12
October
2009
|
07:07 AM
America/Los_Angeles

Book On GOOG Founders: Sergey Threatens To Douse Himself With Gasoline...

Did you know that key Google technology was born out of the Department of Defense funded Digital Libraries project?

Did you know that Google's founders believed search engines should be non-profit because commercialization would taint the results?

These are just a couple of items uncovered by Richard Brandt in his recently published book "Inside Larry & Sergey's Brain".

Although there are many books on Google, this one seeks to understand Google by understanding the motivations, and the ethical and moral thinking of its founders.

I spoke with Richard Brandt about the book. Although he didn't get to interview Messrs Page and Brin specifically, he has talked with them at various events, and he had access to many people who know them and who work with them.

From his research and conversations, Mr Brandt draws a picture of the founders as very moral and ethical -- and decidedly anti-capitalist in the early days.

During one early meeting with AOL, in which Sergey was told Google was stupid for not including paid placements in its search results, Sergey stormed out of the meeting then was heard by those inside the room saying, "Someone get me a can of gasoline -- I have to light myself on fire to get rid of the scum of those people."

Since they are both multi-billionaires, it would seem as if they have come to terms with making lots of money. But Mr Brandt says they are still very much concerned with doing the right thing.

"They recognize how powerful and important search is to lots of people and they deliberate a lot about the actions that Google makes and how it affects people. Sergey, for example, still has misgivings about China," says Mr Brandt.

"They consider the moral and ethical implications of Google much more than Microsoft ever did, and I should know because I used to report on Microsoft when I worked at BusinessWeek."

Because they own so much of Google they have tremendous amount of control. "They are very interested in energy and have hired dozens of engineers to work on solar, geothermal, and wind energy solutions. They are very keen in helping to jump start industries that need a helping hand."

At the heart of Google is its desire to index all the world's information, and part of that is the controversial Google books project that seeks to digitize as many books as it can, especially ones that have fallen out of copyright.

"They can't understand why there is so much opposition to the books project. It's more of a PR problem and that's why Sergey recently published an op-ed in the New York TImes trying to get their side across."

Messrs Page and Brin are very secretive and that doesn't help, he says.

"They don't trust the government, they don't trust the press and they don't trust Wall Street. They pretty much don't like anyone telling them what to do. And when they are convinced that they are right about something they can't understand why others would be against it."

Eric Schmidt, in many ways seems to be there to distract the outside world and to make it seem as if he is in charge. But Mr Brandt says Mr Schmidt has told him that even though he is the chief executive, "When you work at a company where the founders own the majority of the company , you work for them and not the other way around."

Messrs Page and Brin own the majority of the company and they own preferred shares with ten times the voting rights. This horrifies proponents of shareholder rights, says Mr Brandt, but that's the way they want it. "You don't have to buy Google shares if you don't like it is their response."

Mr Brandt's book makes a good case that the secret to understanding Google is understanding its founders.