In this success story, we are going to share Sergey Brin biography, an American computer scientist and internet entrepreneur who co-founded Google with Larry Page, which is considered one of the most profitable companies of nowadays. The distinctive personality traits of Sergey Brin are perseverance, creativity, vision and emotional intelligence. Many people know that Brin immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union yet when he was six, but not everyone is familiar with his full biography in details. We invite you to read it on Astrum People.
- Early Life
- School Years
- Stanford University
- Establishment of Google
- Humble Beginnings in a Garage
- Venture Investments
- First Profit
- Eric Schmidt, a new Google CEO
- Overseas Expansion
- Development of Google’s Services
- The Censorship Battle in China
- Brin’s Net Worth
- Sergey Brin’s Family and Lifestyle
Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin was born on August 21, 1973 in Russian Jewish family in Russia, Moscow. His father, Michael Brin, is a mathematician, now retired from Department of Mathematics, University of Maryland. His mother, Eugenia Brin, was a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Recently, she took the role of the Director of 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 constantly faced hidden anti-Semitism. Michael’s dream was to become an astronomer. Thus, he wanted to study physics at university but was rejected to enter any of them. At that time, the Communist Party forbade Jews pursue higher studies in particular subjects, including physics, in order to block them access to the country’s nuclear secrets.
Thus, Sergey Brin’s father decided to study mathematics and became a student at Moscow State University, despite the fact that the entrance exams for the Jews were held in the separate rooms, notoriously called “gas chambers”. In 1970, he graduated with honors and became an economist at GOSPLAN, the State Planning Committee of USSR. Later, he continued to study mathematics on his own and with the help of his advisers defended his thesis to obtain a Doctorate degree 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 feet three-room apartment in central Moscow.
In the late 1970s, Jewish families started to migrate 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 went to 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 their exit visa. As soon it came to Soviet Government’s notice, they fired him from his job, and, for the related reasons, his wife also had to leave her job. Next eight months until they got an exit visa, the family had to go through the very hard times. To sustain his family, Michael taught himself computer programming, he also worked as a translator of technical texts.
They finally left the USSR and first arrived to 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 of 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 specialist scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The one who suffered the most was the grandmother – she was shocked when she had to take an exam for the driver’s license to bring her grandson to school.
First, Sergey attended the Mishkan Torah Hebrew School with the other Jewish kids. He did not like to study there as 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 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 a mentor of Sergey. Now, Sergey Brin considers that studying at that school was one of the key factors of his success. Barshay described Sergey Brin as outgoing, self-confident, and fascinated by numbers and mathematics.
He sometimes was getting bored, as the classes of mathematics seemed too simple for him. This fact is not surprising, as the young genius was getting an additional education at home. Parents not only helped Sergey to retain the knowledge of Russian language but also encouraged his interest in mathematics and computer science. In the early 1980s, the availability of personal computers was still rare. Sergey Brin’s first computer Commodore 64 he received from his father as a present for his birthday when he turned nine years old. Soon, Sergey surprised his schoolteachers, giving unusual project prepared on the computer and printed out 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 the age of 15. In 1993, at the age of 19, Brin received his doubled bachelor’s degree in computer systems and mathematics with honors and earned a prestigious scholarship of National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, which covered his following education.
Sergey Brin continued his education at Stanford University, which is the most prestigious high-tech university of the United States, located 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 into long-term projects so that the students may concentrate on their research.
Sergey Brin liked mathematics, but he had no clue how would this passion 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 was going to 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 a number of papers relating to the methods of information extraction from unstructured sources, and information retrieval in large collections of texts and scientific data. Also, he developed software, which 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.
The crucial moment in the biography of Sergey Brin happened in March 1995 when he met Lawrence “Larry” Page at the spring meeting of the prospective Ph.D.s in Computer Science, who later became the CEO of Google. In the summer of 1995, Sergey Brin was assigned to accompany Larry Page on campus. Initially, they were not happy with each other, and they were arguing and furiously discussing any topic.
However, soon they discovered that both of them were extremely 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 improve the methods of finding information on the Internet fundamentally. 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’ ranking principles of websites depended 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, but not keyword stuffing. Brin and Page decided to test this idea as a part of their research project. They launched the search engine BackRub with the PageRank algorithm – it checked number and relevance of backlinks to estimate a website’s content credibility and usefulness. It was available for Stanford students only. Young researchers required many computers to store and process big data on the Internet. It took more time than anticipated, and it cost 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 of BackRub. They turned to their mate Sean Anderson for help. Anderson suggested the name Googolplex, a huge number, the digit 1 followed by 10 to a 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”.
Soon, one of their office colleagues noticed that they had misspelled googol number and pointed out on it. However, the Google.com had been already 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, the Sergey and Larry were involved in the development of a new and promising search engine technology. Larry Page’s dorm room at Stanford University served as the data center while the Sergey Brin’s dorm room – the business office. Initially, Brin and Page did not want to create Google as business and considered the search engine as the basis for a scholarly research project to obtain their Ph.D. degrees.
They noticed that Google became too popular among Stanford students, and they started thinking 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 a different way.
