In 1998, Sergey Brin and Larry Page dropped out of a PhD programme at Stanford University to develop the commercial potential of their Internet search engine, Google. They had no capital, and no idea how Internet search could be turned into a profitable business. Six years later, having seen off competition from the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft, they floated the company at $85 per share, raising nearly $2bn in the largest ever initial public offering of a technology company. Today, Google stock is trading at more than $350 per share. Brin and Page each have a net worth well in excess of $10bn, and the company they founded dominates the rapidly growing global market for Internet search. As an object lesson in how to translate a technical idea into cash, the Google story has few, if any, precedents: even Bill Gates had to work longer and harder for his money.
By the late 1990s, savvy investors were beginning to grasp the centrality of knowledge or information to the functioning of the global economy. So the ex-Stanford students were clearly doing the right thing at the right time and in the right place. But even allowing for this, the Google story