Inspiring interview with Larry Page, Founder of Google

Larry Page, what is responsible for your early progress in life? How did you get to where you are so quickly?

Larry Page: I think I was really lucky to have the environment I did when I was growing up.

My dad was a professor, he happened to be a professor of computer science, and we had computers lying around the house from a really early age. I think I was the first kid in my elementary school to turn in a word-processed document. I just enjoyed using the stuff. It was sort of lying around, and I got to play with it. I had an older brother who was interested in it as well. So I think I had kind of a unique environment, that most people didn’t have, because my dad was willing to spend all his available income on buying a computer or whatever. It was like 1978, when I was six. I don’t think there’s many people my age who’ve had that experience, or anyone in general. From a very early age, I also realized I wanted to invent things. So I became really interested in technology and also then, soon after, in business, because I figured that inventing things wasn’t any good; you really had to get them out into the world and have people use them to have any effect. So probably from when I was 12, I knew I was going to start a company eventually

How do you think you knew at such an early age that you wanted to be an inventor?

Larry Page: I just sort of kept having ideas. We had a lot of magazines lying around our house. It was kind of messy. So you kind of read stuff all the time, and I would read Popular Science and things like that. I just got interested in stuff, I guess, technology and how devices work. My brother taught me how to take things apart, and I took apart everything in the house. So I just became interested in it, for whatever reason, and so I had lots of ideas about what things could be built and how to build them and all these kinds of things. I built like an electric go-cart at a pretty early age.

page1It’s as if computers were the toys of your childhood.

Larry Page: Yeah, basically, and electronics too.

You mentioned reading magazines like Popular Mechanics. What else did you read that might have influenced or inspired you in some way?

Larry Page: I read all the computer magazines and things like that, and I was sort of interested in how these things really work — anything having to do with the mechanics behind things, either the mechanics or the electronics. I wanted to be able to build things. Actually, in college I built an inkjet printer out of Legos, because I wanted to be able to print really big images. I figured you could print really big posters really cheaply using inkjet cartridges. So I reverse-engineered the cartridge, and I built all the electronics and mechanics to drive it. Just sort of fun projects. I like to be able to do those kinds of things.

You certainly have an aptitude for it. Is this because of your early education or your parents? How do you explain that?

Larry Page: Actually, my brother was nine years older than me, and he went to Michigan as well. He brought home some of his labs for electronics and things like that, and sort of gave them to me. I learned how to do the stuff. I think there were a lot of lucky things like that.

You seem to have had no fear of any of this. Where does this self-confidence come from?

Larry Page: I think that’s true of kids today as well. If you have access to these things at a really young age, you just become used to it all, and it is natural to you. Kids certainly don’t have fear of using computers now. It’s the same kind of thing. If you grow up in environments where you have ICs (integrated circuits) lying around, you don’t have fear of that either.

And here you are now, a CEO at what age?

Larry Page: I’m 27.

Why is it that you perceived the need for Google before anyone else did?

Larry Page: Well, it’s actually a great argument for pure research because… So anyway… Search engines didn’t really understand the notion of which pages were more important. If you typed “Stanford,” you got random pages that mentioned Stanford. This obviously wasn’t going to work.

Larry, you’re a CEO at 27. What challenges or frustrations have you experienced at reaching this station at such a young age?

Larry Page: I think the age is a real issue. It’s certainly a handicap in the sense of being able to manage people and to hire people and all these kinds of things, maybe more so than it should be. Certainly, I think, the things that I’m missing are more things that you acquire with time. If you manage people for 20 years, or something like that, you pick up things. So I certainly lack experience there, and that’s an issue. But I sort of make up for that, I think, in terms of understanding where things are going to go, having a vision about the future, and really understanding the industry I am in, and what the company does, and also sort of the unique position of starting a company and working on it for three years before starting the company. Then working on it pretty hard, whatever, 24 hours a day. So I understand a lot of the aspects pretty well. I guess that compensates a little bit for lack of skills in other areas.

It appears that it’s people of your generation who have really introduced the so-called “24/7 mentality.” Are you aware of that? Do you think that accounts for your success?


Larry Page: I think it definitely helps to be really focused on what you are doing. You can only work so many hours, and I try to have some balance in my life and so on. I think a lot of people go through this in school. They work really hard. You can do that for part of your life, but you can’t do that indefinitely. At some point, you want to have a family. You want to have more time to do other things. I would say that it is an advantage being young. You don’t have as many other responsibilities.

What else are you doing these days?

