Larry Page Tried To Sell Google For $1.6 Million - $358 Billion Less Than It's Worth Today

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Bloomberg Game Changers

A Young Larry Page

Today we published a long story on Larry Page, the CEO and cofounder of Google.

It's about two things:

  • Even though you've always heard about Google as being cofounded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Page is the guy history really needs to zero in on as the visionary behind the company.

  • Like Steve Jobs, Larry Page was his company's first CEO, but got booted from the position. Like Steve Jobs, he came back years later after an important maturation period.

The story couldn't be about everything, so we had to cut some stuff from it. For example, we cut the story about how, in 1997, Page almost wanted to sell Google for $1.6 million.

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We learned the story reading Steven Levy's excellent book on the history of Google, called In The Plex.

In 1996, a vision for how to organize the Internet came to Page in a dream, while he was a graduate student at Stanford. He turned that vision into a search engine he called BackRub.

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By 1997, it was obvious to Page that BackRub was going to be a widely-adopted, commercialized product.

In January 1997, Page offered to sell BackRub to an Internet portal called Excite for a total of $1.6 million. In a letter to Excite's primary investor, Vinod Khosla, Page said BackRub would boost Excite's traffic by 10% and its ad revenue by $47 million over a year.

Page said he could work at Excite for seven months before he had to come back to Stanford in the fall. Page said he'd take $600,000 in cash and $700,000 in stock. The remaining $300,000 would go to Stanford.

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Page didn't mention compensation for Brin, by the way.

Khosla made a counter-offer of $750,000. Then, in a meeting with Page, Excite's CEO George Bell said that BackRub was too effective of a search engine. It would send users off the site too quickly. Bell believed that would be bad for Excite's advertising business. He wanted a search engine that was only 80% as good as Excite's competitors.

The deal never happened, obviously.

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Today, Google is worth $358,858,000,000 more than Page wanted to sell it for.