"Investing in social media companies is like gambling...

The billionaire professor who funded Google when it was a start-up

Published 9 years ago on Feb 02, 2013 12 minutes Read
All photographs by Dawid Bilski

It is one thing to inherit a heritage and another to sustain it. That is why the guys running Stanford University clearly know their stuff. Stanford University has been the cradle that has nurtured many a Silicon Valley legend. One of them is David Cheriton, professor of computer science who funded Google when it was a start-up. He is hardly the absent-minded professor but on the evening that we are supposed to interview him, we have a no-show. His office is locked and we can hear the landline that we are calling on ring inside. What does not help matters is that his assistant Marianne has mysteriously gone missing after having guided us over the phone to Cheriton’s office. Her landline too is now on answering machine mode and neither do we have Cheriton’s cell phone number. Ironically it is the start-up that Cheriton funded that comes to our rescue. Among the plethora of Wi-Fi networks, we manage to connect on one and log into Gmail to check if Cheriton has written in with a last minute cancellation. Since there isn’t one, we write to him about our unsuccessful effort to locate him and Marianne, the numerous voice mails left, the fact that we had a 4 pm meeting and sign off with our contact number. Frantically refreshing the Gmail page for the next five minutes yields no result, but the phone does ring. Cheriton offers a profuse apology about having his schedule mixed up and promises to be there in about 10 minutes.