How to Start Google

PG’s latest essay:

How to Start Google

"It really matters to do well in your classes, even the ones that are just memorization or blathering about literature, because you need to do well in your classes to get into a good university. And if you want to start a startup you should try to get into the best university you can, because that’s where the best cofounders are. It’s also where the best employees are. When Larry and Sergey started Google, they began by just hiring all the smartest people they knew out of Stanford, and this was a real advantage for them.

The empirical evidence is clear on this. If you look at where the largest numbers of successful startups come from, it’s pretty much the same as the list of the most selective universities."

Sadly our destiny gets written much before we become aware of it - basically our parents choose it (by pushing us to study hard etc).


Totally in agreement with this. Students these days are just like sculptures which are being sculpted by parents on stuff. I’m not saying that it is wrong but at least they should have the right to take some decisions. I recently talked about a similar instance with one of my juniors in one of my blog posts.

I still do have a conflict of interest on the fact that “successful startups come from most selective universities” :sweat_smile:


This is so true, and it plays out for better or worse, without any knowledge to the subject, dots can only be connected in hindsight, and it leads to a myriad of situations, comfortable or not, it’s upto the sufferer to judge.

I do not mean to diminish the value of these words, it is seldom that something is very clearly written, forces one to reflect and introspect, but still leaves some nuance on the table. Smartness in any field is an outcome of curiosity & rigour with which it is pursued, and more often than not, the uni-directional and narrow-funnelling nature of education leads to a loss of a huge amount of have-been smartness if it’s let to flourish. Even if parents hammering you to study may lead to and conform to “the-path” may lead to better chances of outcomes due to the student being in better places, parenting needs to strike a delicate balance between letting the young mind pursue it’s innate curiosities, whilst pursuing the proven path with rigour as well.

Curious and relentless minds solve problems, not the conforming ones, they push the paper.


I guess the next paragraph sets important context -

“I don’t think it’s the prestigious names of these universities that cause more good startups to come out of them. Nor do I think it’s because the quality of the teaching is better. What’s driving this is simply the difficulty of getting in. You have to be pretty smart and determined to get into MIT or Cambridge, so if you do manage to get in, you’ll find the other students include a lot of smart and determined people.”

Everyone regardless of their stance on education can agree on the fact that a lot of successful startups are very much a product of the network of the founders.

The IITs or IIMs of India teach nothing that another institute or even YouTube can’t, they just give you the opportunity to interact with a very selective pool of smart and hardworking people. These people are probably more likely to get very high paying jobs.

Harvard, Stanford ( or BITS in India?) also produce more startups (I’m not commenting on whether these are “successful” ) because in addition to that selective admission process these people also come from financially good backgrounds and are more likely to be able to take risk/get F&F funding (both are exclusive,but you get the point)

I hate going to college, but not because of what I’m taught (and mostly, not taught :sweat_smile:) there, but because my peer group and the interactions that happen here don’t drive me at all. I may have had very different thoughts if I was in another institute ( I didn’t work hard enough for that and don’t have regret for that as such )

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This works in many ways. You are generally the average of the company you keep. People who have gone to elite colleges tend to be ambitious and that itself raises your own expectations on how you can contribute to society.

People who fall “outside”, tend to have several more handicaps. They are surrounded by mediocre people whose expectations are low and are prone to cynicism.

If you want to fall out of the trap, you have to be careful where and who you want to spend your time with!


Can totally relate with you. I lost interest in going to college just because of what my surrounding was. I am someone who likes observing people around me and learn from them. But here in college it was just timepass. Not like I did not try creating a environment, I eventually failed miserably :rofl:. Today every morning I wake up I have the same feeling “nahi jana hai yrr college” :rofl:.

I am still in conflict about how ambition towards getting the top university sets up an expectation towards how can one contribute to the society. Toppers in my class have the ambition to go to MIT WPU Pune, and many other institutes in or around Pune. But, they never even noticed things which are very wrong around them or even care to talk about. I feel the one who are behind pursuing good marks and getting the best university lack the opportunity of “discussing” things around them. Every time I try discussing stuff like “what next?” with them, they are very afraid to talk with me as they are confused themselves of what to do ahead.

Totally in agreement with you on this :sweat_smile:. Good friend circle helps a lot. I also feel that if you have people around you who have failed or have done low in stuff then that is a good thing to be with them because that also helps in learning and trying not to be the one like them.

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Then, why do you want to drop out and not in fact push for getting into a better college? I’m just curious. Since you mentioned the environment to be one of the major problems

In their defence,they are all 17. And not everyone has the access to 1. A huge community like you do and 2. A defiance for societal roadmaps.


Speaking from experience,
the other aspect (which will likely plague folks who think like this)
is that one ends-up without any authority / influence
i.e. even if you have some worthwhile insights
your sphere of influence is so tiny that you will have near zero impact on the world.

