Ga-Ga for Google

Disk Array

At first, Google started as a collaborative graduate-level research project focusing on link analysis in 1996. The long-term goal was to "retrieve relevant information from a massive set of data," not to start a business and become a hot topic in the media and in the technology world.

Deadpan, Brin admits to his and Page's lackadaisical approach to the project. "We were quite lazy about it," he says. "Stanford was pretty comfy. Being a graduate student there, you didn't really get paid well, but you got to spend time with a lot of interesting people. It's a pretty nice place to be, so we weren't really that motivated to run off and start a company."

But after a short time, they were having a lot of success retrieving information and realized the importance of what they were working on. "It got to the point where the easier way to provide it to the world was to start a company," says Brin. They were no-frills when it came to equipment: Page's dorm room was their data center and Brin's was the office until they upgraded to a garage. Money, however, wasn't hard to come by.

Their privately owned company has received funding from the likes of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital. In fact, money has flowed since the very beginning. After Brin and Page decided to start the company, they put forth about $20,000 of their own capital to buy disks and computers. "We would've been happy to self-fund [the company], but it just happened to be easier to get a little investment, so we went to people we were close to," says Brin.

Google's initial angel investors included Ram Shriram, then-president of Junglee, which was eventually purchased by Amazon.com; professors from Stanford University; and Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, who tried a few queries using Google on a Palo Alto porch one morning and was impressed enough to write a $100,000 check on the spot. The reason Google incorporated when it did was because that check was made out to one Google Inc.

With the myriad of tell-all biographies detailing Internet mavens' rise to glory and movies depicting many a dotcommer's fall from grace, you'd think Google's ride would be a similar whirlwind. Not the case. "I feel bad about even being associated with those kinds of people," says Brin about cutthroat go-getters featured in documentaries like Startup.com. "I think there are a lot of ethical issues there. That company started with, 'There's an Internet boom--why don't we capitalize on it?' In Google's case, we were really interested in developing our search technology. It wasn't a get-rich-quick thing, and it still isn't. We're trying to build better and better products and a stronger and stronger company, but you don't see us running around trying to make a buck by IPO-ing or selling the company."

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This article was originally published in the April 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Ga-Ga for Google.

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