Let me cut you wacky kids a check

I’ve come across various versions of this story, but I still love hearing it: Andy Bechtolsheim, one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems, gets asked by a couple of young kids from Stanford if he would look at their little Web search doo-dad, the one with a weird name. Halfway through a demo, Andy says “We could go on talking, but why don’t I just write you a check?”

Andy then proceeds to write out a check for $100,000 to Google Inc., a company that didn’t even exist yet for legal purposes. Larry says he left it in his desk drawer for a month while they got a lawyer and actually set up a company. This tale is told in their own words in the notes from an interview that John Ince did for Upside magazine back in January of 2000, which he has written about for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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The audio tapes from that interview are also being released in a special event described here (thanks to Paul Kedrosky for the link). One of the hilarious parts of the story behind the story is that Ince’s editor at the magazine told him to rewrite the piece and make it more skeptical because, he said, “I personally know these guys and they don’t know what they’re doing. They have no business model.”

What makes this even funnier is that — although it doesn’t look like it now — the editor was half-right. They did know what they were doing, but they didn’t have a business model (who needed one in 1999?). At the mesh conference last May, Paul Kedrosky described how he talked to two of the original VCs who funded Google and they admitted they were scared sh**less because they didn’t know how the company was actually going to make money.

Luckily, Google knew a good idea when they saw it — Overture’s search-related contextual ads — and built a $150-billion business in a little over 5 years. Andy, of course, looks a little smart.

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