By June 1999, Brin and Page had attracted more than $25 million from two legendary venture capitalists, John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital.
The founders resisted when pushed by those backers to hire a chief executive, taking a year to agree on a choice. Eric Schmidt, the former Novell CEO and onetime Sun Microsystems executive, joined Google in August 2001.
The search dragged on so long that Moritz threatened to pull his money. "I felt I grew tusks," he mused.
Although they have given up a sizable stake in the company to venture capitalists, the eccentric founding pair are Google's cultural soul and, along with Schmidt, run the company.
Page is the more cerebral of the two, the big thinker who also worries about whether his engineers will like their new digs. Brin, insiders say, has more business instinct, is the negotiator and has a sharp sense of humor that usually involves poking fun at his co-founder.
"Of the two of us, Larry will always take the extreme position," Brin said. When the subject of free employee lunches came up, Page proposed a plan to feed the world. They compromised on free staff lunches and dinners. Recent menus included endive and pear salad with pomegranate molasses dressing and pork loin in mustard veal reduction sauce, prepared by an award-winning former chef to the Grateful Dead.
Google headquarters, known as the Googleplex, is a throwback to the late 1990s. In the lobby, decorated with lava lamps and giant plastic balls, an engineer takes a break to play a baby grand piano. A pool table is nearby, and Brin and Page zip around on their new Segway scooters.
Benefits include company-paid, midweek ski trips to Squaw Valley and maternity and paternity leaves with 75 percent pay.
The freewheeling culture can lead to some pie-in-the-sky ideas: Over a January dinner at venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson's home, Page and Brin became excited about the idea of rearranging atoms into super-tiny computers and exclaimed they could create a nanotech lab at Google. (The company says there are now no such plans.)
"It is like Netscape in the early years-kids sleeping on the cots, the dogs are in there, they've stacked up the beer cans," said Doerr.
But Google has a discipline, albeit unconventional. Engineers-including more than 60 with doctorates-work in committees of three to develop new projects. The trio with the most ambitious but plausible idea gets the most backing.
As Page explained: "You'll get more resources within the company, you get people more excited, you get people outside writing about it."
While they dream, Brin and Page also keep their eyes on the details: They use software to tally, to the second, how much money the firm is raking in.
They said the free, healthy meals only came about after calculating the time saved from driving off-site and reduced health care costs. There's even a Webcam trained on the cafeteria lunch line, so employees can avoid a long wait.
While most of the tech world buzzes about an IPO, Google's founders hold firm to their technological ambitions-building, in Page's words, "the ultimate search engine."
"It would understand exactly what you type and would give you the right things back," said Page. "We're pretty good, but we're nowhere close to being perfect. We won't be for a long time."
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