Search giant Google, currently worth $167 billion and growing, wanted to sell for $1 million in its early days, but no one was interested in buying it.
Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, revealed at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference that Google approached internet portal service Excite, asking it to buy Google for $1 million, but Excite refused the deal.
Excite’s CEO at the time, George Bell, said he was not willing to pay that kind of money for the search engine, believing Google simply wasn’t worth a million dollars. He bargained Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin down to $750,000, but in the end he rejected that offer as well.
This was back in early 1999, only months after Google was set up, so it’s understandable why Bell was reluctant to pay a large sum of money for the startup, but it also reveals the lack of insight among the industry as to what direction things were heading in and how much potential Google really had.
Throughout the 1990s Excite was one of the leading players, a big rival to the likes of Yahoo. However, it has slowly slumped into decline, until in 2004 it was acquired by Ask Jeeves, which is now known as Ask.com.
The irony of the situation is that Excite, the giant of the time, is now worth significantly less than Google, and if Ask Jeeves had not bought it out, Google might have done so. We wonder what the negotiations might have been like and if Page and Brin would have offered more than a million for the company.
Another twist in the tale is that Ask Jeeves entered a search engine war with Google over the years, eventually losing out. It must have been painful for Bell to see his new parent company falling as Google began to rise.
Google ended up not selling, which is probably a good thing, as it has done extremely well on its own, with a brand that is now as globally recogniseable as Coca Cola is. However, it is interesting to think of how different things could have been had someone had the foresight to entertain Google’s $1 million offer.
We bet they’re kicking themselves now.