Biographies

Sergey Brin Biography: Success Story of Google Co-Founder

Sergey Brin Biography

Sergey Brin

In this success story, we’re sharing Sergey Brin biography, an American computer scientist and internet entrepreneur who co-founded Google with Larry Page, considered one of the most profitable companies. Sergey Brin’s distinctive personality traits are perseverance, creativity, vision, and emotional intelligence. Many people know that Brin immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union when he was six, but not everyone knows his full, detailed biography. We invite you to read it on Astrum People.

Early Life

Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin was born on August 21, 1973, to a Russian Jewish family in Moscow, Russia. His father, Michael Brin, is a mathematician, now retired from the Department of Mathematics, University of Maryland. His mother, Eugenia Brin, was a NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center scientist. Recently, she became the Director of the Historical Records Task Force Chair at HIAS, an organization aimed to connect Russian-Jewish and other American immigrants to share their life stories.

While living in the Soviet Union, Michael Brin regularly faced hidden anti-Semitism. Michael’s dream was to become an astronomer. Thus, he wanted to study physics at university but was denied entry to any of them. At that time, the Communist Party forbade Jews to pursue higher studies in particular subjects, including physics, to block their access to the country’s nuclear secrets.

Thus, Sergey Brin’s father decided to study mathematics and became a student at Moscow State University, even though the entrance exams for the Jews were held in separate rooms, notoriously called “gas chambers.” In 1970, he graduated with honors and became an economist at GOSPLAN, the State Planning Committee of the USSR. Later, he continued to study mathematics on his own and, with the help of his advisers, defended his thesis to obtain a Doctorate at The University of Kharkiv.

Sergey’s mother, Eugenia, also attended Moscow State University. She majored in mathematics and mechanics and worked in a research laboratory at the Soviet Oil and Gas Institute. They were living in a 350-square-foot, three-room apartment in central Moscow.

In the late 1970s, Jewish families migrated from the Soviet Union. Although the Brin family enjoyed their life in Moscow, Michael knew that eventually, Sergey Brin would be restricted from many activities and opportunities because of his Jewish nationality. In 1977, Michael Brin attended a mathematics conference in Warsaw, Poland. Upon his return, he announced that it was time for the family to emigrate. Thus, in September 1978, Michael Brin applied for an exit visa. As soon it came to the Soviet Government’s notice, they fired him from his job, and, for related reasons, his wife also had to leave her job. The family endured tough times for eight months until they got an exit visa. Michael taught himself computer programming to sustain his family and worked as a technical text translator.

They finally left the USSR and arrived in Vienna, where representatives of HIAS met them. Later, they moved to Paris. Anatole Katok, Michael’s unofficial Jewish Ph.D. advisor, met them in Paris and helped him to occupy an interim research position at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques. Anatole Katok had migrated the year before with his family to Paris and looked after the Brins while they stayed there. On October 25, 1979, the family, which consisted of Michael, Eugenia, Sergey, and Michael’s mother, finally landed at New York’s Kennedy Airport. Sergey Brin was six years old at that time.

The Brin family rented a simple, concrete blockhouse in Maryland in a lower-middle-class neighborhood. Later, they bought a 1973 Ford Maverick by taking a loan of $2,000 from the Jewish community. The graduates of Soviet mathematics schools were highly valued worldwide. Therefore, it did not take much time for the head of the family to find a teaching position at the University of Maryland in College Park, a city in Prince George’s County, Maryland. His wife became a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) specialist scientist. The grandmother suffered the most – she was shocked when she had to take an exam for her driver’s license to bring her grandson to school.

School Years

First, Sergey attended the Mishkan Torah Hebrew School with the other Jewish kids. He disliked studying there because he was bullied for his thick Russian accent. After some time, Sergey begged his parents to transfer him to a different school. They encouraged him to study at the elementary school at Paint Branch Montessori School in Adelphi, Maryland. Sergey’s parents became friends with the school’s director, Patty Barshay, who later became Sergey’s mentor. Now, Sergey Brin considers that studying at that school was one of the critical factors in his success. Barshay described Sergey Brin as outgoing, self-confident, and fascinated by numbers and mathematics.

He sometimes got bored, as the mathematics classes seemed too simple. This fact is unsurprising, as the young genius received an additional education at home. His parents not only helped Sergey retain knowledge of the Russian language but also encouraged his interest in mathematics and computer science. In the early 1980s, personal computers were still rare. Sergey Brin received his first computer, the Commodore 64, from his father for his birthday when he was nine. Soon, Sergey surprised his schoolteachers by submitting an unusual project prepared on the computer and printed on the printer.

