Inside the wild and successful life of Sergey Brin, who helped create Google over 20 years ago and is now worth $97 billion

Inside the wild and successful life of Sergey Brin, who helped create Google over 20 years ago and is now worth  billion

Brin was born in the Soviet Union during the summer of 1973. His father dreamed of being an astrophysicist, but his Jewish background and the USSR’s anti-Semitism kept him from those ambitions. Instead, he ended up working as an economist for a government planning agency and crunching numbers for Soviet propaganda, according to journalist Steven Levy’s book, «In the Plex.»

USSR Soviet Union armored vehicle Afghanistan Kabul withdrawal

Soviet soldiers in 1988.

(AP Photo/ Liu Heung-Shing)


Source: In The Plex 

The family managed to get exit visas and flee the USSR when Brin was 6. But his family’s stressful, troubled experience left the Google cofounder with a lasting appreciation for democracy and freedom.

russia 1989

Soviet short-range missiles pass below an image of Lenin on Red Square in 1989.

AP Photo/Boris Yurchenko/stf


Source: In The Plex 

The Brin family ended up in Maryland, where the Google cofounder was enrolled in a Montessori school that emphasized independence and fostering creativity. Later on, Brin would discover that his Google cofounder, Larry Page, had also gone to a Montessori school.

Colorful beads on a teaching toy used in Montessori education

An educational toy used by Montessori teachers.

Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images


Source: In The Plex 

Brin didn’t revisit Moscow until he was 17, during a class trip led by his father. «Thank you for taking us all out of Russia,» Brin told his dad. Spurred by a blossoming defiant streak, he threw pebbles at a police car, and almost got in serious trouble when the officers inside noticed, according to a 2007 profile of Brin.

moscow russia

Moscow, Russia in 1990.

AP Photo/Boris Yurchenko


Source: Moment Magazine

Brin earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science at the University of Maryland, and then flew west to Stanford to get his Ph.D. in computer science. There, his love of high-adrenaline exercise flourished: he tried out skating, skiing, gymnastics, and even trapeze.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin laying inside and on top of a yellow spiral tube

Page, left, and Brin in 2004.

Ben Margot/AP


Sources: Founders of Google, Moment Magazine

Brin met Google cofounder Larry Page at Stanford in 1995. The two reportedly found each other «obnoxious» at first, but they later became classmates and close friends who geeked out about computer science, according to a 2005 Wired profile.

young larry page sergey brin

Larry Page, left, and Sergey Brin.

RANDI LYNN BEACH / AP Images


Source: Wired

Brin and Page started collaborating in 1996 on a search engine they initially called BackRub. They registered the domain Google.com in September 1997 with the mission to organize the world’s information, and dropped out of Stanford the following year to work on their search engine. The rest, as we now know, is history.

Early Google

Here’s what Google.com looked like in 1997.


The Internet Archive



Source: Wired

The founders created the first Google Doodle in 1998 to let people know they weren’t around to do damage control if the site broke — that’s because they were at Burning Man, the freewheeling art festival in the middle of the Nevada desert.

First Google Doodle



Google


Source: Insider

Both Brin and Page are «burners,» meaning they’re devout fans and attendees of Burning Man. When the time came to hire an outside CEO for Google, they approved the hire of Eric Schmidt in 2001 after learning he had attended the festival. They then brought him to Burning Man with them to «see how he would do.»

burning man



Jim Urquhart/Reuters


Source: Insider

For a long time, you couldn’t spot Brin without the computerized Google Glass smart glasses. The New York Times reported that Brin may have played a big role in the product’s rocky launch in 2012, rushing it into the world before it was ready for public scrutiny.

sergey brin



Carlo Allegri/Reuters


Source: The New York Times 

Those who have known Brin say he believes in using knowledge and power for the greater good. The Economist once called him the «Enlightenment Man,» for his dedication to using reason and science to solve huge world problems.

Sergey Brin




Getty Images / Justin Sullivan



Source: The Economist

«Obviously everyone wants to be successful, but I want to be looked back on as being very innovative, very trusted and ethical,» Brin has said. «And ultimately making a big difference in the world.»

sergey brin

Brin speaks to the media at a preview of Google’s prototype autonomous vehicles in Mountain View, California, in 2015.

Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters


Source: ABC News

But even as Google grew into a multibillion-dollar company, Brin maintained the freewheeling spirit of the early days. Around Google’s campus, he typically wore workout clothes and Vibram barefoot shoes, and he was frequently seen zipping around the office on Rollerblades, doing yoga stretches during meetings, or walking around on his hands for fun.

Larry Page (left) and Sergey Brin take a stroll on Google's campus in Mountain View, California, in 2003.

Larry Page, left, and Sergey Brin on Google’s campus in Mountain View, California, in 2003.

Kim Kulish/Getty Images


Source: Business Insider 

Brin also has a wild sense of humor. «He conducted job interviews once dressed as a cow,» early Google employee Douglas Edwards once told Fast Company.

sergey brin google



Getty Images, Justin Sullivan


Source: Fast Company

In 2007, Brin married Anne Wojcicki, the CEO of genetics company 23andMe and the sister of early Google employee (and now YouTube CEO) Susan Wojcicki. For the wedding, the couple invited guests to a secret location in the Bahamas and wore bathing suits for the ceremony — which took place on a sandbar.

Anne Wojcicki smiles at Sergey Brin while walking outside

Anne Wojcicki and Sergey Brin in 2012.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images


Source: Vanity Fair 

The couple donated hundreds of millions of dollars to charity, including to Parkinson’s research. The neurodegenerative disease runs in Brin’s family (both his great aunt and mother had it) and a test through 23andMe — Wojcicki’s company — revealed that Brin has a genetic mutation that makes him predisposed.

Sergey Brin



Ruben Sprich/Reuters


Source: Inside Philanthropy

To lower his chances of getting Parkinson’s, Brin started exercising even more intensely and drinking green tea twice a day. Due to his health regimen and scientific progress, he estimated in 2010 that he now has only about a 10% chance of getting the disease.

google eric schmidt, larry page, sergey brin

From left: Brin, Eric Schmidt, and Larry Page.

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters


Source: Wired

However, Brin’s marriage to Wojcicki hit the rocks in 2013, and the couple separated. They officially finalized their divorce in June 2015 after eight years of marriage.

brin wojcicki



Donald Bowers/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company


Source: Insider

It later came out that around the time of his separation in 2013, Brin had started an affair with a Google employee who was also in a relationship with another high-level Google executive at the same time.

Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass with hand on chin

Brin wearing Google Glass in 2013.

Jeff Chiu/AP


Source: Vanity Fair, Insider

In August 2015 Brin’s title got a major upgrade when Google went through a major restructuring. Brin transitioned from director of special projects at the moonshot division, X, to become the president of Alphabet, Google’s new parent company. Page was named Alphabet’s CEO.

sergey brin



Re/code, Asa Mathat


Source: Insider

Meanwhile, Brin and Page had become billionaires several times over. In 2005, they bought a 50-person plane together. Brin also owns a superyacht, Dragonfly, which he bought back in 2011 for $80 million.

Larry Page Sergey Brin

Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

AP


Source: Insider

In December 2019, Brin and Page shocked the world: They announced in a joint statement that they were stepping down from their respective roles at Alphabet. «We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company,» they wrote. Both Page and Brin remain members of Alphabet’s board of directors.

larry page and sergey brin

Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Getty


Source: Insider

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