May 4, 2009

Google Co-founder Addresses University of Michigan

Talks of Dreams, Ambitions, Family, and More

Google co-founder Larry Page gave a quite inspirational speech at the University of Michigan the other day, and the Google Press Center found it so great, they decided to release it to the public. 

The entire thing is transcribed here (and the video's below), but to sum it up, it's about following your dreams to make a difference. At least that's what I got out of it. 

In part of the speech, he talked about starting Google, and the excitement and vulnerability he felt at the same time. Many have likely heard the story before, but it's always fun to look at the humble origins of the most dominant force on the web. Page mentioned having a dream back in his college days:

Larry PageWhen I suddenly woke up, I was thinking: what if we could download the whole web, and just keep the links and... I grabbed a pen and started writing! Sometimes it is important to wake up and stop dreaming. I spent the middle of that night scribbling out the details and convincing myself it would work. Soon after, I told my advisor, Terry Winograd, it would take a couple of weeks to download the web -- he nodded knowingly, fully aware it would take much longer but wise enough to not tell me. The optimism of youth is often underrated! Amazingly, I had no thought of building a search engine. The idea wasn't even on the radar. But, much later we happened upon a better way of ranking webpages to make a really great search engine, and Google was born. When a really great dream shows up, grab it!

A little more on that excitement and vulnerability:

Our mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. How can that not get you excited? But we almost didn't start Google because my co-founder Sergey and I were too worried about dropping out of our Ph.D. program. You are probably on the right track if you feel like a sidewalk worm during a rainstorm! That is about how we felt after we maxed out three credit cards buying hard disks off the back of a truck. That was the first hardware for Google. Parents and friends: more credit cards always help. What is the one sentence summary of how you change the world? Always work hard on something uncomfortably exciting!

Page encouraged his audience of college students to get crazy and ambitions at this particular time in their lives because they never know when opportunities will be taken away from them. He then went on to talk about his late father and the quest to eliminate polio. 

There are always going to be people accusing Google of not living up to the "do no evil" mantra that the company is famously known for, but reading Page's speech certainly paints a picture of good intentions. That's probably one reason why Google deemed the speech press release-worthy. If you've got a few minutes, it's worth a read (or view).


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