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If you like Sergey Brin and Larry Page's story, you might also like:
Timothy Berners-Lee,
Jeff Bezos,
Stephen Case,
Michael Dell,
Lawrence Ellison,
Bill Gates,
John Hennessy,
Ray Kurzweil
and Pierre Omidyar

Larry Page can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Sergey Brin's recommended reading:
Snow Crash

Related Links:
History of Google
Official Google Bios
Forbes.com

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Larry Page
 
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Profile of Larry Page Biography of Larry Page Interview with Larry Page Larry Page Photo Gallery

Larry Page Interview (page: 2 / 3)

Founding CEO, Google Inc.

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  Larry Page

Sergey, how do you see Google as a company, and what do you hope to accomplish with it?


Sergey Brin: At Google, our mission is to make the world's information accessible and useful. And that means all of the world's information, which now, in our index, numbers over a billion documents, and it's an incredible resource. In history, you have never had access to just pretty much all of the world's information in seconds, and we have that now, and to make it really useful, you have to have a good way of finding whatever it is that you want. That's precisely what we work on at Google. My hope is to provide instant access to any information anybody ever wants in the future.


Certainly, you weren't the only ones with that objective at the time, but you two did something about it. How do you account for that?

Sergey Brin: That's true. Certainly anyone can say, "Oh, I want to build a car that is going to cost $5 and go 500 miles an hour," and that would be great.


I was fortunate to be at Stanford, and I was really interested in data mining, which means analyzing large amounts of data, discovering patterns and trends. And at the same time, Larry joined Stanford in '95, and he started downloading the Web, which it turns out to be the most interesting data you can possibly mine. Our joint effort, just looking at the data out of curiosity, we found that we had technology to do a better job of search, and from that initial technology, we got really interested in the problem, and we realized how impactful having great search can be. So we built technology upon technology after that, to bring Google to where it is today, and we continue to develop lots of technology for tomorrow.


Why is it that you perceived the need for Google before anyone else did?

Larry Page: Well, it's actually a great argument for pure research.


We didn't start out to do a search engine at all. In late 1995, I started collecting the links on the Web, because my advisor and I decided that would be a good thing to do. We didn't know exactly what I was going to do with it, but it seemed like no one was really looking at the links on the Web -- which pages link to which pages. In computer science, there's a lot of big graphs. Right now, (the Web) has like 5 billion edges and 2 billion nodes. So it is a huge graph. I figured I could get a dissertation and do something fun and perhaps practical at the same time, which is really what motivates me.



I started off by reversing the links, and then I wanted to find basically, say, who links to the Stanford home page, and there's 10,000 people who link to Stanford. Then the question is, which ones do you show? So you can only show 10, and we ended up with this way of ranking links, based on the links. Then we were like, "Wow, this is really good. It ranks things in the order you would expect to see them." Stanford would be first. You can take universities and just rank them, and they come out in the order you'd expect. So we thought, "This is really interesting. This thing really works. We should use it for search." So I started building a search engine. Sergey also came on very early, probably in late '95 or early '96, and was really interested in the data mining part. Basically, we thought, "Oh, we should be able to make a better search engine this way."


Search engines didn't really understand the notion of which pages were more important. If you typed "Stanford," you got random pages that mentioned Stanford. This obviously wasn't going to work.

Larry, you're a CEO at 27. What challenges or frustrations have you experienced at reaching this station at such a young age?


Larry Page: I think the age is a real issue. It's certainly a handicap in the sense of being able to manage people and to hire people and all these kinds of things, maybe more so than it should be. Certainly, I think, the things that I'm missing are more things that you acquire with time. If you manage people for 20 years, or something like that, you pick up things. So I certainly lack experience there, and that's an issue. But I sort of make up for that, I think, in terms of understanding where things are going to go, having a vision about the future, and really understanding the industry I am in, and what the company does, and also sort of the unique position of starting a company and working on it for three years before starting the company. Then working on it pretty hard, whatever, 24 hours a day. So I understand a lot of the aspects pretty well. I guess that compensates a little bit for lack of skills in other areas.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation


What about you, Sergey? What challenges or obstacles have you had to deal with so far?

Larry Page Interview Photo
Sergey Brin: I will list several. One is providing a service that's going to serve millions of people. When we were at Stanford, we had about 10,000 searches per day. Now we serve over 50 million searches per day. That scaling of an infrastructure, that is pretty challenging. On a more personal level, I am now the President of Google, and we have about 170 people now. I think managing people, and being emotionally sensitive, and all the skills you learn in terms of communication and keeping people motivated, that has been a challenge. I have enjoyed learning that, but that's important, and a hard thing to learn.

Are there any particular challenges you associate with being a son of immigrants who came to this country from Russia?

Sergey Brin: If anything, I think I benefit from it. I will say, as a child, I had an accent.


I came to the U.S. at the age of six, and so I was teased and stuff in elementary school. I don't regard myself as being really popular going through school, but that was never that important to me, and I always had friends. I think, if anything, I feel like I have gotten a gift by being in the States rather than growing up in Russia. I know the hard times that my parents went through there, and I am very thankful that I was brought to the States. I think it just makes me appreciate my life much more.


It appears that it's people of your generation who have really introduced the so-called "24/7 mentality." Are you aware of that? Do you think that accounts for your success?

Larry Page Interview Photo
Larry Page: I think it definitely helps to be really focused on what you are doing. You can only work so many hours, and I try to have some balance in my life and so on. I think a lot of people go through this in school. They work really hard. You can do that for part of your life, but you can't do that indefinitely. At some point, you want to have a family. You want to have more time to do other things. I would say that it is an advantage being young. You don't have as many other responsibilities.

What else are you doing these days?

Larry Page: I think I am really lucky. Being in the Bay Area, a lot of my friends have started companies that have been quite successful at different stages. So I go up to San Francisco and I hang out with my friends, and we talk about their companies and all sorts of different things. It is fun, but it is also work in some sense. I think within Silicon Valley there is really a mix of recreation and work a lot of times.

Larry Page Interview, Page: 1   2   3   


This page last revised on Oct 18, 2010 14:42 EDT