Book Review- Inside Larry & Sergey’s Brain by Richard Brandt
These guys are the stuff dreams are made of. They ruled the world before thirty and double handedly (single handedly won’t be an appropriate phrase right?) altered the online advertising space.
For this company, at one time, normal was ordinary.Excellent was not good enough. And Extraordinary was default.
Buying a private Jet matching Air Force one wasn’t good enough. These guys had permission from NASA to use its landing strip. Now that is something.
Yes it is Larry Page and Sergey Brin- the founders of that Dream factory called Google.
As I always used to say- It is tough to form a company that hires its own celebrity chef. ( Google hired the chef of the rock band ‘Grateful Dead” once). But it is tougher to form a company that makes news when their menu changes. Or sweeps the press when the chef leaves.
No these are not the facts Richard Brandt’s boook : “Inside Larry & Sergey’s Brain” delves on. These are things dotcom mavens like me have professionally grown up experiencing.
Richard Brandt’s book is a different take on Google- and actually it is about it’s two young and talented founders from Stanford University- and what goes in their minds while deciding the future of not only their company, but decisions impacting the Internet itself.
The book hinges on the moral stance of the duo- and the “Don’t be evil” motto of Google.
Richard does succeed in painting a picture of the duo in your minds. They actually come across as aggressive, resolute (unyielding) and brilliant (obviously)- quite contrary to the warm smiling faces that one is used to seeing in pictures.
It is an easy read- one of the few books I finished in about 2 days- and a good read for anyone who is starting up- specially in the Internet industry. These guys are icons and we needed to know what is happening in those sharp brains resting on the smiley faces.
Larry is the main strategist – with business acumen and practical drive, while Sergey is the primary technologist and idealist, with brilliant ideas and strong moral positions. But they work closely together- almost like complenentay halves of a single brain.
Many things struck me from the book-
- Like AdSense was not developed by Google. Why even the name “AdSense” was not by Google. And all the while I thought it was a nice name to match “AdWords’
- Like what the founders said on their hiring policies- they like someone with a “slight disdain for the impossible”. It struck me because I have been searching for a single line short but powerful explanation to the question people often ask me- What is Chasing The Storm about? Well, it is about “A slight disdain for the impossible”.
- Even Adwords might not have been an original idea. As a matter of fact, Google settled out of court with Overture with regards to a patents battle in 2004 in exchange of 2.7 million shares. But Google did fine tune and develop the product in a fantastic way.
- When Microsoft bid to buy Yahoo, Larry, Sergei and Eric Schmidt opposed the scenario- saying almost the same things- as I mentioned in this post of mine in May 2007 . (Being a bit pompous I know- but feel happy that the thinking is similar. So what- if one is writing a post in the middle of the night and the others are probably sipping martini on a private island?)
- OK, on that- another common thread- while most web watchers are betting on Augmented reality and brain scanning as the next thing on the Internet- I have often said one of the next big things (media wise) is probably Video- both on the web and digital rendering over the TV. Interactive TV with targeting and measurability rivaling the internet- and so on. Google has tied up with Echo Star- a company that makes cable set top boxes and is working towards delivering a better system to achieve its goals
- Perhaps the best quote from the book: Entrepreneurship is a crime of passion. It requires motive, means and opportunity.
- The ratio of revenues per employee at $1 million each- is the highest in the technology world- Microsoft weighs at $700,000 Revenue per employee
- “Don’t be evil” is a phenomenally simple and yet powerful philosophy. Simple yet difficult to achieve. Simple yet difficult to live up with. And to me, it should be the mantra of every single person on earth.
There are too many things to mention from the book. At least more than a mere blog post can merit- for what it is worth.
Facts that I think went missing from the book:
- No mention of Sir Vincent Cerf- and what impact did he have in the shaping of the company or future goals. Richard talks about a whole host of people but leaves behind Cerf- popularly credited as the Father of the Internet, who is now the Chief Internet Evangelist at Google. Google has a coup with the most respect respected brains- Sir Cerf, Eric Schmidt and Hal Varian- Chief Economist- whose writings we have read while in college. (Yes I graduated in Economics and sucked at it – coming from a science background- the only thing I liked was statistics I think)
- The second thing that I found conspicuous by its absence is the skipping of click fraud as a topic. I mean if we have chapter or two dedicated to Google consenting to China censoring - we have totally missed a big huge debate in the digital media industry. An issue that every client spending their millions and every small business spending their hard strapped funds is worried of.
Of course Google is doing all it can (we hear it all the time- and see the credits in our ad words accounts), but if there ever was an issue- on transparency and Don’t be evil- it is probably click fraud. This book could have been a good excuse to tell the story on what is being done and how.
In case you happen to buy and read the book, let me know some discussion points. Thanks to Christy from Penguin Group for arranging to send this over.