After graduating from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland, where he had studied for three years, Sergey Brin enrolled at the University of Maryland in 1990 at 15. In 1993, at 19, Brin received his double bachelor’s degree in computer systems and mathematics with honors and earned a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship scholarship, which covered his following education.

In 1993, Sergey Brin graduated from the University of Maryland with honors.

Stanford University

Sergey Brin continued his education at Stanford University, the most prestigious high-tech university in the United States, in California’s Silicon Valley. Some American universities allow Bachelor students to apply directly to the doctoral program and receive a Master’s degree while studying. Thus, such universities can encourage their talented students to engage in long-term projects so that the students may concentrate on their research.

Sergey Brin liked mathematics, but he had no clue how this passion would turn out. His list of the selected disciplines was surprising: dancing, yachting, swimming, gymnastics, etc. His father recalls that when he asked his son whether he would sign up for some advanced courses, Sergey replied that he had already enrolled in advanced swimming.

From the beginning of studying at Stanford University, Sergey Brin demonstrated an interest in Internet technologies and search engines. He authored and co-authored several papers on information extraction methods from unstructured sources and information retrieval in extensive texts and scientific data collections. Also, he developed software that converted experimental work created using a word processor, TeX, into HTML format.

In 1993, Sergey Brin created a software application that would crawl Playboy’s Web site, download the latest images, and set them as a screensaver. However, Brin was forced to remove the screensaver after a female student complained.

A crucial moment in the biography of Sergey Brin happened in March 1995 when he met Lawrence “Larry” Page, who later became the CEO of Google, at the spring meeting of the prospective Ph.D. in Computer Science. In the summer of 1995, Sergey Brin was assigned to accompany Larry Page on campus. Initially, they were unhappy with each other, arguing and furiously discussing any topic.

However, they soon discovered that both of them were highly interested in the problem of extracting information from large data sets. Sergey and Larry became friends, and in January 1996, in preparation for writing doctoral theses, they began to work together on a research project designed to fundamentally improve the methods of finding information on the Internet. They presumed that the most popular data was the most useful. Therefore, young scientists hypothesized that a search engine that analyzed the liaison between websites and ranked them according to their popularity must have been more efficient than the existing ranking methods of other search engines. The modern search engines’ website ranking principles depend on the frequency of the word appearance on the page.

Page and Brin were convinced that the most important ranking factor of web pages was backlinks, not keyword stuffing. Brin and Page decided to test this idea for their research project. They launched the search engine BackRub with the PageRank algorithm, which checked the number and relevance of backlinks to estimate a website’s content credibility and usefulness. It was available for Stanford students only. Young researchers require many computers to store and process big data online. It took more time than anticipated, costing a computer science department $20,000 to launch a crawler.

Establishment of Google

In the fall of 1997, Larry and Sergey brainstormed a catchier name for BackRub. They turned to their mate Sean Anderson for help. Anderson suggested the huge number of Googolplex, the digit 1 followed by 10 to 100 degrees. Sergey and Larry liked the name and proposed to shorten it to Googol. The word googol indicates the digit 1 followed by 100 zeros.

Anderson commented: “I typed in G-o-o-g-l-e and misspelled it on my workstation, and that was available. Larry found that acceptable, and he registered it later that evening and wrote it on the whiteboard: Google.com”.

Googol number. A nine-year-old Milton Sirotta, a nephew of the famous mathematician Edward Kasner, invented googolplex and googol numbers yet in 1920.

Soon, one of their office colleagues noticed they had misspelled googol number and pointed it out. However, the domain Google.com had already been registered.

Initially, it has been hosted on the root domain of Stanford University at google.stanford.edu. The domain name google.com was registered on September 15, 1997.

During the first half of 1998, Sergey and Larry were involved in developing a new and promising search engine technology. Larry Page’s dorm room at Stanford University served as the data center, while Sergey Brin’s dorm room – the business office. Initially, Brin and Page did not want to create Google as a business and considered the search engine the basis for a scholarly research project to obtain their Ph.D. degrees.

They noticed that Google had become too popular among Stanford students, and they started thinking about how to expand Google beyond the Stanford walls. First, they attempted to sell their idea to AltaVista for $1 million, but Paul Flaherty, the inventor of AltaVista, rejected their proposal. Sergey and Larry also tried to sell it to Yahoo!, Excite, but things turned out differently.