Larry Page: I think I am really lucky. Being in the Bay Area, a lot of my friends have started companies that have been quite successful at different stages. So I go up to San Francisco and I hang out with my friends, and we talk about their companies and all sorts of different things. It is fun, but it is also work in some sense. I think within Silicon Valley there is really a mix of recreation and work a lot of times.

Where do you go from here? What do you see yourself doing in ten or 20 years?

Larry Page: Artificial intelligence would be the ultimate version of Google. So we have the ultimate search engine that would understand everything on the Web. It would understand exactly what you wanted, and it would give you the right thing. That’s obviously artificial intelligence, to be able to answer any question, basically, because almost everything is on the Web, right? We’re nowhere near doing that now. However, we can get incrementally closer to that, and that is basically what we work on. And that’s tremendously interesting from an intellectual standpoint.

We have all this data. If you printed out the index, it would be 70 miles high now. We have all this computation. We have about 6,000 computers. So we have a lot of resources available. We have enough space to store like 100 copies of the whole Web. So you have a really interesting sort of confluence of a lot of different things: a lot of computation, a lot of data that didn’t used to be available. From an engineering and scientific standpoint, building things to make use of this is a really interesting intellectual exercise. So I expect to be doing that for a while. On the other hand, I do have a lot of other interests as well. I am really interested in transportation and sustainable energy. For fun, I invent things on the side, but I don’t really have time to follow up on them.

What do they think of people like you at Stanford and Michigan? You are extraordinary people they’re sending out into the world.


Larry Page: Well, thank you. It was kind of strange for me. I went back to Michigan and there was all this faculty who wanted to meet with me. It was just very strange, going from a student to that. At Google, especially, we are really lucky. Everybody is our product! Or it’s starting to be everybody. No matter who you talk to, they’re like, “Oh, Google today was great. I found exactly what I needed.” Somehow we’ve done a really good job. People are really happy with our company, and we have provided pretty good service. So that sort of transfers onto how people interact with me as well, which is really nice.

It used to be that a Ph.D. candidate hoped to have his or her dissertation published in some obscure academic journal. Your dissertation started a company and launched you on a career.

Larry Page: There are a lot of students at Stanford who have started companies based on their research work. I think Stanford does a pretty good job with that. There is obviously a lot of infrastructure, but also there is an acceptance of it, which I think is good.

Is there an expectation?

Larry Page: There is sort of a joke that faculty members have to start a company before they get tenure. I don’t think that’s quite true. The faculty are very focused on what is going on in the world, which I think is a good thing. The danger is if you’re not doing research because you are pushed into things that are just practical.

Larry Page, what do you see as the responsibilities that go along with success and the accumulation of wealth that we are seeing in Silicon Valley today?

Larry Page: I think there is tremendous responsibility. If I was not in this situation, my biggest concern would be the concentration of wealth and power in a very small number of people. On the other hand, it is nice to be rewarded for what you do. There are a lot of things I would like to do in the world that having a lot of resources would really help with.

What do you want to do?

Larry Page: I have been really interested in applying technology to transportation. I don’t think that has really been done. Making cars better. There are a lot of interesting systems people have designed that basically are small monorails that run along sidewalks, and that route you exactly where you want to go. Some of these things are actually quite practical. As a side interest, I have kind of followed this stuff. When I was in Michigan, I tried to get them to build a monorail between central and north campus, because it is only a two-mile trip, and they have 40 full-sized diesel buses that run back and forth. Two miles! So that’s a prime candidate for new transportation.

Is there any reason for you to go back to Stanford and finish your degree? You have taken leave of absence from Stanford to be a CEO. Why bother to go back at all?

Larry Page: Well, I think Stanford is a really great place. There’s really, really smart people around, and it’s really a fun place to be. Some people from other startups have gone back when things sort of calmed down. So it does happen. There are things I want to work on that are very speculative, and Stanford is a great place to do things like that. I didn’t start out building a search engine. I just said, “Oh, the links on the Web are probably interesting. Why don’t we try doing something with that?” I was pretty lucky that it was a useful thing to do. If you’re doing something you’re not sure is going to work at all, a company probably isn’t the right place to be doing it. Having incredibly bright people around to work with is a really nice thing. I could see going back for that purpose.


Inspiring Life of Alfred Nobel, inventor of Dynamite


It was Petrus Olavi Nobelius, abound with talent in music and other fields, who met Olof Rudbeck, an intellectual leader at the University of Uppsala, founder of musical life at the university and around the place in general. On coming of age, he ended up marrying Rudbeck’s daughter and from this couple descended the family of Nobel. It was one of his grandsons who as a youth in military service, adopted the name Nobel. And now,  that seems to go for eternity due to one man down the lineage, called Alfred.



