Larry Page’s exile and rebirth

A lot of people really dislike Google the way I’ve been known for disliking Apple and Microsoft. It never really occurred to me that all three are related, until I read this piece on Google cofounder Larry Page. Much of what I disliked about Apple and Microsoft were their founders. I found the Bill Gates of the 1980s and 1990s childish (even when I was still a child myself) and a jerk. I didn’t know much about Steve Jobs in the 1980s–back then, people talked about Steve Wozniak more than they talked about Jobs–but as he resurfaced from his exile, I didn’t especially like what I was seeing then, either. Jobs, you see, didn’t come back to Apple as a demigod. He was still a little rough around the edges and, from my outsider perspective, for those first few years at Apple when he was trying to turn Apple around, he was still turning himself around to a degree as well.

I always saw Larry Page as different. He and his classmate, Sergey Brin, developed this great search engine that actually presented the results you were looking for on the front page, and it was fast. And he had this motto that said, “Don’t be evil.” It sounded good to me. And I guess it doesn’t hurt that Page isn’t much older than me. I found him easier to relate to than Gates or Jobs, who literally were getting their start in computers a year or two before I was born.

Reading about Page helped me understand all three men better. Page, it turned out, wasn’t all that much different, personality wise, from Gates or Jobs. I guess it makes sense–it takes a certain kind of person to take an idea and start a company instead of doing what normal people do and getting a job working for someone else. He had the ego, the abrasiveness, the dismissiveness, and all the rest too. Maybe part of what made all three men entrepreneurs is that none of them could have worked for anyone else at that point in their lives.

The interesting thing is that when Google brought in Eric Schmidt to run things and called him “adult supervision,” nobody was kidding. And Schmidt kept things going while Page and Brin pursued their own interests and, perhaps, grew up a bit.

I wondered what it was that Jobs learned about salesmanship running Next, which never sold much of anything. The answer, I think, is not much–he humbled himself a bit, knocked off the rough edges, and underneath it, had the salesmanship all along.

I found the story of Page interesting and enlightening. And while I don’t agree with everything Google does, I certainly don’t agree with everything Apple or Microsoft do either, and I think the world is a better place with Google around to keep them honest.

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