“[Yesterday], in 2019, if the company was a person, it would be a young adult of 21 and it would be time to leave the roost. While it has been a tremendous privilege to be deeply involved in the day-to-day management of the company for so long, we believe it’s time to assume new the role of proud parents – offering advice and love, but not daily nagging,” Larry Page and Sergey Brin said in a joint statement confirming they are stepping aside from Google.
It’s the end of an era, though a new era just began. Let’s take a look at the journey that brought them here, and what the future holds for the fledgling company.
In 1996, two Stanford PhD students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin sat at the corner of a room to develop an idea called “BackRub” a revolutionary search engine that used a technology called “PageRank” that would rank web pages based on how many other web pages linked back to them.
BackRub became a reality soon after, and the scent of progress brought a sense of a better name that will resonate with what the idea will bring to the world in the future as regards data – numeric. So came the name “googol” or the number one with a hundred zeroes after it. It was later modified “Google,” a name that has become a friend to almost all lips.
On September 15 1997, Google.com was registered as a domain to substitute BackRub on Stanford university server reading google.stanford.edu. But it didn’t last long on Stanford campus, Google got kicked out by the IT department because it was consuming too much its bandwidth. It was a challenge that neither Page nor Brin saw coming but they got a lifeline in the name of Susan Wojcicki who offered them her garage.
The period birthed two positive outcomes; a relationship with Wojcicki that resulted in future employment and $100,000 seed fund from sun Microsystems’ founder, Andy Bechtolsheim. On September 4 1998, Google incorporation became official in a garage headquarters.
The struggle to get better continues as the inevitable tech exigencies kept surfacing one after the other. First it was Page and Brin’s inability to use the HTML programming language efficiently which stalled a lot of functionalities of the Google system until they decided to focus on algorithms.
In 1998, the first ever Google Doodle appeared in commemoration of the Burning man festival. And the firm hired its first ever employee, a fellow PhD student at Stanford, Craig Silverstein. At this point Google has grown bigger than Wojcicki garage and needed more space which it found in a data center in Santa Clara, California. Being a shared data center, Page talked to the owner for a break on their bandwidth bills because most of the company’s web traffic was inbound, and the data center’s usual customers focused on pushing data out.
In 1999, Excite’s CEO, George Bell made a $750,000 acquisition offer for Google. But somehow, the deal failed. But then, it ignited a business passion in Page and Brin, and the push to make Google a world dominant search engine started. Soon, Google moved to 165 University Avenue, Palo Alto, its first ever office, sharing the building with Paypal, Logitech and some other tech companies.
Soon after, the search engine startup made its biggest move; raising its first venture capital, a staggering $25 million investment from Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers and Sequoia Capital. It was a sought of encouragement that would spur many innovative ideas in the coming few years.
In the late 2000, in the wake of internet evolution, Google has established itself as an online search force to reckon with. So there was the introduction of adwords that enabled businesses to buy ads related to search terms. It was such a big win because it guaranteed a steady flow of income for Google.
In 2001, Google brought in its first CEO, Eric Schmidt, a decision that was influenced by investors Sequoia, and it enabled Page and Brin to focus on the tech aspect of the company.
In 2002, Yahoo made a $3 billion acquisition bid for Google but Page and Brin looked away. Just three years ago, Google was a $750 000 company. The difference in a space of three years was convincing enough to portray the bigger picture, the major reason yahoo wanted Google in the first place.
In 2003, spontaneous growth pushed Google out of its space at Palo Alto, and it leased the Googleplex campus from Ailing, old-school tech giant Silicon Graphics International. The lease lasted for about 3 years. In 2006, Google bought the famous Googleplex outright, and subsequent innovations were all evidence of success where others have failed.
On April 2004, Google announced an alternative to the popular yahoomail, Gmail. Suddenly, yahoo became a competitor, a development it didn’t see coming that fast. On August 19th, 2004, Google had its Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the stock market, at $85 per share. And the drive took its concentration away from search to some other things. In September and October, Google bought startups Keyhole, Where2, and ZipDash. The three were later transformed into the popular Google Maps.
In 2005, Google bought another startup, a tiny company making an operating system for digital cameras. The name was Android. It was a decision they didn’t know it would give mobile phone users such a pleasure.
In 2006, Google bought Upstartle, a company making the popular web-based word processor called Writely. Upstartle was transformed to Google Docs. But it was not stopping there, its huge appetite for online diversity was going to consume more startups, and YouTube became the next victim. Google paid $1.65 billion in stock for YouTube, which was newly developed by Paypal’s ex-employees. The acquisition necessitated expansion so that later in the year Google opened up its first wholly-owned data center in the Dalles, Oregon, on the banks of the Columbia River.
The expansion came with overwhelming popularity that made “Google” another word for search. In June, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary added Google as a verb word for search.
2008 came with two major milestones that took the world by storm. Google introduced the first ever Android phone – the HTC Dream. The expansion was getting contagious, and Google wanted to narrow it to its services only, so Chrome was debuted also. The web browser enabled Google to control your navigation on each device so as to focus your attention on Google served ads only.
In 2011, Larry Page became Google’s CEO after Schmidt stepped down. The following years saw a whole lot of tech adventure, from driverless cars to flying cars to wearables.
In 2015, Google made a drastic change in its corporate structure, Brin and Page made Google a subsidiary of Alphabet, and Larry Page became the CEO. The development led to Sundar Pichai, former Google Chrome head, to become the new CEO of Google.
There has been crisis here and there since then, but nothing out of containment so far. The idea that started in a corner of a campus room has become a monster of varying proportions in the tech world.
As Sergey Brin and Larry Page bow out in retirement, one can only imagine the stuff the duo was made of, to birth the most dominant website in the world. The “$85 per share company” of 2004 is now worth about $1,000 per share and hovers around $1 trillion in market cap.
In a nutshell, Page and Brin revolutionized the tech industry, pioneering the Silicon Valley big moves that many other companies are copying today.
Recently, Google has had to deal with some crises bordering on antitrust issues and internal issues hanging basically on employees and bosses relationship. So far, it appears to be far from settled and raises questions on Pichai’s ability to handle it. But Pichai has been in the system for so long to know his way in and out of trouble.
However, Brin and Page have created a legacy that will outlive them, and more to that, they created a system that will sustain it.