This morning I found the notes from my memorable early-1999 meeting with Google’s Larry Page and Sergei Brin. I was an entrepreneur in residence at IVP (now Redpoint) at the time, and the duo was raising a venture round and had come in to pitch us.
I’ll never forget the meeting – it was short and confrontational. About a half hour in, IVP partner Geoff Yang terminated the meeting. He called me and Tim Haley – the other IVP attendee – into the hallway and said ‘I don’t care how much money these guys are going to make, life’s too short to work with people you don’t like.’
Larry and Sergei had seemed defensive from the start, and I think one of them even briefly put his feet up on the IVP boardroom table. “Why should we talk to you, you’re investors in Excite and Ask Jeeves,” Larry asked, suggesting that we just wanted to learn their secrets and weren’t actually interested in investing. He noted that they already had KP and Sequoia lined up, so why would they need us? Yang told them we were genuinely interested in investing, which I think was true.
Here’s my full page of scrawled notes: Google was approaching 1M page views per day, had a half terabyte of data, and thought they needed a VP Marketing. They told us they were “like Inktomi, but with a destination model.” They had no monetization plan (this was 1999 after all). Little did they (or we) know what was ahead.
Postscript: A few weeks later I had my second and final brush with Google history. I got a call from my friend Omid, who I’d worked with at Netscape. He said Larry and Sergei were offering him the job of head of business at Google, and how much equity did I think he should ask for? I told him it sounded like a COO role and suggested he ask for three percent. He was hesitant, but I pushed him not to underestimate his value. I don’t know what he ended up doing, but that probably ended up being decent career advice.
P.P.S. For any would-be entrepreneur reading this, don’t take the wrong message from it and confuse arrogance with success; they rarely overlap in life. Larry and Sergei succeeded (in my opinion) not due to arrogance, but due to their talent and an insistence on building great technology and products, making them better and better over time for users, and keeping them free.