Billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla sat down in a rare interview with Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to discuss the company's early days, current projects and future endeavors as the company moves into self-driving cars; healthcare and longevity and connecting the world to the Internet through balloons, satellites and high-speed fiber optics.
Khosla reminisced with Page and Brin about Google's terminated sale to search engine Excite in 1999. PageRank was the technology that attracted Excite, which only wanted to pay $350,000 at the time, whereas Google's co-founders put the company's worth at $1 million. "I don't know if it would have been a good acquisition for them," Brin said, suggesting the company lacked the passion for search.
The diversification of projects is of increasing importance to Google as the company grows because one division can work autonomously from the others.
Some projects have not worked out as planned. Similar to Google Now, the "I'm feeling lucky" button in the search engine, intended to skip the search results and go directly to the answer, did not work as intended. Others that the duo approach cautiously include the heavily regulated health industry, although the company last year launched Calico to focus on extending the span of human life.
Many business leaders tend to focus on short-term revenue and lose the long-term vision. Brin and Page were asked to speculate on Google's future. In their discussion of progress and initiatives in machine learning and artificial intelligence, Brin points to Google X's self-driving cars that aim to make space and time more efficient. He calls these types of initiatives "brain projects," and explains how the company's acquisition of DeepMind will one day provide, in theory, fully reasoning artificial intelligence.
When asked to speculate whether 10 years from now Google will get in the business of making cars, Brin said: "Eventually, in the future, there might be multiple partners or companies we work with. Some could be manufacturers. Some might be service providers." He's also not sure whether today's interior car designs are ideal for self-driving cars.
Brin hopes self-driving cars can transform transportation, but admits that issues remain with regard to with technical and policy risks. "If you're willing to make a number of bets you better hope a number will pay off," he said.
As a global company, Google faces regulatory diversities by country. "The complexity of government increases overtime," Page said, pointing to the world's democracies and the amount of regulation and laws that increase with outbound. Using this metaphor, he tries to reduce the complexity in Google. "Let's take our rules and regulations and make sure they stay at 50 pages, so people can actually read it. The problem I discovered was that by reference we include the law and regulation of the entire world."