On This Day: Inside the garage where Google was founded

It is a tech behemoth that has transformed the way we find and consume information, so ubiquitous it has become a verb: Google.

And it all started in a garage.

Founded on 4 September, 1998, it is 23 years since Google came along and changed the way we live forever.

MENLO PARK, CA - OCTOBER 02:  The home where Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin rented the garage 8 years ago to set up Google is seen October 2, 2006 in Menlo Park, California. Reportedly, Google purchased the 1,900 square foot house where they used to rent out the garage from Susan Wojcicki for $1,700 a month.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The garage where Google was based when it was founded in 1998. (Getty Images)

This article is part of the Yahoo series, 'On This Day'.

That was the date that the company, founded by then Stanford University PhD students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, was incorporated, thanks to a $100,000 investment from the co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

Back then, Google HQ was a humble garage in the city of Menlo Park, California, complete with table tennis table.

Larry Page (L), Co-Founder and President, Products, and Sergey Brin, Co-Founder and President, Technology, at Google's campus headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Google, the popular Internet search engine company, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 29, 2004 to raise as much as $2.72 billion in its long-awaited stock market debut. They founded the company in 1998. (Photo by Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images)
Larry Page, left, and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google. (Getty Images)

Page and Brin rented the space from Susan Wojcicki, who was Google’s first marketing manager. She is now the chief executive of Google-owned YouTube.

When Page and Brin stepped down as chief executive and president respectively from Alphabet, Google’s parent company, in December 2019, they wrote: “We could not have imagined, back in 1998 when we moved our servers from a dorm room to a garage, the journey that would follow.”

A video tour filmed in 1998 by Harry, Google’s sixth employee, shows Page at work at a computer in a rather disorganised looking garage office space.

Page and Brin rented the garage for $1,700 a month from Wojcicki, who was working at the marketing department at Intel at the time.

In an interview with 60 Minutes in 2019, she said: “I was worried about covering the mortgage.

“So I was willing to rent my garage to any student.

“Then two students appeared. One was named Sergey Brin. The other was named Larry Page.

The company later offered a virtual tour of the Menlo Park garage where Google began. (Google Maps)
The company later offered a virtual tour of the Menlo Park garage where Google began. (Google Maps)

“They are the founders of Google. But at the time they were just students. They looked like any other students.”

Wojcicki would become Google’s 16th employee in 1999. That same year, the company left the garage behind after five months and moved into an office in Palo Alto. Its current headquarters, the Googleplex, is located in Mountain View, California, and covers two million square feet.

But that didn’t mean that the garage was forgotten.

In an act celebrating its own special history, Google bought 1,900 square feet home with the garage attached in 2006 for an undisclosed fee, although similar properties in the area had fetched up to $1.3m during that time.

Google's first 'office' gave little indication of the tech behemoth it would become. (Google Maps)
Google's first 'office' gave little indication of the tech behemoth it would become. (Google Maps)
Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president of Ads and Commerce for Google, speaks at the garage where the company was founded on Google's 15th anniversary in Menlo Park, California September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS)
Susan Wojcicki, former Google executive and now YouTube CEO, speaks at the garage where the company was founded on its 15th birthday in 2013. (Reuters)

In 2013, to celebrate its 15th birthday, Google returned to the garage and opened it up to the media, with Wojcicki making a speech.

“Even though a lot of things are different with Google, at the core we are the same,” she said at the time.

Five years later, to mark the company’s 20th birthday, Google recreated how the garage looked in 1998 and opened it to the world to explore through Street View on Google Maps.

American multinational technology company Google logo seen at Googleplex, the corporate headquarters complex of Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc. (Photo by Alex Tai / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
The Googleplex, Google's shinier current headquarters in Mountain View, California. (PA)

The virtual tour showed a desktop computer displaying Google’s beta version, including the exclamation mark it would later drop from its logo.

Down the hall, a whiteboard displays the message, “Google Worldwide Headquarters”.

The Google blog post announcing the Street View tour said: “Larry and Sergey were particularly thrilled that use of the washing machine and dryer was included in their rent.”

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