Monday 21 January 2013

The Google Story

Over the past few years, Google has become such an integral part of our lives that it is now
difficult to imagine browsing the internet without visiting the Google site at least once .It has
become our default one stop shop whenever we are searching for  information in any field—be it
sports, cinema, current affairs, technology etc.(When a friend recently asked his daughter to find out
the number of keys on their laptop she was using, she promptly logged on to Google to find the
answer!).However, like many others I often used to wonder to how do these guys make any money? What is the story behind the unusual name and the minimalist home page design which has remained almost unchanged since the company was incorporated in 1998 by two Stanford Phd students Sergey Brin and Larry Page? What is the secret of their famed work culture which combines fun and work in just the right proportion?  Answers to these questions and many other insights about the incorporation and the spectacular growth of the company can be found in David Vise’s excellent bestseller –The Google Story, published by Pan Macmillan. It also give us a look into the way renowned US universities like Stanford, Harvard and MIT encourage their students to incubate innovations (Jerry Young, the founder of Yahoo was their senior at Stanford) and guided them to convert their ideas into a tangible product which can then be monetized with the help of venture capitalists who are always eager to put their money on the next big idea.
 Larry and Sergey came from very diverse but strong academic backgrounds and hit off instantly when they met at Stanford in 1995. By 1997 they had a working model of a search engine ready and they called it ‘Pagerank’. Initially they wanted to sell it to the other existing search engines including Yahoo. Unable to find a suitable buyer, they decided to take a leave of absence from the Phd programme at Stanford and start their own business. Rest, as they say, is history.
 Eric Schmidt (former CEO of Novell) who joined the company in 2000 to handles the day-to-day running of the business completes the triumvirate which runs Google today. The way he ended up joining Google makes for interesting reading as Larry and Sergey were reluctant to hire someone to look over their shoulders but the venture capitalists wanted to strengthen the management as they planned to scale the business. Along with the growth including a path breaking IPO in 2004 came various lawsuits and intense competition from the grand daddy of Silicon valley-Microsoft which had (and still does) lagged behind Google and Yahoo in the search space on the internet. Infact, the only discordant note in the book is the continuous attempt to show how the ‘good’ guys at Google have always managed to keep ahead of the ‘bad’ guys at Microsoft and how Google is now the attracting better talent than Microsoft. Some of the quoted instances maybe true but as the recent launch of me too products by Google  like Google + (to take on Facebook)and the Nexus tablet (to take on I-pads) have shown , in the cut throat competition of high technology one needs to constantly adjust one’s moral compass as per the changing scenarios.

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