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A Healthy Disregard for the Impossible
Sergey Brin and Larry Page cruised onto the stage to the kind of roars and excitement that teenagers normally reserve for rock stars. They had entered the auditorium through a rear door, leaving behind photographers, sunglasses, a pair of hired cars with drivers, and an attractive young woman who was traveling with Sergey. Dressed casually, they sat down and cracked smiles, pleased at their heroes' welcome. They were near the birthplace of civilization, thousands of miles and an ocean away from the place where their work together had begun. It seemed as good a place as any for a pair of young superstars, whose shared ambition revolved around changing the world, to talk about what they had done, how they had done it, and what their dreams were for the future.
"Do you guys know the story of Google?" Page asked. "Do you want me to tell it?"
"Yes!" the crowd shouted.
It was September 2003, and the hundreds of students and faculty at this Israeli high school geared toward the brightest young minds in mathematics wanted to hear everything the youthful inventors had to say. Many of them identified with Brin because, like him, they had escaped with their families from Mother Russia in search of freedom. And they related to Page just as eagerly, since he was part of the duo that had created the most powerful and accessible information tool of their time--a tool sparking change that was already sweeping the world. Like kids playing basketball and dreaming of being the next Michael Jordan, the students wanted to be like Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
"Google was started when Sergey and I were Ph.D. students at Stanford University in computer science," Page began, "and we didn't know exactly what we wanted to do. I got this crazy idea that I was going to download the entire Web onto my computer. I told my advisor that it would only take a week. After about a year or so, I had some portion of it." The students laughed.
"So optimism is important," he went on. "You have to be a little silly about the goals you are going to set. There is a phrase I learned in college called, 'Having a healthy disregard for the impossible,'" Page said. "That is a really good phrase. You should try to do things that most people would not."
As proponents of tackling important problems and seeking transformative solutions, Brin and Page were certainly armed with a healthy disregard for the impossible. And while not much older than the throng of high school students who packed the jammed auditorium, they were truly in a class by themselves. In the rich and storied history of American invention and capitalism, there had never been a meteoric rise comparable to theirs. It had taken Thomas Edison a quarter century to invent the lightbulb; Alexander Graham Bell had spent many years developing the telephone; Henry Ford created the modern assembly line and turned it into the mass production and consumption of automobiles only after decades of work; and Thomas Watson Jr. labored long and hard before IBM rolled out the modern computer. But Brin and Page, in just five years, had taken a graduate school research project and turned it into a multibillion-dollar enterprise with global reach. They were in Tel Aviv, but had it been Tokyo, Toronto, or Taipei, the Google Guys would have received the same raucous reception.
The youthful pair had changed the lives of millions of people by giving them free, instant access to information about any subject. And by being devilishly clever in the Internet age, they had created the best-known new brand in the world without advertising to promote the name. The two were...
Posted December 30, 2010
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In scanning the bookshelves for biographies I came across this short little novel on the founders of Google. As a historian, one has to immediately dismiss the fact that this is an uncompleted story. Yet at the speed in which companies in this era (and individuals) go from nadir to apex and back again Google's story is probably almost over!
In any case, Vise provides us with very little into the background of the two protagonists, Brin & Page. We get a glimpse through the keyhole of their parents background (of which that they were professors is repeated ad nauseam) a fly by of their childhoods and then a rapid decent into their years of graduate school at Stanford.
Here Vise slows the pace enough to go into a bit more detail into the interactions and daily lives. This is enough to enable the reader to gain a flimsy understanding of how and why they started Google. Vise also does enough to provide detail into how Google went from start-up to getting venture capital (VC) funding as well as a good level of how those relationships developed from and up to the point when the third musketeer is brought in, namely Eric Schmidt. Schmidt's background and personality are also covered to no real depth which leads to the main issue with the book.
Vise does not develop his characters. It would have been great to have a higher level of input from those that had direct interaction with the pair (or trio) whether it was prior co-workers, colleagues, or other peer students. Or even individuals that may have had somewhat indirect contact but yet involved in the field such as Jerry Yang, Steve Case, Andy Grove..etc.
While a light read & with some good detail into the culture (e.g.: Burning man) one should wait for either the autobiography or a more thorough investigation into the account of the head Googlers.
Posted February 11, 2010
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