Google and moved their headquarters from a garage to Menlo Park and hired their fellow Ph.D. student, Craig Silverstein, the company’s first employee. The company became popular through word of mouth and soon Google attracted several big investors including Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers who wanted an exclusive deal to the company. Larry and Sergey both said no because they wanted to remain venture capitalists of Google.
In 1999, Google had its first big investment amounting to $25 million and created an agreement with the web browser, Netscape, to send traffic to them. They had a very strict standard when it came to hiring employees and posted billboard with web address written in math equations to attract applicants.
Google Keeps Employees Happy
The duo also wanted the workplace to have a graduate school atmosphere with perks, and build a headquarter known as the Googleplex, where food and camaraderie abound. Googleplex has more than 600 chefs along with several cafes, serving organic foods sourced out in the area surrounding the Silicon Valley.
Employees are also forced to sit on long tables with people they didn’t know, which in effect challenged their thoughts. As a result, employees’ competition led them to think of new ideas. This workplace idea is every inch an informal model. Then Google popularized the mantra, “Don’t be evil.”
The Google culture was good for business. The company put up massage and fitness centers, making the office a place where people wouldn’t want to leave, so they went to work every day and leave late. They also attracted the best engineers and workers.
Google AdWords Saves Company
The set-up also made Google employees rise in number; however, the company still wasn’t making any money. The duo was yet to find a way to bring in money but didn’t like the idea of using advertising to earn profits. Unlike its competitors, such as Yahoo and AOL, the two guys didn’t like to clutter Google page with ads.
But without ads, Google would not earn revenues at all and Page and Brin as a result were forced to accept ads even though it challenged their utopian beliefs of the best user’s experience. Through enormous thought and pondering, Google found a way to put ads that they could live with—using target text ads.
Instead of flashing ads and pop ups, Google put small ads above or next to the search results. The ads that are relevant to what someone is searching about are very familiar to us now, but were revolutionary ideas back in the early days of Google. The ad idea was called, the Google AdWords.
In AdWords, small and big business can control their advertising cost by buying words relevant to their products or services. It was also loved by advertisers because they only pay when someone clicks their ads—it was the most efficient form of marketing they ever had.
AdWords on business point of view is the holy grail—it allowed them direct relation to their best customer. The advertising system that Brin and Page created was cheap and precise and made people in traditional advertising go crazy. With AdWords delivering massive revenue sources for Google, the company exploded and became the largest search engine two years after it was launched.
In 2000, it has indexed one billion URLs and became available in 15 languages, but only few people knew who the “creator” of Google was.
With its growth, Page and Brin developed a policy that encouraged innovations within the company, which is the “20% time.”
Larry Page stated that, “the idea that the 20% of time in Google, you can do what you wanted to do [within that time] and many things at Google have come out of that such as AdWords and Google News.” But the enormous ideas and new projects were putting a lot of pressure on Brin and Page, which resulted in the hiring of Eric Schmidt as their new CEO.
By the end of 2001, Eric Schmidt was Google’s CEO, Brin became the Technology President and Page was positioned as the Product President with the two founders still sharing the same office. With Schmidt in place, Google kept up its spectacular growth, while most of its rivals slowly faded away.
Google Partners and Stocks
With Google’s linkage to over 3 billion web pages, Google partnered with AOL, which also brought them over 30 million new customers. With tremendous growth, Google needed a much larger infrastructure and capital, which can only be answered if the company goes public.
But unlike other companies, Google founders wanted the price of the company stock decided by them and not by Wall Street. The auction for Google’s share was one which landed in history with a stock price of over $100 per share resulting in Google’s net worth of more than $22 billion.
Analysts think that the company offered a conservative stock price. According to them, even though the price was higher—with their status in the information technology business—investors would still flock in.
But still, the IPO made Sergey Brin and Larry Page billionaires and both reached the financial big leagues in six years. Page and Brin predicted that it would take more than 300 years to finish their mission of organizing the world’s information.
The Problem with Gmail According to “Googled”
Brin and Page were running Google, a six–billion–dollar company that included Google News, Google Maps, and Google Earth, quite smoothly. The duo’s bold ideas and innovation have built a reputation but still the company was stumbling with their free email service, Gmail, because of the highly targeted ads on the Google email service.
This email misstep according to “Googled” book author, Ken Auletta, was a result of engineer’s mentality of quantifying the data from the users. Gmail created a fundamental argument about privacy and trust. Because of the massive information that Google obtained from its users, they’ve become, in a sense, the Big Brother that everybody has been talking about.
Google Goes to China
Google, which became known as the ultimate Big Brother, had their philosophy, “Don’t be evil,” brought to the test. Two years after the company became public in 2006, Google closed a deal with China to reach the country’s 400 million web users provided they censor results of banned topics.
For Sergey Brin, whose family ran away from the former Soviet Union which was also conducting censorship during the communist regime, it was a bothering decision. Still, for Google’s expansion, he agreed to the demand of the Chinese government.
Later on, Google discovered that hacking was being done on their service. The hackers were desperate to gain access to Gmail accounts, particularly of those who belong to the Chinese human rights activism. After it was tracked down, Google suspended Gmail in China and redirected the site to an unfiltered webpage based in Hong Kong.
