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The Google Story by David Vise and Mark Malseed

The Google Story was about seven years old when I read it, but I have read several Google books in the past and am fascinated by the company so I figured why not give it a read. Right off the bat I want to commend the authors David Vise and Mark Malseed, this was a very interesting and well written book. It reads much like a timeline of what events Google went through, the mistakes they made, and the progress they achieved that helped lead them to the enormous success of a company they are today. The book starts out by highlighting Brin and Page as two Stanford graduate school students in the fall of 1997 who were working on an insanely cool project (search engine). A friend, who was also a graduate student, suggested they look up the number (the largest number known) 10100, also known as Googol. However, in doing so they made a mistake and misspelled the word as Google. They looked it up, and it wasn’t taken on the available list of domains so they reserved it. When they found out they had made a mistake, they looked up the word Googol and found it was taken, so they decided to move forward with Google.

The Google Story

Starting the company

Early on when Page was a student he created a program called “backrub,” while it is easy to know where your site is linking to Page had an interest in the reverse, who was linking to his site. Backrub did exactly this, and it was an excellent tool both Brin and Page used with Google. They later combined it with a mathematical algorithm and established “PageRank,” which helped them find which sites were linked to the most and the importance of those sites. After that, they both set out to build a search engine using PageRank and of course this is how Google started.

Google worked on getting venture capital early on, and they did many well known Venture Capital firms (i.e. Sequoia Capital, Angel Investors LP, etc.) were eager to invest. While Brin and Page were very happy about all of the interest in their company and it’s early stage success they didn’t want to bring the company public too soon. As a matter of fact, they stalled every chance they got. Angel Investors urged them to pick a CEO and they went through countless names, turning down each one. However, they did identify with Eric Schmidt, they really liked his background with Novell and Sun Microsystems. Soon enough, Schmidt was appointed the CEO of Google. However, it was still Brin and Page’s company and both of them let him know it. Schmidt was the victim of pranks like renaming Google’s site to Topeka, and when he was at Sun they reassembled a Volkswagen in his office.

The book goes through all of Google’s milestones like gmail, adsense, adwords, acquisitions, etc. I found a great timeline on Google’s website which does this in more detail which can be found here.

An excellent work environment

Google is an excellent company to work for, and it’s very tough to get into. I interviewed for a sales role back in 2007, and while I was turned down for the role they couldn’t have been nicer about it (and I mean that). If you ever get the chance to go to Mountain View, California I would strongly recommend touring the campus, it’s incredible. Some parts of the book I really enjoyed which really highlight the awesome work environment are the “don’t be evil” slogan, the Burning Man retreat, the story about Google’s chef Charlie Ayers (one of the best parts of the book), and reading about the fantastic camaraderie and mutual respect between colleagues. In such a difficult and high stress place to work, I don’t think you would see this in just any company but Brin and Page have done their best to make sure this is the kind of work environment Google has, and it is maintained.

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