After several unlucky attempts at selling it, they created a business plan. They started looking for angel investors who would provide funds for an exchange of ownership portion of their company. Their computer science professor, David Cheriton, introduced them to Andy Bechtolsheim, Vice President of Cisco Systems (later co-founder of Sun Microsystems). He was very interested in the idea and wrote out a check for $100,000.

Humble Beginnings in a Garage

In mid-1998, Brin and Page paused their studies at Stanford University. Their parents were not pleased with this decision.

On September 7, 1998, Google was incorporated as a limited liability company, Google Inc. Larry Page became CEO, and Sergey Brin became President. Their first office was a rented garage from Susan Wojcicki, a sister of Sergey Brin’s girlfriend Anne Wojcicki, located in Menlo Park, California. Despite Google processing around 10,000 requests per day, PC Magazine featured it on the list of Top 100 Best Websites and Search Engines of 1998. Soon, Craig Silverstein joined their team as the first Google employee. The following year, the company moved into the new office in Palo Alto.

The number of satisfied users has increased, and “Google” was popping up everywhere. The company needed investments for the business expansion, but at the same time, Brin and Page did not want to lose control. The partners wanted Google to adhere to its mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” That was a starting point where they proved they could find original solutions in new technologies and running the business.

Venture Investments

In June 1999, Brin and Page convinced two competing venture capital firms – Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers – to fund Google and attracted investments of $25 million. According to David A. Vise, the co-author of The Google Story book, it was a classic maneuver of “divide and conquer.” It allowed Brin and Page to prevent the possibility of a significant influence from any of the investors, even though the representatives of the two venture capital firms have entered the board of directors.

Being at Stanford, Sergey and Larry co-authored a research paper, The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine, which contained a prototype of a large-scale search engine called Google. In this research paper, they wrote: “We expect that advertising-funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.”

Sergey and Larry were against banner advertising – they were proud of their clean and simple design. Their primary purpose was to search, not to sell. While at the same time, other search engines were trying to sell banner adverts on their websites.

By the end of 1999, Google processed approximately 7 million searches per day, and in the middle of 2000, it handled an average of 18 million searches per day. The company spent $500,000 a month in operating costs with the continuous increase. They had to figure something out and re-consider their non-advertising policy to keep the company afloat.

First Profit

Sergey and Larry decided to display sponsored advertisements to become a profitable company, but not on the homepage. Instead, they agreed to show highlighted links separated from organic search results. Advertisers spent billions of dollars in the US on outdoor advertising; however, sometimes, it was not entirely practical. Brin and Page offered a solution to display sponsored adverts based on users’ searches. Users searching on Google for more car information could click on a sponsored link to learn more. Thus, on October 23, 2000, the partners released Google AdWords, an online advertising service.

A Google engineer, Paul Buchheit, invented the original Google motto, “Don’t Be Evil” in July 2001. During a Google employee meeting, where they wanted to discuss the main principles, he came up with it. It stuck in the head and became the original motto of the corporation.

The ability to think creatively demonstrated itself during the Dot-com bubble. The rival companies, such as AltaVista, Excite, and Lycos, have been spending millions on advertising and marketing campaigns to create brands. At the same time, Google executives remained calm and worked hard to improve its search engine to meet the users’ expectations. Sergey Brin believed that regarding marketing, Google might rely on the users, as many of those who used the search engine services would recommend it to others. In December 1999, when their second employee, Marissa Mayer, changed the search results font for a better user experience, she received a significant protest from Google’s users. Sergey and Larry always preferred their home, and search result pages remained unchanged.

Paul Buchheit, the inventor of the original Google motto “Don’t Be Evil.”

In May 2000, the Google team received Webby and People’s Choice awards for technical achievement. The following month, Google officially became the world’s largest search engine with the announcement of reaching 1 billion URLs in its index.

Eric Schmidt, a new Google CEO

Sergey Brin and Larry Page bore the burden of managing the company until its employees did not exceed two hundred people. In August 2001, Larry Page transferred the CEO’s competence to Eric Schmidt, a veteran of the industry who was chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems and chief executive officer of Novell. Sergey Brin became President of Technology, and Larry Page was responsible for product development.

Nevertheless, they kept an eye on everything happening with Google, and no significant decision could be taken without their approval. In the case of a disagreement, the partners had to discuss a controversial issue vis-à-vis and adopt a universal statement.