After the tense negotiation with the Chinese government, the company’s license was renewed and Sergey Brin later admitted that starting the censored site was a mistake and has made no further statement about Google in China since 2010.
YouTube, created for home videos, soon became one of the world’s top search engines. During the launching of YouTube, Brin and Page were also busy creating a Google service for videos but were having problems with video uploading. Theirs took almost a day to get videos uploaded, while YouTube’s was much faster.
By the middle of 2006, users were uploading about 60,000 videos on YouTube per day, which made Google interested in the site. Google acquired YouTube for $1.6 billion, which thrilled the two video uploading site founders—Chad Hurley and Steven Chen.
Still in 2006, Eric Schmidt acknowledged that for Google to stay competitive they have to tap mobile phone users. So in that same year, they bought Android, a small company developing software for cell phones.
Google vs Apple and Microsoft
In 2007, Apple’s success with its IPhone has made the two companies in collision course with each other and months later, the two Google founders announced that their new Android software could run on various mobile phones. Steve Jobs, the long-time idols of Sergey Brin and Larry Page, slammed Google for entering the mobile phone business, accusing Google of trying to kill the IPhone. After that, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who has been a member of Apple’s board, resigned.
Google was also battling another giant in the technology world—Microsoft. Both companies offer similar services, such as Chrome and Explorer, and Google Docs and Microsoft Office. In 2009, Microsoft retaliated by launching a new search engine called Bing.
With Google’s success, their critics also grew especially from the publishing industry when they started to scan every book and published them online with one big mistake—Google didn’t ask permission from the publishers/authors of the books. But the company remains optimistic in organizing the world’s books, which they feared might be lost in the future.
The Street View Malady
Google’s quest to organize the world’s information took a new twist with an ambitious project that the company called Street View—an application that creates photos of every neighborhood in the entire world.
To attain this task, Larry Page and Sergey Brin launched a fleet of camera mounted cars on every street in the world. The project would include ordinary photos of every neighborhood to stunning images of Antarctica. But the effort also took private user’s data from unsecured Wi-Fi locations and a lot of people felt that Google is compromising their privacy. Google responded and acknowledged their mistake and also agreed to destroy the data that they have gathered.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s biggest competition is Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. The social networking site company is threatening Google’s core business with its over one billion users spending time on Facebook, posting valuable information that is invisible to Google’s search engine—information that advertisers want.
Sergey Brin Helps Parkinson’s Research
In a year’s time, Sergey Brin and Larry Page both got married. A few years after Brin got married, he faced a personal challenge. He had inherited a gene that carried a possibility of having a Parkinson’s disease and announced it through the first personal blog that he had created to educate and raise awareness about the disease.
Facing few options, Brin joined the battle against Parkinson’s by applying computer science algorithm to medical research. He had also given millions of dollars to Parkinson’s research. Not only that, Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, also gave big amounts in grants and investments to various organizations from clean energy to global health.
Google also continues to embark on new grounds and one of its latest ventures is Google TV. Using Android-powered gadgets, Google TV is a bold attempt to deliver online video content to standard television set.
In the span of 10 years, Google had grown from a start-up to a technology giant that generated $29 billion of profits in 2010. In 2011, Google, through Eric Schmidt, announced that they’re simplifying their management structure and added that Larry Page is ready to lead and become CEO. Sergey Brin, on the other hand, will focus on new products.
The duo, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have changed the way we get information. They’re innovative, determined, and extraordinary. They displayed sincere concern for the needs of the people to learn more by organizing the world’s information and by also caring for the environment.
- Tesla Motors
- Space Adventures
- Project Glass
- NASA Ames Research Center
- Vandenberg Air Force Base
- Life Magazine
- NextEra Energy Resources
- International Mathematical Olympiad
- Project 10^100
- Google Ventures
Awards, Recognitions and Achievements
- 1998: Google was recognized by PC Magazine as one of the Top 100 Websites and Search Engine
- 1999: Google received the Technical Excellence Award for Innovation in Web Application Development
- 2000: Google received the Webby Award
- 2001: Received the Search Engine Watch Awards as the search engine with Outstanding Search Service, Best Design, Best Image Search Engine, Most Webmaster Friendly Search Engine, and Best Search Feature
- 2002: Recognized as one of the top 100 innovators under 35 years old by the MIT Technology Review TR100
- 2002: Page was recognized by the World Economic Forum as the Global Leader of Tomorrow
- 2003: IE Business School recipient of honorary MBA
- 2004: Columbia University recipient of Marconi Foundation Prize
- 2004: Elected to the National Academy of Engineering
- 2004: ABC World News Tonight’s “Persons of the Week”
- 2004: Page become X Prize’s board of trustee
- 2004: Recipient of the Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Awards
- 2005: Become Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- 2008: Page received the University of Michigan’s honorary doctorate
- 2009: Brin was inducted to the National Academy of Engineering
- 2011: Page was the Forbes list of billionaires’ 11th richest man in the United States and 24th in the world
- 2012: Page was the Bloomberg Billionaires Index world’s 27th richest man
- 2012: Brin was the Forbes list 24th world’s richest person