Recently I received a copy of "Inside Larry and Sergey's Brain" by Richard Brandt, a former BusinessWeek reporter. It was published Sept. 17:
"Inside Larry and Sergey's Brain" is the first book on Google that I've read since Randall Stross' "Planet Google" in 2008.
The two books are similar and I recommend both to anyone who wants to get a grip on what Google is all about, from its college-like corporate culture, to its philanthropic activities, to its pioneering search service, to applications and so on.
Where "Planet Google" is a primer on Google, devoted to all of its major businesses and operations, "Inside Larry and Sergey's Brain" looks at Google's core businesses and strategies through the lens of its co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
However, if you sleep, eat and breathe Google as I do, there are no grand revelations, no wizards lurking behind the curtain.
I read the book with a highlighter in hand to mark passages that interested me. I could have marked the entire first chapter, which tells us tons about Brin's and Page's upbringing from humble roots (Brin had a rougher path coming from Russia) to becoming Stanford University students raising eyebrows.
Chapter 2 whisks readers through the evolution of Google at Stanford and the road to investment and launch.
In Chapter 3, Brandt discusses what ex-Googlers are like:
"Being used to Google's culture, they can be difficult to work with. Says one venture capitalist who is now working with ten former Googlers starting their own company (all of them in their twenties): They're young and brash. They think they can do anything, that they're infallible. They want investors to leave them alone. Which we won't do."
Sounds like spoiled brats to me. You know, like adolescents without proper parenting who suddenly have to bow to an authority figure after running wild for years. Perhaps they are simply emulating Brin and Page, whom Brandt characterizes as arrogant and brash in the early days of Google, though more mature and less headstrong now.
For those of you who know some ex-Googlers, does this mesh with your experience with them?
Brandt also has some chapters here that made my eyes glaze over. There are 14 pages devoted to Google's IPO, which I found tiresome, but that's not a reflection on Brandt so much as my lack of interest in dual-class structures and the machinations of the IPO in the stock market. The point Brandt makes clear is that the media dropped the ball on covering the IPO. Big time.
Brandt's access to Page and Brin themselves was limited to some passing conversations at the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif.
In talking with Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Dave Girouard in Google's Enterprise Group, other Google product managers and several VC folks, Brandt does a fair job positioning the company's strategies through their eyes, and their shared brain, as it were.
Writing a book about Google is extra-hard because so much happens so fast in the Web services space. For example, the book went to print some time before Google unveiled its Chrome Operating System and began battling Apple and AT&T over Google Voice. Chrome OS and Google Voice seem destined to have significant market implications in their respective markets.
At 228 pages, "Inside Larry and Sergey's Brain" is a mercifully brief book. Readers who don't spend 10 hours a day Monday through Friday reading and writing about Google can get through it in a day.
I treated it like mind popcorn, nibbling at it 20 pages here, 25 pages there. It wasn't a can't-put-the-book-down experience, but again, that's only because I live, eat and breathe this stuff, so I look at the book as part of my working vacuum. "Planet Google" took me a few weeks to read, too.
Also, for more context for the genesis of the book, Philipp Lenssen from Google Blogoscoped interviewed Brandt about it.
Full disclosure: I'm quoted in the introduction of "Inside Larry and Sergey's Brain." Brandt cited a couple of my Google Watch posts, pertaining to Google Chrome and the perception of Google as being evil, on page 15.
Thanks, Richard. It was a pleasant surprise.