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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Google is 'feeling lucky'
Google headquarters
The Googleplex - home to 230 Googlers
Seek and ye will find ... two entrepreneurial students with a $100k cheque in their pockets did just that, and founded the internet search engine Google. Peter Day, of BBC Radio 4's In Business programme, checks out a business that's far from failing.

In 1995, Stanford University computer science students Sergey Brin and Larry Page collaborated to create their precursor to Google - "BackRub". Their search engine development had begun.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin
Larry and Sergey - brains behind the box
And if you're not quite sure what a search engine is - how did you get to this page? - it's simply the most gigantic library of information that is instantly available with a little mouse work.

University dorms became the focus of Brin and Page's activity.

Page's room acted as Google's data centre while Brin's doubled as the business office. But money was in short supply.

Andy Bechtolsheim, a fellow Stanford student and one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, was so impressed with the early concept, he handed over a cheque for $100k - before the company was even established.

They went on to raise an initial $1m through family, friends and angel investors, and eventually Google Inc came alive.

Googol becomes Google

By late 1998, the funds were in place, and the name of Google hit the web - why Google?

The Google screen
Over 150m hits a day
Well the word derived from Googol - simply meaning the figure 1 followed by 100 zeros - an apt name then, but four years on with the 150m daily hits, it seems far from reality.

The company has simple and clear Californian philosophies.

These become evident from the minimalist website design, through to the results pages which are refreshingly untainted with brazen advertising. And on what other site would you see that "I'm feeling lucky" button?

Their Silicon Valley (California) headquarters - their Googleplex - is a reflection of the founders' personalities in more ways than one. Décor, furnishings and atmosphere are seriously cool.

Treat 'em right

They care about their staff. A relaxed culture pervades that is verging on the horizontal, from the in-house saunas to the regular car park hockey matches.

Car park hockey
There's also time to work between games
But this does not detract from the output of the 230 staff.

Together with their very "hands-on" management, the dedicated workforce have elevated the Google search engine to top-dog status in the pack. And it's easy to see why.

Each day, their search software trawls 300m global websites, and from each link on each site it creates the Google index - yes, a mind-googling 2bn pages.

If any search made on the web takes longer than half a second to materialise, management "ask serious questions".

Searching questions for the future

Google operates four data centre facilities around the US, so if one goes down there are three others to take the strain.

A relaxed work station
Happy Googlers make for efficiency - dog and all
Each centre houses about 3,000 Google machines - alive and humming with lights, keeping the voracious appetite of the world's curiosity well fed.

The future will be challenging, and the way to meet those challenges head on will be through further financial backing. This is not to say that Google is bereft of funds - quite the reverse.

But with a web presence that has no advertising screaming off the screen, it will need to maintain its convincing performance for any future stock market flotation.

In Business is broadcast on BBC Radio 4
Sunday 12 May at 21:30 BST

See also:

25 Apr 02 | Americas
Scientology Church fights Google
08 Apr 02 | Business
Google sued by its rival
13 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Google hit by link bombers
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