- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 1, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Internet search leader Google Inc. has added a landmark to its rapidly expanding empire: the Silicon Valley home where co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin rented a garage eight years ago as they set out to change the world.

The Mountain View, Calif., company bought the 1,900-square-foot home in nearby Menlo Park from one of its own employees, Susan Wojcicki, who had agreed to lease her garage for $1,700 per month because she wanted some help paying the mortgage.

Miss Wojcicki, now Google’s vice president of product management, didn’t work for the company at the time and knew the Stanford University graduate students only because one of her friends had dated Mr. Brin.

During Google’s five-month history there, the garage became like a second home for Mr. Page and Mr. Brin.

The entrepreneurs, then just 25, seemed to be always working on their search engine or soaking in the hot tub that still sits on the property. They also had a penchant for raiding Miss Wojcicki’s refrigerator — a habit that may have inspired Google to provide a smorgasbord of free food to the 8,000 employees on its payroll.

When Mr. Page and Mr. Brin first moved into the garage, Google had just been incorporated with a bankroll of $1 million raised from a few investors. Today, Google has about $10 billion in cash and a market value of $125 billion.

The company’s astounding growth has imbued its birthplace with the same kind of mystique attached to other hallowed Silicon Valley spots, such as the Palo Alto garage where Hewlett-Packard Co. started in 1938 and the Los Altos garage where Steve Jobs and his partner Steve Wozniak began to build Apple computers in the 1970s.

HP paid $1.7 million for the 12-by-18-foot garage that co-founder William Hewlett first rented for $45 per month.

Google declined to reveal how much it paid for its original home, but similar houses in the same neighborhood have been selling in the $1.1 million to $1.3 million range.

That is a small fraction of the $319 million that Google paid earlier this year for its current 1-million-square-foot headquarters located six miles to the south.

Although the Google garage isn’t considered a historic site, it has turned into a tourist attraction.

The busloads of people who show up to take pictures of the house and garage have become such an annoyance that Google asked the Associated Press not to publish the property’s address, although it can be found easily on the Internet using the company’s search engine.

Google may use the home as a guest house, but nothing definitive has been worked out. “We plan to preserve the property as a part of our living legacy,” said Google spokesman Jon Murchinson.

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