Compared to folks who grind and excel at orthodox well-beaten paths
and gain wealth and fame and the power to have a larger impact on the world
(though unlikely to have any meaningful impact distinct from the LCD echo-chamber,
as they have collected no unique insights on their journey.)


just to be specific during covid days (I am a covid batch passout), I met a humongous amount of Internet friends on telegram which included IITians and don’t know what other countries and cities. Being chatting with them whole day gave me that sort of surrounding I wanted to be in, whom I can look up to, talk to, ask them about technical stuff and have fun with them in that tiny little chat room.

I also have that surrounding at FOSS United now :p.

Can say that Internet satisfied the need of that.


I’m no way being against or being counter triggered towards them :sweat_smile: :. The whole point behind that wall of text is the lack of “exploring”.

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PG on credentials (degree/GPA) etc.

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(Disclosure : We are building a platform to power an undergraduate computer science program. I have a proper stake in changing the status quo :sweat_smile: Don’t mean to butt in with self-promotion. I think this is relevant to the conversation, so adding my thoughts.)

Success in the real world correlates with the vector: (direction of learning, magnitude of learning)

A non name college has neither. Direction is simply: finish coursework. Magnitude is variable by student effort - which is a function of intent. Intent is further diminished by the company one keeps (like Rushabh called out - you tend to be the avg of the intent of all your peers).

A more brand-name place will get good on magnitude (avg of peers who’ve put in high effort to get there), but not so much on planned direction. Some good direction come from network effects (seniors/ambitious peers) - this sustains the institution and reaches a natural equilibrium.

There’s non university systems which are not directed, but have solid magnitude - FOSS. Direction is left as an exercise to an individual. Hence this pool is small. There are some examples of directions getting here: GSOC and similar programs which try to build a path.

As you may have guessed, we’re trying to crack this via building a system which can take “any” cohort of students, and guides them both on direction and magnitude.


Glad you mention correlates and not “is a result of” :slight_smile:
Again highlighting it here so that it registers to everyone who missed it the first time.

IMHO, individuals’ efforts are akin to the fine-tuning knob on an old-school radio.

  • vastly improves the quality of the outcome

But, the general direction is set by external factors i.e. the channel-select knob.

Can you highlight how this is different from the numerous “bootcamps”
that churn-out “CS graduates” who can dump leet-code by the KLOCs,
but cannot understand / design a moderately complex system even if their lives depended on it?

Also, what are your thoughts on dealing with a future
where there is a lack of demand for “Computer Science” graduates ?


Sorry to Interfere,

But @CVS just to let you know we did a podcast with anil previously, and I feel you might find answers for some of your questions in the podcast.


I like your analogy of channel select and fine tune. Couple thing I’ll add:
a) A good system will not rely on individuals only for fine-tuning, it’ll also provide external support on fine tuning.
b) In complex systems, causation is close to impossible to prove. correlation is as close as you can get.

I’ve been a hiring manager a long time so I hear you fully on this - and this was a core-focus of the program design. (content below may need a one time login to view)

It’s different in that it’s improves a regular degree: ~60% of course work is removed and replaced with 30% skilling (full-fleged webdev bootcamp) + 30% foundation (humanities and liberal arts). The hypothesis we’re working with is that it’s the liberal arts coursework (critical thinking, professional skills for the workplace, learning how to learn, economics, politics and society, etc) are what make well-rounded problem solves. For eg: we measure and show every student how professional they are, so they understand what the real world cares about.

Additionally, students work in real-world internship for 3 of 4 years during education, setting them up for very high skill levels and know-how of industry practices.

IMO, such a future is at-least a decade away, if not more. By all measures the industry is in growth mode, and is not showcasing any signs of plateauing (which itself is typically decades long). The roles are evolving for sure, and any good education program will have to evolve alongside and keep pace.


IMO, such a future is at-least a decade away, if not more. By all measures the industry is in growth mode, and is not showcasing any signs of plateauing (which itself is typically decades long). The roles are evolving for sure, and any good education program will have to evolve alongside and keep pace.

Out of curiosity, how are you planning to adapt to the changes happening right now?
Are students being encouraged to adopt new tools that will help them get work done faster ( which is what the industry is going towards) or avoid them so they can learn in depth better?

Do you see a switch in domains too, where students might be advised to focus more on one particular technology than other, purely because of changes in the demand in the industry?

I’m asking these questions because having spent quiet some time reading about Kalvium, I feel this program will probably be way more dynamic to changes in the industry than our standard college education.

The founder of NVIDIA on being asked if students should still be learning computer science -

“It’s going to sound completely opposite of what people feel. You probably recall over the course of the last 10-15 years, almost everybody who sits on a stage like this would tell you it is vital that your children learn computer science. Everybody should learn how to program. In fact, it’s almost exactly the opposite. It is our job to create computing technology such that nobody has to program and that the programming language is human. Everybody in the world is now a programmer. This is the miracle of artificial intelligence. For the very first time, we have closed the gap; the technology divide has been completely closed.”