The reference to Rudbeck is of exceptional importance. The Nobel progenies inherited his inventiveness, love for arts and music, and last but not the least, his scientific temper. All this was evident in the Immanuel Nobel, his illustrious son Alfred and his siblings. A practical man all his life, with no formal education nor any knowledge of languages, he was a powerhouse of ideas. All that displayed his uncanny ability and exceptional intelligence – a genius.




Immanuel Nobel was a self-taught inventor and building contractor in Stockholm. He grew up in a poor family without formal education. His father taught him how to read and write. At 14, he became a cabin boy and went on a three year tour to the Mediterranean from Galve, a port city in Northern Sweden. On his return , he was first apprenticed to a Builder there only to shift to Stockholm to join school of architecture of the Academy of Art – or Mechanical School. Practicing as an Architect at 24 or 25, he dived headlong in to the profession, only to go bankrupt. The cause being a building he bought burned down in 1833. 



 His mother Caroline Nobel (maiden name Andrietta Ahlsell), was a gifted woman and the daughter of an accountant. Earlier, in 1827, she married Immanuel Nobel. The third and the youngest was our hero Alfred, born on October 21, 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden. After the Nobels went bankrupt in 1833, the family moved to a simpler living quarter at Normansgatan, where Alfred spent the first nine years of his life.




Since Alfred suffered from chronic gastric ailments, he was confined to his house most of the time. His mother was his friend, nurse, teacher and his window to the world. Since he could not go to school, his mother read to him from his brother’s textbooks until he learned to read himself and became a avid reader. Alfred’s intelligence astounded his mother and she hoped that he would turn out to be a genius. When Alfred was eight, he joined school and was thrilled by the change. He was an eager learner and his health also improved. Soon the family rejoined Immanuel in Petersburg. The climate of Petersburg did not suit Alfred’s health. A spinal ailment and chronic cold added to his list of existing ailments.



Immanuel decided to provide first class private tutions to his sons. He employed a Swedish tutor, who taught them Russian. Alfred turned his bedroom into a classroom. He also helped his brothers, Robert and Ludwig in their lessons. Alfred became fluent in English, French, German, Spanish, besides Russian. Under the tutor’s guidance, he became acquainted with the Philosophes of the Enlightenment and discovered Shelley’s poetry. The English romantic’s rebellious spirit, his flaming protests against brutal authority, ignorance and base passions, became his lifelong inspiration.




At school, Alfred had picked up interest in chemistry. As he grew older, he found the family business more interesting and thought of promoting, it effectively. Alfred was sent abroad to study and to take care of business interests like buying tools, machinery, raw materials and supplying it with up-to-date technical and financial information. Immanuel then sent Alfred to America in 1850, for further education. There, he met John Erickson who had first designed the screw-propelled steamship in New York. He learnt mechanical techniques at the research room of John Erickson. He placed an order with him for some sketches on behalf of his father. He also spent a year in Paris with Jules Pelouse, a chemist, and it was here that he came to know about nitroglycerine that was found by an Italian scientist Ascanio Sobrero..




nobel4Immanuel wanted his sons to get involved in his business. On his return to Russia, Alfred joined Robert and Ludwig in research and development in their father’s factory. In 1853, the Crimean War broke out. As a result, the Nobel Steel and Machinery Manufacturing Company benefited by mass-production of military supplies for the Russian army. But in 1856 when the war was over and Tsar Nicolas I died, the new government unilaterally abolished the on-going contract with the Nobels and they once again faced bankruptcy. This crisis later turned into an opportunity. During the Crimean War, the Nobels had obtained a bottle of liquid explosive – nitroglycerine, which was very powerful but whose attributes were still unknown.


 However, they had to shelve the research on nitroglycerine and instead concentrated on the production of military supplies. Now that the business was over, Alfred Nobel could once again focus on conducting research on this new material. Alfred quickly saw that the advantages of nitroglycerin over gun powder were numerous and its uses could be exploited for commercial and technical purposes. His first achievement was the invention of the blasting cap (the explosion case), in 1863.



His hectic work schedule and travel did not leave him with much time for a private life. At 43, he felt exhausted too. It was at this time that he placed an advertisement in the newspapers, which read. “Wealthy, highly educated, elderly gentleman seeks lady of mature age, versed in languages, as secretary and supervisor of household.” The most qualified applicant, an Austrian, Countess Bertha Kinsky was hired. After working for a short time with Nobel she quit to return to Austria and get married to Count Arthur von Suttner. Nobel and Bertha remained friends and corresponded with each other.


