MENLO PARK, Calif. -- Google went back to where it all began Thursday, to the Menlo Park garage where founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin first dreamed of a better search engine.
The company opened up the Silicon Valley landmark to the media to celebrate its 15th birthday.
Neighbors say the garage doesn’t get the busloads of tourists that regularly visit the Palo Alto garage of Hewlett-Packard or the Los Altos garage where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the first Apple computers. But the home is a crucial part of the company’s legacy and the history of Silicon Valley.
Google bought the 1,900-square-foot home in Menlo Park in 2006 from one of its own executives, Susan Wojcicki. She said she rented her garage and three rooms in the house to the Google founders, then just 25 years old, for $1,700 a month to help pay her mortgage. Google was based in the garage for five months and moved out when it had seven employees.
Google was just getting started, having just been incorporated and raising $1 million from a handful of investors.
Page and Brin poured themselves into building their search engine.
They also played ping pong in the garage, soaked in the hot tub and raided Wojcicki's refrigerator, a precursor to the cosmopolitan buffet of free gourmet food Google has today.
“At the time I didn’t know what to think about this,” Wojcicki said. Google was a tiny company trying to compete with established search engines. Then one day she couldn’t access Google.
“I realized how important Google had become to me,” Wojcicki said.
She joined the company a few months later. (She had to interview for the job even though she was Google’s landlord.)
Wojcicki says a lot has changed in 15 years, but three things have not.
Google is still focused on building a “great” search experience, she said.
The company is also focused on being global. (Page and Brin wrote on a whiteboard in the Menlo Park house: “Google’s worldwide headquarters,” she said.)
Even at the beginning, Google thought big, and continues to do that today with Internet-connected wearable computers, driverless cars and other futuristic projects, Wojcicki said.
“Even though a lot of things are different with Google, at the core we are the same,” she said. “We are 15 years in. We have a lot of work left to do.”
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