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Yahoo’s cofounder had a big role in Google’s success.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who built their Google search-engine prototype while at Stanford University, wanted to try to license out their technology to other companies, so they showed it to Stanford alumni David Filo, who had started Yahoo.com.
Filo recommended launching a search site themselves based on their technology instead of licensing it. He even eventually introduced them to Michael Moritz, of venture-capital firm Sequoia Capital, who became one of Google’s original backers.
Apparently, some of those conversations happened in Filo’s beat-up old car.
Brin called Filo out on Friday as a person who has had one of the biggest impacts on his life, professionally and personally, during an interview at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford.
“In the early days when we had the little prototype and we were shopping it around he [Filo] said, ‘Why don’t you just go out and build this thing?’ And I took his advice to heart. And that worked out pretty well. And kudos to Dave.”
But Filo’s influence on Brin went beyond just business advice:
“I met him a couple times back then and he drove me around in his falling-apart, 20-year-old car that didn’t have a working fuel gauge so we almost ran out of gas, and this was at a time when Yahoo was already quite a valuable company. Certainly on paper he was very wealthy. But Dave never really was affected by money at all pretty much. He always had a normal house, I’d say maybe an abnormal car, in that few people of normal income would tolerate that … But I think that it was great to see how he didn’t let his wealth or notoriety affect him that much.”
Brin, appearing on stage in a pair of Crocs, cracking jokes, and casually spitballing on quantum mechanics and nanotechnology, seems to have taken Filo’s example at least partially to heart.
That said, Brin does co-own several private planes and a fancy new Tesla. And according to a Bloomberg report from April 2015, he employs at least 47 people, including a yacht captain, a fitness instructor, a photographer, and an archivist through a family office called Bayshore Management to help run various aspects of his life.
Brin also had his own advice to give out. When asked for his thoughts on failure and entrepreneurship, Brin told attendees to “enjoy the dream.”
“Failure doesn’t matter, nor does success,” he said. “It’s really the privilege to pursue your dreams that matters.”