 According to Bertha, Nobel had expressed a wish to produce material for a machine that would have such a devastating effect that war from then on, would be impossible. In 1891, he commented on his dynamite factories to Bertha saying, “Perhaps my factories will put an end to war sooner than your Congresses : on the day that two army corps can mutually annihilate each other in a second, all civilized nations will surely recoil with horror and disband their troops.” Nobel did not live long enough to see the deterring effect of his invention and how wrong his conception was.


 Over the years, Bertha became increasingly critical of the arms race. She eventually became a prominent figure in the Peace Movement. This influenced Alfred Nobel a great deal and in his final will, included a prize for “persons or organizations that promoted peace”. Years after Nobel’s death, the Norwegian Storting (Parliament) decided to award the 1905 Nobel Peace Prize to Bertha von Suttner.


After his father went bankrupt the second time, Alfred and his parents returned to Sweden. Alfred began experimenting with explosives in a small laboratory on his father’s estate. In spite of his invention of the blasting cap, he was not able to find a safer way to handle nitroglycerine. It was so volatile that once in 1864 while he was experimenting, it blew up Nobel’s factory killing his younger brother, Emil and many other people. This accident did not discourage him. In fact after his accident, Nobel built several factories to produce nitroglycerine with blasting caps, and among them the plants of Krummel, Germany and Vinterviken, Sweden were major.




 At that time the only dependable explosive used in the mines was black powder, a form of gunpowder. Nitroglycerine, a liquid compound that was recently discovered by Ascanio Sobrero was a much more powerful explosive. It could not be handled with any degree of safety, as it was extremely volatile. Alfred began manufacturing nitroglycerine in a small workshop at Helenberg and also concentrated in finding a safe way to handle it. During the research, he invented a detonator consisting of a wooden plug inserted into a larger charge of nitroglycerine held in a metal container. The explosion of the plug’s small charge of black powder aided in detonating the much more powerful charge of liquid nitroglycerine. This invention made Alfred a wealthy man and over a period of time, he gained recognition as an inventor of explosives. On further research on the detonator, he made a new improved detonator called ‘a blasting cap’. The blasting cap consisted of a small metal cap containing a charge of mercury fulminate that exploded either by shock or moderate heat. This invention of the blasting cap launched the use of high explosives in the modern world.





This was Nobel’s second most important invention. He observed that a mixture of nitroglycerine and Kieselguhr, a porous siliceous earth, formed a product, which was easy to use and safe to handle. He later named this product dynamite (from the Greek dynamics meaning “Power”). This particular invention gave him worldwide fame and prosperity. Soon after he gained patents from Great Britain in 1867 and from the US in 1868, the general composition of Dynamite No. 1 was 75 per cent nitroglycerine and 25 percent guhr. He saw that guhr was an inert gaseous substance and did not contribute much to the explosive power, but detected heat from the power, which would have otherwise improved the blasting action. Thus, he turned to active ingredients like wood pulp and sodium nitrate to improve efficiency in blasting and to vary its strength. Nobel patented the use of active ingredients of dynamite in 1869.


 Nobel next contributed by inventing gelatinous dynamites in 1875. There is a legend that he hurt a finger and used ‘collodion’, a solution of relatively low nitrogen content, nitrocellulose, in a mixture of ether and alcohol, to cover the wound. He was unable to sleep because of pain. On next day he went to the laboratory to check the effect of collodion and nitroglycerine. He was surprised to see that after evaporation of the solvent, there remained a tough, plastic material.


 He discovered that he could duplicate this by the direct addition of 7 to 8 per cent of collodion type nitro-cotton to nitroglycerine and that lesser quantities of nitro-cotton decreased the viscosity and enabled him to add other active ingredients. He called the original material – blasting gelatin and the dope mixture – gelatin dynamites. The principal advantages of these products were their high water resistance and greater blasting action power than the other comparable dynamites. This added power resulted from the combination of higher density and a degree of plasticity that allowed complete filling of the borehole (the hole that was bored in the wall seam or elsewhere for implantation of the explosive).


Alfred Nobel went on to be a successful businessman in the developing market of dynamite and detonating caps. In a very short period, he built factories and laboratories in 20 different countries. His factory in Krummel near Hamburg, Germany started exporting nitroglycerine explosive to countries in Europe, America and Australia. He also concentrated on other inventions such as synthetic rubber and leather, artificial silk, chemical and explosive technologies. He was granted patents for 355 items before his death.