Within just one month after becoming the new Google CEO, Eric Schmidt helped Google to make its first profit. By the end of 2001, Google’s revenue reached $85 million. Finally, Google became a profitable company.

We just want to have great people working for us. – Sergey Brin Click To Tweet

Overseas Expansion

In May 2000, Sergey Brin and Larry Page started the overseas expansion of Google services. Soon, Google operated in ten languages: Danish, Portuguese, Finnish, Spanish, German, Italian, Swedish, French, Dutch, and Norwegian. Sergey and Larry added Chinese, Korean, and Japanese four months later. By 2002, Google operated in 72 different languages.

In August 2001, Brin and Page opened their first international office in Japan. One of the success factors was the deal between Google and AOL in May 2002. According to the agreement, AOL would use Google’s Custom Search and display sponsored links in AOL search results to reach its 34 million users. This contract helped Google to become a significant search engine on the Internet, winning considerable market share from Amazon, Yahoo!, and eBay. In March 2004, the company moved into a new headquarters building in Mountain View. The campus was named the Googleplex. Sergey and Larry created a relaxed and fun atmosphere at the Googleplex: they provided their employees with free massages, pool tables, free food, free laundry, etc.

IPO

On August 19, 2004, Google entered the IPO market with its NASDAQ (GOOG) shares at $85 per stock. By the end of the day, more than 19 million stock shares had been sold, and the stock price skyrocketed to almost $100. In August 2005, the price per share increased to around $300. By October 2007, the stock price grew up to $600. Thus, Brin and Page attracted more than $3 billion in cash for the company and became billionaires.

Before the IPO, there was an incident with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

SEC could have forced Google to delay the IPO for the publication of an interview with its founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page in the September 2004 issue of Playboy Magazine in the “quiet period.” A quiet period is when federal securities laws limit the information a company, and related parties can publicly announce. Google announced its IPO on April 29, 2004. However, according to Playboy Magazine officials, Sergey and Larry granted the interview on April 22, 2004. The SEC committee asked the Google team to incorporate the Playboy interview as an appendix to its prospectus to resolve this situation.

Development of Google’s Services

Google regularly develops new services. On June 18, 2003, Google introduced Google AdSense, a platform that allowed publishers to display targeted advertisements and generate revenue on a per-click or per-impression basis.

In October 2004, Google presented Google Book Search. This service allowed users to read excerpts of scanned books from the libraries of Stanford University, Oxford University, the University of Michigan, and the New York Public Library. They agreed to scan books that had expired copyright restrictions.

On April 1, 2004, the young innovators revealed Gmail, a free email service created by Paul Buchheit to the public. As of 2014, there are more than 500 million active accounts in Gmail.

To me, this is about preserving history and making it available to everyone. – Sergey Brin Click To Tweet

On February 8, 2005, Brin and Larry introduced Google Maps, a web mapping service co-founded by Jens Eilstrup Rasmussen and Lars Rasmussen.

On October 9, 2006, Google Inc. purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. YouTube is a video-sharing service initially founded by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim.

Google Instant is a feature that displays suggested results while the user types were introduced in the United States on September 8, 2010. At the time of the announcement, Google expected Instant to save users 2 to 5 seconds for every search, collectively about 11 million seconds per hour.

On June 28, 2011, Google introduced a social networking service named Google+ to compete with Facebook. As of March 2015, Google+ had 300 million monthly active users. Unfortunately, Google+ did not become as popular as Facebook. As of March 31, 2015, Facebook had 1.415 billion monthly active users.

As of May 27, 2015, Sergey Brin holds the Director of Special Projects position at Google, known as Google X, the secretive division of Google that focuses on high-risk projects, such as Google Glass, airborne wind turbines, and smart contact lenses. Larry Page is the Google CEO and heads the company with confidence.

On August 10, 2015, Larry Page announced in a blog post that they are turning Google into a subsidiary of Alphabet companies. Alphabet, Inc. will include such companies as Google, Nest, Fiber, Google X, Life Sciences, Calico, etc. Page will serve as Alphabet CEO, with fellow Google co-founder Sergey Brin serving as president. Sundar Pichai, formerly Google’s vice president in charge of products, will be appointed as CEO of Google.

Both of them are interested in Google’s development and growth. Only for the past 14 years, Brin and Page acquired 181 private companies, which carried out research in artificial intelligence (DeepMind Technologies, Jetpac, Dark Blue Labs, and Vision Factory), robotics (Boston Dynamics, SCHAFT, Meka Robotics, Industrial Perception), home automation (Nest Labs, Inc) and many others.

