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Once Upon a Time... Google Was Born

According to Google lore, company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were not terribly fond of each other when they first met as Stanford University graduate students in computer science in 1995. Larry was a 24-year-old University of Michigan alumnus on a weekend visit; Sergey, 23, was among a group of students assigned to show him around. They argued about every topic they discussed. Their strong opinions and divergent viewpoints would eventually find common ground in a unique approach to solving one of computing's biggest challenges: retrieving relevant information from a massive set of data.

By January of 1996, Larry and Sergey had begun collaboration on a search engine called BackRub, named for its unique ability to analyze the "back links" pointing to a given website. Larry, who had always enjoyed tinkering with machinery and had gained some notoriety for building a working printer out of Lego™ bricks, took on the task of creating a new kind of server environment that used low-end PCs instead of big expensive machines. Afflicted by the perennial shortage of cash common to graduate students everywhere, the pair took to haunting the department's loading docks in hopes of tracking down newly arrived computers that they could borrow for their network.

A year later, their unique approach to link analysis was earning BackRub a growing reputation among those who had seen it. Buzz about the new search technology began to build as word spread around campus.

Larry and Sergey continued working to perfect their technology through the first half of 1998. Following a path that would become a key tenet of the Google way, they bought a terabyte of disks at bargain prices and built their own computer housings in Larry's dorm room, which became Google's first data center. Meanwhile Sergey set up a business office, and the two began calling on potential partners who might want to license a search technology better than any then available. Despite the dotcom fever of the day, they had little interest in building a company of their own around the technology they had developed.

Among those they called on was friend and Yahoo! founder David Filo. Filo agreed that their technology was solid, but encouraged Larry and Sergey to grow the service themselves by starting a search engine company. "When it's fully developed and scalable," he told them, "let's talk again." Others were less interested in Google, as it was now known. One portal CEO told them, "As long as we're 80 percent as good as our competitors, that's good enough. Our users don't really care about search."

Touched by an angel

Unable to interest the major portal players of the day, Larry and Sergey decided to make a go of it on their own. All they needed was a little cash to move out of the dorm — and to pay off the credit cards they had maxed out buying a terabyte of memory. So they wrote up a business plan, put their Ph.D. plans on hold, and went looking for an angel investor. Their first visit was with a friend of a faculty member.

Andy Bechtolsheim, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, was used to taking the long view. One look at their demo and he knew Google had potential — a lot of potential. But though his interest had been piqued, he was pressed for time. As Sergey tells it, "We met him very early one morning on the porch of a Stanford faculty member's home in Palo Alto. We gave him a quick demo. He had to run off somewhere, so he said, 'Instead of us discussing all the details, why don't I just write you a check?' It was made out to Google Inc. and was for $100,000."

The investment created a small dilemma. Since there was no legal entity known as "Google Inc.," there was no way to deposit the check. It sat in Larry's desk drawer for a couple of weeks while he and Sergey scrambled to set up a corporation and locate other funders among family, friends, and acquaintances. Ultimately they brought in a total initial investment of almost $1 million.

Everyone's favorite garage band

In September 1998, Google Inc. opened its door in Menlo Park, California. The door came with a remote control, as it was attached to the garage of a friend who sublet space to the new corporation's staff of three. The office offered several big advantages, including a washer and dryer and a hot tub. It also provided a parking space for the first employee hired by the new company: Craig Silverstein, now Google's director of technology.

Already, still in beta, was answering 10,000 search queries each day. The press began to take notice of the upstart website with the relevant search results, and articles extolling Google appeared in USA TODAY and Le Monde. That December, PC Magazine named Google one of its Top 100 Web Sites and Search Engines for 1998. Google was moving up in the world.

On the finish of 2005, Google had been for years the most important search engine, also offering news and advertising services. In 2005, they had also launched a music search feature that delivers a mix of information on artists, titles, links to albums, reviews and where to buy information for a wide range of musicians and performers. They also announced a significant new agreement with AOL that expands a long-standing strategic alliance between the two companies. Among other things, this agreement creates a global online advertising partnership, makes more of AOL's content available to Google users, and includes a $1 billion investment in AOL. And finally at the end of the first full year of the Google Blog by tallying, among other things, there had been a number of product tips (38), new product announcements (77), Google culture items (40) and international posts (19) they published. As with everything else – there will be more to come next year.

2006, the new year's fresh takes

And the year arrived with a bang: a brand new Google Video store – now featuring many titles from numerous content partners, and the ability to view or download them using a new Google Video Player. What's more, filmmakers can set the price and level of copy protection for their productions, giving fans far more variety than was previously available. While at the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Google also unleashed a Google Pack – a free collection of safe and useful software for improving the web experience. And a first for Google: Larry Page delivered a keynote speech at CES, which has become a huge event for reporters, industry folks and consumers alike.

Larry Page, Co-Founder & President, Products

Larry Page was Google's founding CEO and grew the company to more than 200 employees and profitability before moving into his role as President, Products in April 2001. He continues to share responsibility for Google's day-to-day operations with Eric Schmidt and Sergey Brin.

The son of Michigan State University computer science professor Dr. Carl Victor Page, Larry's love of computers began at age six. While following in his father's footsteps in academics, he became an honors graduate from the University of Michigan, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in engineering, with a concentration on computer engineering. During his time in Ann Arbor, Larry built an inkjet printer out of Lego™ bricks.

While in the Ph.D. program in computer science at Stanford University, Larry met Sergey Brin and together they developed and ran Google, which began operating in 1998. Larry went on leave from Stanford after earning his master's degree.

In 2002, Larry was named a World Economic Forum Global Leader for Tomorrow. He is a member of the National Advisory Committee (NAC) of the University of Michigan College of Engineering, and together with Co-Founder Sergey Brin, Larry was honored with the Marconi Prize in 2004. He is a trustee on the board of the X PRIZE, and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2004.

Sergey Brin, Co-Founder & President, Technology

Sergey Brin, a native of Moscow, received a bachelor of science degree with honors in mathematics and computer science from the University of Maryland at College Park. He is currently on leave from the Ph.D. program in computer science at Stanford University, where he received his master's degree. Sergey is a recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship as well as an honorary MBA from Instituto de Empresa.

It was at Stanford where he met Larry Page and worked on the project that became Google. Together they founded Google Inc. in 1998, and Sergey continues to share responsibility for day-to-day operations with Larry Page and Eric Schmidt.

Sergey's research interests include search engines, information extraction from unstructured sources, and data mining of large text collections and scientific data. He has published more than a dozen academic papers, including Extracting Patterns and Relations from the World Wide Web; Dynamic Data Mining: A New Architecture for Data with High Dimensionality, which he published with Larry Page; Scalable Techniques for Mining Casual Structures; Dynamic Itemset Counting and Implication Rules for Market Basket Data; and Beyond Market Baskets: Generalizing Association Rules to Correlations.

Sergey has been a featured speaker at several international academic, business and technology forums, including the World Economic Forum and the Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference. He has shared his views on the technology industry and the future of search on the Charlie Rose Show, CNBC, and CNNfn. In 2004, he and Larry Page were named "Persons of the Week" by ABC World News Tonight.

© Contacto Magazine - September 28, 2006
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