A Look Into the Life of Sergey Brin

Sergey Brin Sitting on a couch.


Sergey Brin is and has always been talented in mathematics and computers.

Even so, no one in his family would have imagined he would be the phenomenal success he is today.

His parents, Michael and Genia Brin, still seem somewhat astonished by what he and Larry Page managed to achieve through Google.

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The Life Story of Sergey Brin

During an interview, Michael Brin admitted that his son’s business acumen did not come from him or his mother.

He believes it came from his fear of authority, especially from the Soviets, and his upbringing in the United States, particularly at university.

Sergey Brin was born and partly raised in Russia. How he came to the United States, got his education at Stanford University, and founded Google is what this article is about.

Early Life

Sergey Mikhailovich Brin joined the world on August 21, 1973, in Moscow, Russia.

His family was of Russian Jewish ancestry. Brin’s father, Mikhail (pronounced Michael) Brin, worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Maryland. His mother, Eugenia (Genia) Brin, was a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Brin spent his infancy in a three-bedroom apartment in the heart of Moscow.

His parents took him outdoors for two hours every morning and evening, regardless of the season, to keep up with Russian traditions.

His father was reluctant to allow him to start school in Russia due to the intense discrimination against Jews. He faced prejudice daily. Therefore, Brin would mostly stay home with his paternal grandmother.

“I would like to see anyone be able to achieve their dreams, and that’s what this organization does.
” – Sergey Brin

Emigrating to the United States

One summer in 1977, Brin’s father told his family it was time to leave Russia. The specific words he used were, “We cannot stay here anymore.”

As a Jewish mathematics professor, Michael Brin felt that Russians never truly accepted him.

He and Genia worked on applying for a United States visa, which they received in May 1979. Michael relocated the Brins to America in October 1979 and settled in Maryland.

Education

On arrival in the United States, Brin began schooling at Paint Branch Montessori School in Adelphi, Maryland. His first year in school was tough, considering he barely spoke English.

Being a kid, however, he was quick to adapt to the change in environment. His father also tutored him in mathematics at home.

Brin’s interest in elementary school gravitated towards mathematics, especially multiplication. He loved studying maps, solving puzzles, and playing math games.

Brin recounted, during an interview, that this Montessori school also played a role in fostering his creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

The school gave students freedom and autonomy to pursue the activities they found interesting, which created a sense of discovery for young Brin.

Fact: In 1979, Brin moved to the United States with his family from the Soviet Union.

Brin then went to Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland. He graduated from high school in 1990 and enrolled at the University of Maryland, where he majored in computer science and mathematics.

Brin became one of the few lucky students to win the National Science Foundation Scholarship for graduate school.

He initially chose the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) but settled for Stanford University after MIT rejected his application. This rejection was undoubtedly a blessing in disguise.

At Stanford, Brin had a reputation for barging into professors’ offices without knocking. His professors recall him as a bright, personable young man interested in computer science, specifically data mining (extracting loads of information from a particular source).

Brin also loved engaging in sporting activities such as trapezing, skiing, rollerblading, and gymnastics.

Fact: As of 2021, Sergey Brin’s net worth was $66 billion.

Founding Google

Brin received his master’s degree in computer science in 1995 and started his doctorate. He met Larry Page during orientation. The two men quickly bonded despite being interested in different subjects and research topics.

Brin focused on mathematics and data mining systems, while Page researched citations and backlinks. Together, Brin and Page created their first research paper, The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hyper-textual Web Search Engine.

Brin and Larry also began spending time together working on how to analyze the information available on the World Wide Web.

They worked on designing a search engine that would provide search results based on relevance and popularity. Back then, surfing the internet was like shooting in the dark. You would get search results without pertinence to the topic.

Brin and Larry created their groundbreaking search engine in 1997 and registered its domain as google.com.

They derived the term “Google” from the mathematical word “googol,” which stands for a number that starts with one, followed by 100 zeros.

