Ten years ago today, Google went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
In his excellent book “In The Plex,” Steven Levy shares a bunch of details about what went down throughout the rather tumultuous process.
Although Google stock is now quite valuable, the company hit a few stumbling blocks along the way, thanks in part to its rather unconventional — or shall we say “Google-y?” — way of doing things.
Here are a few fun facts about how the company took itself public:
1. The value of the shares Google decided to offer was a nerdy little joke: $US2,718,281,828 — the first nine decimal places in the irrational number e.
2. To decide which investment bank would handle the offering, Google distributed a detailed questionnaire and forced the banks to write out their answers, which annoyed some bankers. Google also included subtle differences in all of the letters, so that if there was a leak, it would know which bank was responsible.
3. Google decided that its S-1, a required document that lays out a company’s financials and risks and is usually written in legalese, would be written simply and intimately. “Google is not a conventional company,” cofounder Larry Page started the letter. “We do not intend to become one.”
3. When Page and cofounder Sergey Brin went on the requisite roadshow to entice potential investors, they cracked jokes, refused to answer questions, and winged the presentations. The founders didn’t subscribe to the Wall Street way of doing things.
4. Google almost got in serious trouble because of an article in “Playboy.” Page and Brin had given the magazine an interview before Google’s IPO quiet period (when companies can’t talk to the press) began, but “Playboy” published the article once it started. Google had to explain to the SEC that it hadn’t actually broken any rules.
“It was another indication that these people asking shareholders for billions of dollars looked like a bunch of idiot savant kindergartners,” Levy writes.
5. Cofounder Sergey Brin didn’t even show up for the ringing of the bell on the day of the IPO because he didn’t want to take a red-eye flight. Larry Page showed up wearing a suit he bought at Macy’s.
6. Although Google’s IPO would make its early employees fabulously wealth, the day was celebrated simply with ice cream, and employees were warned not to make a show of their newfound riches, or let it get to their heads.
On the day of the IPO, Google’s head of engineering, Wayne Rosing, even told all employees that if he saw any new BMWs or Porsches in the parking lot in the next few days, he would smash their windshields with a baseball bat.
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