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Inside Larry and Sergey's Brain Hardcover – September 17, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Author and technology journalist Brandt provides an in-depth look at famously brainy Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, whose radically positive "do no evil" corporate philosophy has achieved astounding success. Though competitors and copyright lawyers may not trust them, one insider goes so far as to say, "never once... have they failed to make the correct moral decision." Brandt follows the genesis of Google during the duo's Stanford years through their impressive entrepreneurial trajectory to current operations. Hiring and managing policies are trusting and aspirant; they look for employees with "a slight disdain for the impossible," and give their engineers and scientists a day a week to work on their own ideas. One chapter focuses on a joint project between Google Book Search and Oxford University to digitize a collection of more than one million 19th century books, concluding that "there is logic behind most of the company's... diversification. Put at the top of the list 'Because they can.'" In this must-read for anyone who deals seriously with cyberspace, Brandt has a remarkable profile in present-day innovation and potential.
"Author and technology journalist Brandt provides an in-depth look at famously brainy Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, whose radically positive "do no evil" corporate philosophy has achieved astounding success. Though competitors and copyright lawyers may not trust them, one insder goes so far as to say, "never once...[have] they failed to make the correct moral decision." Brandt follows the genesis of Google during the duo's Stanford years through their impressive entrepreneurial trajectory to current operations. Hiring and managing policies are trusting and aspirant; they look for employees with a "slight disdain for the impossible", and give their engineers and scientists a day a week to work on their own ideas. One chapter focuses on a joint project between Googel Book Search and Oxford University to digitize a collection of more than one million 19th century books, concluding that "there is logic behind most of the company's...diversification. Put at the top of the list 'Because they can.'" In this must-read for anyone who deals seriously with cyberspace, Brandt has a remarkable profile in present-day innovation and potential."
Top customer reviews
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This book talks a lot about the business strategy and the future of the Internet, search and the potential impact on our lives, noting that experts say search is less than 5% solved. It adds that the linked connection to create a better search engineer that Larry and Sergey designed wasn't unique and they would have created some kind of business regardless.
The book goes through a lot of they key players and key events not only in the lives of the Google twins, but also in the evolution of what is becoming a key element in the lives of most humans on the planet -- the evolving Internet.
I like the detail and next to What Would Google Do, this is my favorite Google book. Good stuff.
The title of my review refers to observations that Richard Brandt shares on Pages 175 and 176 when discussing Google's supernetwork and its significance (and potential vulnerability) as a competitive advantage. "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.
These are among the questions I was most eager to have answered...and Brandt 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?
While working my way through Brandt's lively and eloquent narrative, I highlighted more than one hundred brief passages and now provide a representative selection that, hopefully, will suggest the thrust and flavor of his thinking and writing.
"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)
"Computer scientists and engineers are infected with the desire to do something incredible, the disease propagated by Larry and Sergey. Sergey has emphasized this fact, noting that it's especially important as the stock retreats. `This is where you want to be sure you are hiring employees because they love to work here, they love to create things, and they're not here primarily for the money,' he says. `Although when they do create something valuable, you want to reward them. That's when these things really pay off.'" (Pages 55-56)
"It is now extraordinarily difficult for any competitor to catch up to the infrastructure and deign of Google's advertising system. Google had too much of a head start and never stops refining and advancing its system. The system was obviously doing something right and filling an unmet need; Google has captured the overwhelming share of all revenue on the Internet, and regulators and competitors are warning that it has become an Internet advertising monopoly." Page 105)
"Larry and Sergey see their task as nothing less than creating a new Hellenistic Age. `We did not think necessarily we could make money' off Book Search, says Sergey. `We just feel this is part of the core mission. There is fantastic information in books. Often when I do a search, what is in a book is miles ahead of what I find on a Web site.'" (Page 167)
"Everyone likes to speculate, but there's no telling where Larry and Sergey will take their company next. There's one thing that's certain: they are going to be breaking rules, pissing people off, and trying to make the world a better place for decades to come. Love them or despise them, everyone must contend with them. They are having greater impacts on the business world and on people's lifestyles than any other business executives in the world. Their hearts are in the right place, even if their heads are sometimes not." (Page 227)
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!