Brin was born in the Soviet Union during the summer of 1973. His father dreamed of being an astrophysicist, but his Jewish background and the USSR’s anti-Semitism kept him from those ambitions. Instead, he ended up working as an economist for a government planning agency and crunching numbers for Soviet propaganda, according to journalist Steven Levy’s book, “In the Plex.”
Source: In The Plex
The family managed to get exit visas and flee the USSR when Brin was 6. But his family’s stressful, troubled experience left the Google cofounder with a lasting appreciation for democracy and freedom.
Source: In The Plex
The Brin family ended up in Maryland, where the Google cofounder was enrolled in a Montessori school that emphasized independence and fostering creativity. Later on, Brin would discover that his Google cofounder, Larry Page, had also gone to a Montessori school.
Source: In The Plex
Brin didn’t revisit Moscow until he was 17, during a class trip led by his father. “Thank you for taking us all out of Russia,” Brin told his dad. Spurred by a blossoming defiant streak, he threw pebbles at a police car, and almost got in serious trouble when the officers inside noticed, according to a 2007 profile of Brin.
Source: Moment Magazine
Brin earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science at the University of Maryland, and then flew west to Stanford to get his Ph.D. in computer science. There, his love of high-adrenaline exercise flourished: he tried out skating, skiing, gymnastics, and even trapeze.
Brin’s resume from back in 1996, as he was working toward his Ph.D. at Stanford, is still available online. Before Google, Brin was more focused on making an algorithm for personalized movie recommendations, or finding a way to automatically detect cases of copyright infringement.
Brin met Google cofounder Larry Page at Stanford in 1995. The two reportedly found each other “obnoxious” at first, but they later became classmates and close friends who geeked out about computer science, according to a 2005 Wired profile.
Brin and Page started collaborating in 1996 on a search engine they initially called BackRub. They registered the domain Google.com in September 1997 with the mission to organize the world’s information, and dropped out of Stanford the following year to work on their search engine. The rest, as we now know, is history.
The founders created the first Google Doodle in 1998 to let people know they weren’t around to do damage control if the site broke — that’s because they were at Burning Man, the freewheeling art festival in the middle of the Nevada desert.
Both Brin and Page are “burners,” meaning they’re devout fans and attendees of Burning Man. When the time came to hire an outside CEO for Google, they approved the hire of Eric Schmidt in 2001 after learning he had attended the festival. They then brought him to Burning Man with them to “see how he would do.”
For a long time, you couldn’t spot Brin without the computerized Google Glass smart glasses. The New York Times reported that Brin may have played a big role in the product’s rocky launch in 2012, rushing it into the world before it was ready for public scrutiny.
Source: The New York Times
Those who have known Brin say he believes in using knowledge and power for the greater good. The Economist once called him the “Enlightenment Man,” for his dedication to using reason and science to solve huge world problems.
Source: The Economist
“Obviously everyone wants to be successful, but I want to be looked back on as being very innovative, very trusted and ethical,” Brin has said. “And ultimately making a big difference in the world.”
Source: ABC News
But even as Google grew into a multibillion-dollar company, Brin maintained the freewheeling spirit of the early days. Around Google’s campus, he typically wore workout clothes and Vibram barefoot shoes, and he was frequently seen zipping around the office on Rollerblades, doing yoga stretches during meetings, or walking around on his hands for fun.
Source: Business Insider
Brin also has a wild sense of humor. “He conducted job interviews once dressed as a cow,” early Google employee Douglas Edwards once told Fast Company.
Source: Fast Company
In 2007, Brin married Anne Wojcicki, the CEO of genetics company 23andMe and the sister of early Google employee (and now YouTube CEO) Susan Wojcicki. For the wedding, the couple invited guests to a secret location in the Bahamas and wore bathing suits for the ceremony — which took place on a sandbar.
Source: Vanity Fair
The couple donated hundreds of millions of dollars to charity, including to Parkinson’s research. The neurodegenerative disease runs in Brin’s family (both his great aunt and mother had it) and a test through 23andMe — Wojcicki’s company — revealed that Brin has a genetic mutation that makes him predisposed.
Source: Inside Philanthropy
To lower his chances of getting Parkinson’s, Brin started exercising even more intensely and drinking green tea twice a day. Due to his health regimen and scientific progress, he estimated in 2010 that he now has only about a 10% chance of getting the disease.
However, Brin’s marriage to Wojcicki hit the rocks in 2013, and the couple separated. They officially finalized their divorce in June 2015 after eight years of marriage.
In August 2015 Brin’s title got a major upgrade when Google went through a major restructuring. Brin transitioned from director of special projects at the moonshot division, X, to become the president of Alphabet, Google’s new parent company. Page was named Alphabet’s CEO.
Meanwhile, Brin and Page had become billionaires several times over. In 2005, they bought a 50-person plane together. Brin also owns a superyacht, Dragonfly, which he bought back in 2011 for $80 million.
In December 2019, Brin and Page shocked the world: They announced in a joint statement that they were stepping down from their respective roles at Alphabet. “We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company,” they wrote. Both Page and Brin remain members of Alphabet’s board of directors.