Brin and Larry then acquired $1 million in funding from friends, family, and Stanford associates and took leaves of absence from their doctorate programs.

“Having been trained as a computer scientist in the ’90s, everybody knew that AI didn’t work. People tried it. They tried neural nets, and none of it worked.” – Sergey Brin

Working at Google

Brin and Larry used the $1 million in funds to rent a garage in Menlo Park, California. Their first investor was Andy Bechtolsheim, Sun Microsystems co-founder, who wrote them a $100,000 check.

The two men also received more funding totaling $25 million in 1998.

Brin and Larry incorporated Google as a privately held company. Brin took up the role of president, while Larry served as CEO.

Their company mission was to organize the world’s information and make it accessible and useful.

In 1999, Brin and Larry relocated their offices to a complex building in Mountain View, California.

Google later purchased this location and named it Googleplex. The company introduced text advertising in 2000.

In 2001, Brin and Larry recruited Eric Schmidt to become CEO. Larry took the helm of the president of products, while Brin became president of technology.

The three executives ran Google together and took the company public in 2004, raising over $1.6 billion from the initial public offering (IPO). Brin and Larry became instant billionaires following the IPO.

Brin served as president of technology until Google’s restructuring that birthed Alphabet in 2016.

He then became president of the new company, while Larry became its CEO. This same year, Brin was ranked 13th on the Forbes billionaires list.

In 2019, Page and Brin removed themselves from the daily activities at Alphabet but stayed involved in the company as shareholders, mentors, and board members. They felt they had given enough and wanted someone else to take up the helm of leadership.

Fact: Sergey Brin became the youngest person on the Forbes 400 list of richest people in 2004.

Management Style

Sergey Brin has a connector leadership style. Research indicates that people with this leadership style are supportive, patient, and cooperative.

They pair up the right sets of employees and teams and prepare them to work together.

Connector leaders are also very responsive and willing to give employees feedback to ensure they improve their performance. They are also ready to help someone in need of assistance.

Life After Google

Brin has received multiple awards and accolades from universities and awarding institutions. In 2004, he and Larry received the American Academy of Achievement Award in Chicago, Illinois.

The two men also received an honorary MBA from IE Business School and were ranked among the top 100 innovators under 35 in the MIT Technology Review TR100.

Brin is also an investor and philanthropist in several companies and organizations. In 2008, he invested $4.5 million in a space tourism company called Space Adventures.

He also built an airship in 2014 and began working on a project to build electric airships in 2017. Brin named this project Lighter Than Air (LTA). Brin focused on the LTA research project in hopes of zero-emission flying. The LTA electric airships are yet to launch test flights.

Fact: In 1995, Sergey Brin met Larry Page at Stanford University.

Personal Life

Brin married his first wife, Anne Wojcicki, in 2007. The couple welcomed a son in 2008 and a daughter in 2011.

Brin and Anne separated in 2013 after he had an affair with one of Google’s marketing directors. The court finalized their divorce in June 2015.

However, Brin and Wojcicki still ran and managed The Brin Wojcicki Foundation together.

In 2009, their foundation donated $1 million to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. This society assisted Brin’s family with relocating and settling in the United States.

Brin married his second wife, Nicole Shanahan, in 2018. The couple had a daughter this same year. Brin and Nicole separated in 2021 and finalized their divorce on January 2022.

“We want Google to be the third half of your brain.”- Sergey Brin

Lessons to Learn from Sergey Brin

There are a few lessons we can learn from Sergey Brin. Below are a few worth looking into with comments. 

Execution Is More Important Than The Idea

People come up with great ideas every day, but how many of these are executed correctly or acted upon? Not many. The lesson from Sergey Brin is that execution is more important than the idea itself.

When you have a brilliant idea but do not implement it well, you no longer have a brilliant idea.

When you have an idea, you must consider how to put it into practice.

Therefore, it is important to plan your idea while looking at it from multiple perspectives, considering different scenarios, and determining whether you need the help of others to make it a reality. 

