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Google Co-Founder Caught "Off Guard"

Friday, 1 Jun 2007 | 10:39 AM ET
Brin Sergey
Brin Sergey

So here's what you don't see on TV. I covered the first ever web developer conference held by Google, a "coming of age" rite for a company that, well, came of age a while ago.

No top executives were supposed to be there. They were all supposed to be at the D5 tech conference near San Diego. So you can imagine my shock when, as I ignorantly sat on my journalistic butt, producer Christine Egy ran up and said, "Sergey Brin just walked in!" (Now you know how television news really works--I spend my time looking for the nearest Starbucks while the producer actually gathers information).

I ran into the next room where, lo and behold, the fabulously wealthy co-founder of Google was on stage talking up the web developers. Though, in a strange twist, he also told them that humans are the weak link in web development. He suggested that the internet was creating children--and went on to explain that the first dating sites are old enough now that two people who met that way and had a kid would now be the parents of a 12-year-old. Brin also wanted to know if the big foam cubes on stage were glued together or stacked. They're stacked. He then wondered if they were earthquake safe. Everyone laughed. That's what they do at tech conferences when facing a bazillion dollar genius.

Cameraman Mark Neuling and I decided to see if Brin would talk to us. The odds were long. As he left the stage, I fully expected him to duck behind the curtains surrounded by an impenetrable, beefy entourage. He did not. He was not. He kind of...loitered. Surrounded by, like, one handler who maybe weighed 135 pounds. A few acolytes approached. Then I barged in, tape rolling!

I basically asked him whether his new products declare war on Microsoft. His response, "we don't really think about other companies." OH REALLY? Does it violate Google's "Don't be evil" motto to THINK about other companies?

But what caught my attention was that one of the richest men in the world was so accessible. There was no obvious security. I think it's a tech thing. Five years ago I interviewed Bill Gates next to the Kodak Theater in Hollywood the same night of the finale for the first "American Idol" (the one where Kelly beat Justin). Security for the "Idol" finale was immense and visible.

On the other hand, Bill Gates was surrounded by a handler and maybe two or three plainclothes guys who were not close and very low-key. I kept thinking, "Simon Cowell has more protection and a bigger entourage than the richest man on the planet." Of course, who knows what security Gates had that I did not see! But I have to say, tech titans seem almost...normal...compared to what I see all the time in La-La land, where even b-list celebs have posses, and where saying "don't be evil" might get you fired.

Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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