Five years ago, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin incorporated their tiny company. The reason? So they could cash a $100,000 personal check that had been sitting in Page's desk drawer for a couple of weeks.
As Stanford graduate students, Page and Brin had been working together on a search engine they called "BackRub" since early 1996. By 1998, with the encouragement of Yahoo co-founder David Filo, they decided to start a company, and went looking for investors to back them.
From the official company history:
"As a founder of Sun Microsystems, Andy Bechtolsheim was used to taking the long view. When he saw a demo of Google he knew it had potential. A lot of potential. While he had interest, he didn't have a lot of time. According to Sergey, 'We met him very early one morning on the porch of a Stanford faculty member's home in Palo Alto. We gave him a quick demo. He had to run off somewhere, so he said, instead of us discussing all the details, why don't I just write you a check? It was made out to Google Inc. and was for $100,000.'
"The investment created a small dilemma. There was no way to deposit the check since there was no legal entity known as 'Google Inc.' It sat in Larry's desk drawer for a couple of weeks while he and Sergey scrambled to set up a corporation and locate a few other funders among family, friends and acquaintances. Ultimately, they brought in a total initial investment of almost $1 million."
Google, Inc. was established on On September 7, 1998. Following traditional silicon valley protocol, the founders hired Craig Silverstein, now Director of Technology, as their first employee, and set up shop in a friend's garage. Google at the time was still in alpha, with an index of just 25 million pages, but it was handling 10,000 search queries every day.
The company grew quickly, and on June 7 1999, the company announced that it had secured a round of funding that included $25 million from Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Buyers.
The rest, as they say, is history. The official history page has all these details, and more.
Google Search Engine Prototype
An Internet Archive screen shot of Google in prototype version, from November 11, 1998, including a "Might-work-some-of-the-time-prototype that is much more up to date." (Note: The Internet Archive periodically does maintenance, and historical pages aren't always available. If you get an error message, try again later).
Though Google is one of the most popular search engines today, it's far from the oldest. Yahoo is nearly ten, and AltaVista, Inktomi and Lycos are also comparative old-timers.