Since the early 1980s, America’s hub of technological innovation has been centralized in a small swath of land surrounding San Francisco Bay, more commonly known as Silicon Valley. Central to the area’s growth—and the 20th century American tech boom—is Stanford University, the private research university that has smashed the notion of the elite East Coast and Ivy League superiority. Among the school’s countless contributions to the transformation of the modern world, there is none more impactful than Google, the ubiquitous search engine turned all-in-one internet-based solution superstar.
For Larry Page, who created and founded Google with fellow Stanford alum Sergey Brin, the search engine is literally a dream-come-true, inspired by a nocturnal vision of downloading the entire internet. Initially at Stanford, Page suffered from “impostor’s syndrome,” expecting administrators to send him home to Michigan at a moment’s notice. Instead, his doctoral thesis would radically change the way the World Wide Web is navigated, ultimately making him and his partner Brin two of the richest and most influential tech entrepreneurs in history, permanently linking Stanford to the internet revolution.
Of course, Google isn’t Stanford’s only Silicon Valley success story—rival search engine Yahoo and photo-sharing social media app Instagram are among the ubiquitous internet ventures that have sprung from the heart of Palo Alto. However, Google is the only venture among Stanford’s contributions that is synonymous with the phrase “Big Data,” placing it among the ranks of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook as the gatekeepers of the Internet and beyond.
Page’s “healthy disregard for the impossible,” a phrase borrowed from his undergraduate alma mater, the University of Michigan, has driven Google’s ascension and continues to guide the founder’s outlook on the future. After nearly 25 years at the helm of the company, at the end of 2019, the founders bowed out of Google’s day-to-day operations, leaving Page with endless opportunities for his next chapter. Although he maintains a great deal of influence and decision-making power within Alphabet, the established parent company of all things Google, Page can now shift his focus onto his next chapter.
He is an investor in Palo Alto-neighbor Tesla Motors, a central player in the clean energy automotive industry and commercial spaceflight, but his ambitions fall somewhere between the road and the heavens. He is a primary investor in Kitty Hawk, a nascent electric aircraft venture focused on creating the closest thing to flying cars as the world has yet seen. Although the company is likely years away from becoming the Uber of air travel, Page is comfortable disregarding the idea as impossible. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time one of his dreams came true.