The Professor Who Made $10 Billion By Cutting Google’s First Startup Audit
When it comes to hitting the jackpot, being in the right place at the right time and taking a bet can be life changing. One person who embodies this fortuitous combination is Stanford University professor David Cheriton.
Although his name doesn’t tell you anything, Cheriton is one of the luckiest and richest educators of all time. How did a college professor make $10 billion?
It dates back to a fateful moment in 1998 when he wrote a check to two of his students – Larry Page and Sergey Brin – to start their visionary business. The result? The company that emerged from that modest $100,000 seed capital – Google Inc.NOW Alphabet Inc. This single act transformed the life of a university professor and a computer scientist in monumental ways.
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Born on March 29, 1951 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Cheriton began his academic journey with studies in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and later at the University of Alberta. Initially pursuing a double major in music and math, his journey took an unexpected turn when he was denied admission to the music program. Undeterred, he switched gears and earned his math degree at the University of British Columbia in 1973.
Fueling his intellectual pursuits, he pursued a master’s degree and a doctorate. in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo. It was during his tenure at Stanford University, where he held a faculty position, that fate intervened with an intriguing opportunity.
At Stanford, Cheriton led a team of computer scientists in the development of Operating System V, a microkernel operating system that eventually became the cornerstone of the Internet Protocol (IP) multicast standard and a invaluable tool for GUI research. This operating system, born out of earlier developments by Cheriton, Thoth, and Verex, has found its greatest utility in research-oriented settings. Throughout his tenure at Stanford, he continued to delve into operating systems and experiment with network communications.
In 1996, Cheriton and electrical engineer Andy Bechtolsheim, who holds a doctorate from Stanford. graduate who had previously been successful with Sun Microsystems Inc., co-founded Granite Systems. This network switching company caught the eye of the industry giant Cisco Systems Inc.who acquired it for $220 million.
In 1998, when Cheriton, Bechtolsheim, Brin and Page gathered on the porch of Cheriton, Brin and Page unveiled their brainchild – a bold project they called Google.
Impressed by their vision, Bechtolsheim quickly wrote a check for $100,000. Inspired by the students’ ambition, Cheriton decided to match the investment by writing their own check for $100,000. Armed with this initial injection of $200,000, Brin and Page set out to develop what was to become Google’s huge success – a noun that even turned into a verb.
Cheriton’s philosophy is to think big and have a meaningful impact on the world. A plaque on his desk reads “Dr. David R. Cheriton, Chief Superintendent Saying Important Things.” It avoids following fleeting market trends, including social media, and instead remains focused on pursuing breakthroughs that tangibly improve human life. For example, he likes how Google helps students write research papers, even in the wee hours of the morning.
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