From the beginning, the creators of Google thought globally while seeking innovative technologies to help structure the Internet and the complete information to make it accessible to everyone. On June 03, 2015, in an SEC filing, Sergey Brin shared a short letter with stakeholders on the eve of Google’s annual shareholders’ meeting, which took place on June 10, 2015. His main point was that Google is not just a search engine or an advertisement seller but also a research and development company. In this letter, Brin also talked about contact lenses they were working on with Novartis and about self-driving cars that have already crossed 1 million miles of autonomous driving. He was proud that Google created the technology that allowed people to live healthier and happier lives.

The Censorship Battle in China

The popularity of Google has grown with each passing day. Google opened its office in China in 2005. Kai-Fu Lee, a former Microsoft executive and the founder of Microsoft Research Asia, headed the Chinese office.

In January 2006, Google, Inc. decided to adhere to Chinese laws and allow censorship of specific keywords. This decision caused a wave of anger in the world. Sergey Brin and Larry Page were criticized for the fact that they did not adhere to its motto, Don’t Be Evil.

In January 2010, Google announced that it would no longer filter the search requests of users in China after Google was exposed to a Chinese-originated hacking attack under the code name “Operation Aurora” on its services and would leave the market if necessary. On March 23, 2010, Google was under complete China’s censorship. In response to this action, Google started redirecting users from Google China to the Google Hong Kong website (Hong Kong is not subject to Chinese laws and does not have censorship laws). In late March 2010, Google officially discontinued Google China while keeping its uncensored Hong Kong site in operation.

In 2010, according to Analysys International, the market share of Google China was 29%. In 2013, Google’s market share in China dropped to 1.7%. Baidu.com remains the national Chinese search engine.

Brin’s Net Worth

After the IPO, Sergey Brin’s net worth of Sergey Brin skyrocketed considerably. Since August 2004, Brin has been ahead of Bill Gates and Paul Allen in the revenue growth rate. Sergey Brin’s annual salary is $1.00, and he entirely relies on stock options and is interested in increasing shareholder value. As of October 01, 2023, Sergey Brin’s net worth is $105.9 billion.

Sergey Brin’s Family and Lifestyle

In May 2007, Sergey Brin married Anne Wojcicki. She graduated from Yale University in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Anne is the CEO and co-founder of the genomics company 23andMe (in 2007, Google invested $3.9 million in 23andMe). Before the wedding, the couple had known each other for about eight years. In December 2008, Anne gave birth to their son, Benji Wojin (the child’s name is a combination of “Wojcicki” and “Brin”), and to a daughter in early 2012. On August 28, 2013, they split, and right now, they do not live together but remain formally married. A representative for Brin and Wojcicki said they remain good friends and partners.

Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki are separated, but they remain good friends.

Sergey Brin is an author and co-author of dozens of publications for the leading American academic journals; he also regularly performs at various national and international educational, business, and technology forums. Sergey Brin often speaks to the press on television, talking about his views on search technology and the IT industry itself.

Brin enjoys yoga. Moreover, as many employees Google, he often on roller skates near the office, sometimes playing roller hockey. He prefers to wear jeans, sneakers, and a sports jacket, so he still buys products at Costco and always looks at the price tags.

Sergey Brin resides in Los Altos, California, in a comfortable mansion spread over 6,000 square feet (557 square meters). In 2008, he bought a 3,500-square-foot duplex penthouse apartment in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village for $8.5 million. There are four bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms in it. Brin drives a Tesla Roadster and a Toyota Prius. His other possessions include a Dornier Alpha fighter Jet and a Google jet 767-200.

In September 2007, Sergey Brin and Larry Page sponsored the Google Lunar XPrize with the reward of $30 million to anyone who would build a private spacecraft and land it on the moon. In June 2008, Brin announced his intention to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) as a space tourist. He deposited $5 million to Space Adventures, securing him a seat on the ISS. Space Adventures President Tom Shelley said ISS could have a vacant seat for Brin in 2017.

Solving big problems is easier than solving little problems. – Sergey Brin Click To Tweet

In 2007, Sergey Brin produced Reid Gershbein’s film Broken Arrows, a story about love, struggle, and destiny.

Sergey Brin’s life story exemplifies how scientific talent, creative exploration, courage, experiments, and innovative solutions can pave the way to the American dream. We hope you have enjoyed exploring Sergey Brin’s biography and the breathtaking success story of Google and it has inspired you to make discoveries.

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