After several unlucky attempts of selling it, they created a business plan and started looking for angel investors who would provide funds for an exchange of ownership portion of their company. David Cheriton, their computer science professor, introduced them Andy Bechtolsheim, who was a 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 the middle of 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 as CEO, and Sergey Brin became as President. Their first office was a rented garage from Susan Wojcicki, a sister of Sergey Brin’s girlfriend Anne Wojcicki, which was located in Menlo Park, California. Despite, Google processed around 10,000 requests per day PC Magazine featured it into the list of Top 100 best Websites and Search Engines of 1998. Soon Craig Silverstein joined their team as the first Google’s employee. In the following year, the company moved into the new office in Palo Alto.
The number of satisfied users has been growing rapidly, and the word “Google” was popping from all over the place. 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 its mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This is where they proved that they were able to find original solutions not only in the area of new technologies but also in running the business.
In June 1999, Brin and Page managed to convince 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 “divide and conquer”. It allowed Brin and Page to prevent the possibility of a serious influence from any of the investors, despite the fact that 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 main 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 processed 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.
To become a profitable company Sergey and Larry decided to display sponsored advertisements, but not on the homepage, instead they agreed to display highlighted links separated from organic search results. In the US, advertisers spent billions of dollars on outdoor advertising, however sometimes it was not quite effective. Brin and Page offered a solution to display sponsored adverts based on the searches of users. If users searched on Google for more information about cars, they could click on a sponsored link to learn more. Thus, on October 23, 2000, the partners released Google AdWords, an online advertising service.
It is interesting to know that Paul Buchheit, a Google engineer, invented the original Google’s motto “Don’t Be Evil” in July 2001. During a Google’s employee meeting, where they wanted to discuss main principles, he came up with it. It stuck in the head and became the original motto of the corporation.
The ability to think creative 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. While 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 in terms of marketing, Google might rely on the users, as a significant part of those who used the services of the search engine 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 remain unchanged.
In May 2000, the Google team received a Webby Award and People’s Choice Award for the technical achievement. The following month, Google officially became the world’s largest search engine with the announcement of reaching 1 billion URL in its index.
Eric Schmidt, a new Google CEO
Sergey Brin and Larry Page bore the burden of managing the company, until the moment when the number of its employees did not exceed two hundred people. In August 2001, Larry Page transferred the competence of CEO 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 were keeping 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 new Google CEO, Eric Schmidt helped Google to make its first profit. By the end of 2001, the 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
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. Four months later Sergey and Larry added Chinese, Korean and Japanese. 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 major 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 located 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.
On August 19, 2004, Google entered the IPO market with its shares on NASDAQ (GOOG) with $85 per stock. By the end of the day, more than 19 million stock share 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, a 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 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
SEC could have forced Google to delay the IPO for the fact of publication of an interview of its founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page in September 2004 issue of Playboy Magazine in the “quiet period”. A quiet period is a period when federal securities laws limit what information a company and related parties can announce to the public. Google announced its IPO on April 29, 2004. However, according to Playboy Magazine officials, Sergey and Larry granted the interview yet on April 22, 2004. To resolve this situation, SEC asked Google team to incorporate the entire Playboy interview as an appendix to its prospectus.
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, a service, which 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 to the public, a free email service created by Paul Buchheit. 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, was 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 under the name Google+ to compete with Facebook. As of March 2015, Google+ had 300 million monthly active users. Unfortunately, Google+ did not become so popular as Facebook. As of March 31, 2015, Facebook had 1.415 billion monthly active users.
As of May 27, 2015, Sergey Brin holds a position of Director of Special Projects at Google known as Google X, the secretive division of Google that focuses on high-risk projects, such as Google Glass, airborne wind turbines, 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 companies called Alphabet. 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 carry 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 in structuring not only the Internet but also the entire 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, took place on June 10, 2015. His main point was that Google is not just a search engine or an advertisement seller, but it also is a research and development company. In this letter, Brin also talked about contact lenses with they were working on with Novartis, and about self-driving cars that 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 Chinese laws and allow censorship on certain keywords. This decision caused a wave of indignation 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 they would no longer filter the search requests of users in China, after Google was exposed 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 Google Hong Kong website (Hong Kong is not a 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, the net worth of Sergey Brin skyrocketed considerably. Since August 2004, Brin is ahead of Bill Gates and Paul Allen in the rate of revenue growth. Sergey Brin’s annual salary is $1.00, and he completely relies on stock options and is interested in increasing shareholder value. As of June 12, 2015, Sergey Brin’s net worth is $28.9 billion.
Sergey Brin’s Family and Lifestyle
In May 2007, Sergey Brin married Anne Wojcicki. She graduated from Yale University in 1996, with Bachelor of Science in Biology. Anne is the CEO and co-founder of a genomics company 23andMe (in 2007, Google invested $3.9 million in 23andMe). Before the wedding, the couple had known each other for about 8 years. In December 2008, Anne gave birth to their son, Benji Wojin, (child’s name is a combination of “Wojcicki” and “Brin”), and to a daughter in early 2012. On August 28, 2013, they have split, and right now they do not live together but remain formally married. According to a representative for Brin and Wojcicki, they remain good friends and partners.
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 academic, 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 nearby 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, which is 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 4 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms in it. Brin drives Tesla Roadster and Toyota Prius. His other possessions also include a Dornier Alpha fighter Jet, 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 made a deposit of $5 million to Space Adventures, which would secure him a seat on the ISS. Space Adventures President Tom Shelley said that 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 was an executive producer of Reid Gershbein’s film Broken Arrows, a story about love, struggle, and destiny.
Sergey Brin life story is an example of 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 biography and breathtaking success story of Google, and it has inspired you to new discoveries.
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