Follow Your Passion

Data Mining was one of Brin’s Passions. When he met Larry Page, Larry was in the process of downloading the web, which, even back then, was an enormous task.

Sergey fit in because data mining was what he loved to do, and it has proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him.

When you follow your passion, opportunities will show up sooner or later. When you’re passionate, it’s not money that drives you. Instead, it’s about what you are doing.

People that follow their passion will do it for free. It’s not money that drives them.

Passion is the driving force that will keep you going during difficult times. For example, when passionate about a project, you’ll always look for solutions when problems arise.

On the other hand, if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing and a problem shows up, you’ll be thinking of an exit strategy instead of a solution.

Think Big

The third lesson from Sergey Brin is to think big. In many cases, thinking big and small take the same amount of time, effort, and planning. 

For example, let’s say you’re building a website. Besides the server handling the traffic, building a website for a small audience and expecting 30 to 40 visitors daily is not much different from creating one for one million visitors daily. 

Naturally, a few considerations differ, but the planning, setup, and content are similar in both situations. Therefore by thinking small, you’re not getting the full potential of your project. 

Another point of thinking big is that even if you don’t reach your goal, you’ll have come farther than you would have by setting a mediocre one.

So the next time you have a project, shoot for the stars and see how far you get.

Timeline.Sergey Brin Timeline

1973:

Sergey Brin is born in Moscow, Russia.

1979:

Brin and his family relocate to the United States from Russia.

1990:

Brin joins the University of Maryland to major in computer science and mathematics.

1995

1995: Brin receives his master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University.

1979:

Brin and Page register the domain for google.com.

1998:

Brin and Page incorporate Google as a privately held company, where Brin serves as president.

2001::

Brin becomes president of technology, while Larry serves as president of products. The two founders appoint a new CEO for Google.

2004:

Google goes public and makes Brin and Page billionaires.

2007:

Brin marries his first wife, Anne Wojcicki.

2008:

Brin’s son is born.

2011:

Brin’s daughter is born.

2013:

Brin and Anne split-up

2015:

Brin and Anne divorce.

2016:

Brin becomes president of Alphabet after Google restructures.

2017:

Brin launches the Lighter Than Air electric airships project.

2018:

Brin marries his second wife, Nicole Shanahan. The couple gets blessed with a daughter.

2019:

Brin and Page step down from Alphabet’s day-to-day activities but remain shareholders and board members.

2022:

Brin and Nicole divorce.

Fact: Brin’s mother was a NASA scientist, and His father a mathematician was his father.

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“Solving big problems is easier than solving little problems.” – Sergey Brin

Frequently Asked Questions

The information in this post answers many of the questions about Sergey Brin. This section provides a summary and any additional information.

1. What does Sergey Brin do now?

Sergey Brin focuses on his Lighter Than Air electric airship project. He seeks to build zero-carbon emission airships.

2. Is Sergey Brin richer than Larry Page?

No, Larry Page is wealthier than Sergey Brin. According to Forbes real-time billionaires list, Larry Page ranks 11th with $77.6 billion, while Sergey Brin ranks 14th with $74.5 billion.

3. Who is Sergey Brin’s wife?

Sergey Brin is currently single. He divorced Anne Wojcicki, his first wife, in 2015. He divorced Nicole Shanahan, his second wife, in early 2022.

4. Where does Sergey Brin live? 

Sergey Brin currently resides in Los Altos, California. He also owns a mansion in New Jersey, close to New York.

5. How did Sergey Brin and Larry Page meet?

Brin and Page met at Stanford University during the orientation. The two began spending more time together when working on the research project that birthed the idea for Google.

6. What did Sergey Brin invent?

Sergey Brin co-founded the Google search engine with Larry Page in 1997.

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“Today, if you want to access a typical out-of-print book, you have only one choice – fly to one of a handful of leading libraries in the country and hope to find it in the stacks.” – Sergey Brin

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