The most popular search engine in the world was invented by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. With a market value of over $800 billion it’s easy to forget this tech behemoth came from humble origins.
In the summer of 1995, Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford University as graduate students in computer science. By January of 1996, the pair began collaborating on writing a program to explore the mathematical properties of the world wide web. They named it BackRub, after its ability to do back link analysis as a measure of a webpage’s importance, with academic citations in mind. This formed the basis of their PageRank algorithm, which would revolutionize existing techniques for finding search results.
Fueled by the initial rave reviews that BackRub received, Page and Brin began working on the next phase of their search engine.
Brainstorming for a new name, Page and Brin were inspired by the googol, a designation in mathematics for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros. To Google’s founders their name represented the immense amount of information that their search engine aspired to sift through to generate meaningful results. They decided “Google” would be easier to spell for most people.
Operating out of their dorm rooms, the pair built a server network using cheap, used, and borrowed PCs. They maxed out their credit cards buying terabytes of disks at discount prices. They tried to license their search engine technology to other companies, but failed to find anyone that wanted their product at its early stage of development. So Page and Brin decided to keep Google, seek financing, improve the product, and take it to the public themselves.
Their strategy worked, and after more development Google finally became a hot commodity. Co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Andy Bechtolsheim, said after a quick demo, “Instead of us discussing all the details, why don’t I just write you a check?”
The $100,000 check was made out to Google Inc. However, Google Inc. as a legal entity did not yet exist. Page and Brin incorporated within two weeks, cashed that check, and raised $900,000 more for their initial funding.
In September of 1998, Larry and Sergey opened an office out of their friend’s garage (Susan Wojcicki, one of their first employees and now CEO of YouTube) in Menlo Park, California and Google.com, a beta search engine, was soon answering 10,000 search queries every day. Even during beta they were gaining a lot of attention for providing better search results than their competitors.
On September 21, 1999, Page and Brin officially removed the beta (test status) from their title. Its simple, uncluttered design quickly attracted a loyal following, and Google quietly rose in stature while generating steady revenue even after the tech bubble burst.
In 2003 the company leased a complex of buildings in Mountain View, CA to accommodate its small army of employees. Dubbing it the Googleplex, it has remained there ever since.
On August 19, 2004, Larry and Sergey aok Google public, raising $1.6 Billion with a market cap of $23 Billion, simultaneously making Billionaires of its two founders and multi-millionaires of many of its employees. Google’s value continued to skyrocket, joining the S&P 500 in 2006. The infusion of capital allowed them to acquire many other businesses to add to their ever-expanding list of services.
Google is one of the biggest companies in the world, with over 70 offices in 41 different countries. In addition to consumer internet services, operating systems, and hardware devices, Google and its subsidiaries are involved in fiber optic infrastructure, life science research, self-driving electric automobiles, aerospace, venture capital, and philanthropy.
Both Larry Page and Sergey Brin are still actively involved in the leadership of their company, while also focusing on individual philanthropic efforts.