Ten years ago, when there were far fewer websites than there are today, a couple of guys living in Stanford's Escondido Village got the idea to create an easy-to-use, searchable directory so friends and family could easily find the net's newest, coolest destinations.
"For a little while, we had our main office in Sergey's dorm room, one of our founders, our machine room was in Larry's dorm, the other founder, and eventually, we found space for us, and space for our machines out of Stanford in the house of a friend of ours," remembers Craig Silverstein, who holds the distinction of being Google's employee #1.
Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin drove their roommates crazy, crowding them out with computers and servers, the noise from all the equipment so loud that the two would ultimately be forced to leave those rooms and into the spacious confines of a nearby Menlo Park garage owned by friend Susan Wojcicki. Google was born, as www.google.stanford.edu, and it was on the move.
"When they first started, it was hard to know what to think of them," says Wojcicki (pronounced wo-JIT-ski). "They had big ambitions and they had really good technology, but they were competing with companies worth tens of billions of dollars at the time. It was hard to know what to think." She remembers that four-bedroom house, letting the boys use the garage for storage, which also housed the washer and dryer, giving them the master bedroom for office space, and also making sure they were allowed to use the hot tub in the backyard.
Silicon Valley's typical success story. And by now you know the history; the meteoric rise of a company that mushroomed along with the mushrooming growth of the net as a whole. Eschewing the nauseating, wrenching effects of the dot com boom and boost, Google would emerge as a best of breed innovator with a license to print money. One of the most anticipated IPOs in Silicon Valley history in August 2004, Google would immediately be valued at over $20 billion. Not bad for a company only 6 years old at the time.
(Video: A look back and a look ahead at what might be next for Google.)
"From the beginning, we always had this vision of Search being kind of seen very broadly," Silverstein tells me. "Did we think that we'd be so successful that we'd be at the stage where we are today? You're always hopeful, but honestly, it's not a common occurrence. And the fact that it's happened with us, and that we've been able to grow the way we have is partly a testament to the area we're in, partly a testament to the job we've done, and partly, a good part of the testament to just luck."
We know the fabulous wealth Google has created for its co-founders, with Brin and Page each owning about 29 million shares worth about $13 billion; and the thousands of employee millionaires the company has minted these last several years. But where does the company go from here?
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"I think the next ten years will be as exciting as the last ten years," says Wojcicki. "But just like the last ten years it was hard to tell what was gonna happen, I think it will be equally hard to tell what will happen and what are the challenges, what are the opportunities but I'm sure it will be a really exciting ten years, and I'm excited about Google's future in the next ten years, because I know there's a lot more for us to do."
The focus, she says, will be on mobile applications, exploiting the smart phone as the "little computer that you carry around with you," and translating the world's data so no matter where it's generated, it's equally and instantly accessible to anyone, no matter their language.
So here's to Google's first ten years. The next ten should be fascinating.
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(Video: Discussing the future of Google with the company's top product development executive, Susan Wojcicki.)
(Video: A look back at Google's early days, with the company's very first employee, Craig Silverstein)
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