Google Blogoscoped

Saturday, October 1, 2005

The Search: Google Is Born

After Larry Page had the idea of putting backlinks into focus for relevant search results, and together with Sergey Brin at Stanford implemented BackRub and successor Google, both tried to license their technology to other search engines. But the market in 1998 wasn’t ready. People back then were thinking the problem of search was solved, and they were suffering the portal fever – trying to be everything to everybody, collecting eyeballs to push their banner ads. This is what killed then-favorite search engine AltaVista.
John Battelle in The Search (the definitive book on Google, and a highly entertaining and informative read, as I can tell after reading through 3/4th of it) writes:

Over the course of the next eighteen months, the young investors gave demonstrations of Google to nearly every search company in the Valley, from Yahoo to Infoseek. They also showed their technology to several venture capitalists. Everyone found their technology interesting, but each sent the grad students on their way. “I told them to go pound sand,” recalled Steve Kirsch, founder of the now defunct portal Infoseek. Jerry Yang and David Filo, the founders of Yahoo, were more encouraging, but they, too, took a pass.

“They were becoming portals,” Page recalls of the companies he visited. “We probably would have licensed it if someone gave us the money. . . . [But] they were not interested in search.

“They did have horoscopes, though,” he adds drily.

The Google guys didn’t give up, of course, or else you wouldn’t be reading this blog today (or if you were, it would be titled “Yahoo Blogoscoped”). Instead, they got back to work on Google, which was then hosted on Battelle tells they were convinced it would be worth the work either to turn out as a good research project, or become a company of its own.

In late 1998, when Google handled thousands of daily search queries already and slowly started to outgrow the university servers, they turned to Andy Bechtolsheim. Andy was a founder of Sun and known for investing at an early stage. He answered their email and they met in the early morning hours. After giving another demo round of Google, sitting on Andy’s Palo Alto porch, Andy said: “Well, I don’t want to waste time. I’m sure it’ll help you guys if I just write a check.” John Battelle writes:

Page and Brin weren’t ready for such an offer, but when Bechtolsheim went out to his car to get his checkbook, they pondered how much to ask for and at what valuation. When Bechtolsheim returned, they told him their suggested valuation. Page picks up the story: “We told him our valuation, and he said ’Oh, I don’t think that’s enough, I think it should be twice that much.’”


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