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In 1998 This Stanford Professor Gave Two Students $100k To Launch A Little Company Called… Google. He’s Now The Richest College Professor Of All Time

In 1998, two Stanford grad students convinced their professor to invest $100,000 in their search engine startup company. The company is called Google.



Although “opportunity knocks” is a wonderful adage, it is a little out of date. Although everyone is aware of what “opportunity knocks,” we have never actually experienced it. The phrase “opportunity knocked,” “opportunity tweeted,” or “opportunity called but I didn’t recognize the number so I put it to voicemail then had to call back and apologize profusely to the person offering me a significant chance” should probably be rebranded to better reflect the times.

But in 1998, a chance came knocking on the front door of a house in Palo Alto, California, rather literally. The house’s owner was a professor of computer science at Stanford University. Two PhD students from Stanford answered the door. Being the first to put money in a new business presented an opportunity. a new business looking to build an internet search engine. A search engine that would one day be known as…


David Cheriton – Photo by Martin Klimek

Martin Klimek’s photograph of David Cheriton

Early Life

David Ross Cheriton was born on March 29, 1951 in Vancouver, British Columbia. His parents were also engineers.

David originally intended to be a musician, contrary to what you might think given his parents’ background and his eventual commitment to technology and computer science. In order to pursue his goal of studying classical guitar, he even went so far as to enroll in the University of Alberta. When David was turned down by the music department, those expectations were destroyed.

Moving back home to Vancouver and enrolling at the University of British Columbia, David packed his luggage. It was the year 1973. He was 22.

David returned to Vancouver after receiving his Master’s degree and was offered a position as an assistant professor there.

Stanford University

David was recruited away by Stanford University after three years of teaching at the University of British Columbia.

#1: David oversaw the creation of a group that created the “V” microkernal operating system, which later played a key role in the development of breakthroughs like the Internet Protocol layer and the Graphical User Interface (technical things that are integral in modern internet and computer screens).

#2: Andy Bechtolsheim, a talented PhD student, was taught by David and became a buddy.

In the 1980s, Andy was a fascinating figure on the Stanford campus. The German-born savant barely attended classes, instead spending his time working on personal projects and interests.

Granite Systems

With a 60% ownership share, Andy earned $132 million.

Larry And Sergey

And Larry did make a spectacular discovery. At the time and still to this day, the quality of a PhD thesis is judged by how many times it is cited in the reference sections of other papers.

Citations are a reliable sign of quality.

Larry reasoned that a similar concept might succeed online. He thought a website’s quality could be judged by how many links it received from other websites. Links like this that go to other websites literally appear within page content. In fact, maintaining a good Google position still depends on this.

The most downloaded scholarly article in internet history up to that moment was their jointly produced dissertation, “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.”

Opportunity Knocks

At some point Larry and Sergey decided it was time to turn their PhD project into a startup business. Initially, they just wanted to license the algorithm to the major search engines of the day, but every one of them turned them down. They ultimately made the decision to create their own search engine from scratch. That would cost cash.

It’s interesting to note that neither Larry nor Sergey ever attended classes with David Cheriton. But they were well-aware of the professor’s recent financial windfall from Granite.

Thus, Larry Page and Sergey Brin literally knocked on David Cheriton’s door on a very significant day in 1998.

As you are aware, they eventually changed to the slightly more approachable “Google.”

Following a 10-minute pitch, Andy and David both made the decision to immediately sign $100,000 cheques.

Other Investments

Early investors in VMware included David (without Andy), who would subsequently sell the company for $625 million.

Kealia, a video streaming business created in 2001 by David and Andy, was bought out by Sun Microsystems for $120 million.

David controls around $2.4 billion worth of ANET shares, and throughout the years, he has sold approximately $500 million worth of those shares, according to the company’s most recent SEC filings.

The Richest Professor in History

Sergey Brin is the seventh-richest person in the world with a net worth of $110 billion.

David Cheriton’s net worth as of right now is…

$10 billion

If you were to see David on campus, you might notice he still drives a modest car, a 2012 Honda Odyssey. Actually, that’s a minor improvement over the 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon he had been driving for years.

David continues to reside in the Palo Alto home he purchased forty years ago.