Inside Larry and Sergey’s Brain: A book review by Bob Morris

Inside Larry and Sergey’s Brain
Richard L. Brandt
Portfolio/The Penguin Group (2009)

When discussing Google’s supernetwork and its significance (and potential vulnerability) as a competitive advantage, Brandt observes, “Anyone who uses an application from Google is tapping into this incredible store of computing power. This is the main reason Google’s competitors have such a hard time matching the company’s capabilities. And it allows Google to enter any business that Larry, Sergey, or their ambitious team of computer scientists find interesting…Google is changing the rules of business, from news delivery to PC computing to books to watching video…And business that deals in the collection and dissemination of information is in danger of having its infrastructure collapse its feet like Wile E. Coyote standing on an overhanging cliff. Larry and Sergey move like roadrunners, charging ahead with their visionary plans, saying nothing about where they’re headed, or why. There’s a good reason for that. They often don’t know where they’re going until they get there.”

Brandt probably had about as much access as could be obtained to Page and Brin, to their past and current Google associates, and to the shared journey that Page and Brin took from when they first met at Stanford until Brandt provided the manuscript of this book to his publisher. Brandt responds to a number of questions most readers probably have and does so while carefully examining (no small feat) the interdependence that continues to guide and inform, indeed drive the collaborative efforts of Page and Brin.

1. What do they share in common? How are they significantly different?
2. How and why have they worked so effectively together for so many years?
3. What do their respective family backgrounds reveal about their values?
4. What were their expectations when Google was launched in December of 1998?
5. How has it since then become a media giant?
6. When and why was Eric Schmidt hired to become Google’s CEO?
7. What is his division of authority and responsibility with Page and Brin?
8. To what extent (if any) have Page and Brin changed in terms of their ambitions for Google?
9. What are the most serious challenges that Google now faces?
10. How will it probably respond to them?

Re Google’s origin, “It seems today that it was always inevitable that Larry and Sergey would turn their search engine into a company. But that was not the case. ‘Larry has a million ideas,’ says his early partner Craig Silverstein. ‘If he didn’t make a company out of this, he’d be happy to make it out of something else later. If they had found someone who took their work seriously, and wanted to own it and offered the right price, they would have sold. We didn’t find that so we said, ‘OK, we’ll do it ourselves.’ In 1998, they began looking for investors to get them started.” (Page 48)

Of all the volumes in the “Inside [Someone’s] Brain” series, I think this one provides more and better information about its subject than do any of the others. Not only does Richard Brandt explore (to the extent anyone can) the two minds that have created what Google has become thus far; in addition, he has examined the global as well as historical context within which that process of creation occurred. Bravo!

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