What started as a research project in 1996, went up for sale for $1m in 1999 and officially entered into the English language as a verb in 2006?
You could search online for the answer, in which case it’s probably already staring right at you: Google. The internet behemoth was famously offered for sale to the CEO of rival ‘Excite’, George Bell, for $1m when co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were finding the search engine taking up too much time from their research. Unfortunately for Bell, he turned them down, and Excite itself was acquired by Ask Jeeves in 2004.
Today, Google has grown to more than 30,000 employees and the most popular website worldwide, with annual revenues of over $50 billion. It’s also a cultural and political power, not only publishing an annual report of the most searched for terms (Zeitgeist) but also in indicating broader economic, social and health trends. Data about the frequency of use of search terms on Google have been shown to correlate with flu outbreaks and unemployment levels, providing the information faster than traditional reporting methods and government surveys.
Appropriately enough for a global giant, Google’s roots lie somewhere between Moscow (birthplace of Sergey), Michigan (home of Page), Stanford University (where they met), Bavaria (birthplace of Andreas von Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and first major investor in Google), and a garage in California.
One place that didn’t feature in the Google early days is the UK, and according to a 31 year old senior policy adviser to David Cameron, Rohan Silva, there’s a good reason for that. Rohan states that Google’s lawyers believe they actually couldn’t have started Google in the U.K. “The way Google works [is to] take a snapshot of the internet and then crawl all over that snapshot for quick search results. That kind of thing simply wouldn’t have been possible in the U.K. because it would have immediately have fallen foul of all the copyright rules in the absence of fair use provisions you have in the States.”
Having subsequently accepted all ten findings of an independent review into Intellectual Property legislation in 2011, the UK government is now looking to change copyright laws which it hopes will add as much as £2 billion a year to the UK economy by 2020 and allow the next Google, Facebook or Spotify billionaire, potentially at least, to be British. But will it make a difference? Not everyone is convinced. “It’s complete bollocks,” says Mike Batt. The man best known for creating The Wombles pop act, writing “Bright Eyes,” and discovering Katie Melua. “The reason Google started up in Silicon Valley is because they have banks that understand the entrepreneurial thinking behind startups. We don’t.”
From Windsor’s Insight Newsletter – Issue 3, June 2013