Rocky road to the IPO
Once the Internet darling of the post-bubble days, Google has taken some hits in the weeks leading up to its IPO. Its high initial share price raised some eyebrows, but the attitude with which the company's two founders have approached the IPO and the Wall Street community in general may have done more damage. Certainly, a recent SEC filing that stated Google had illegally issued some shares, cast the darkest shadow over the company's path to its market--leading some analysts to wonder whether it would go public at all.
Google is perhaps as well-known for its off-beat culture as it is for its breakthroughs in search technology. Located in Mountain View, Calif., the Googleplex
is legendary for its fun-house-type atmosphere. The celebrity drop-ins, free meals in the cafeteria and biweekly roller hockey games make the Googleplex sound more like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory than a powerhouse of Internet engineers.
Founded in 1996 during the dot-com whirlwind, Google managed to zig when others zagged and avoided a blow-out. In fact, its unassuming do-things-differently style has characterized the company's meteoric rise to the top of the search heap. But Google didn't start making real money until it cribbed from the business strategy of commercial search pioneer, Overture Services, formerly GoTo, with its launch of an auction-based, pay-per-click advertising service. It now earns more than $1 billion annually selling marketers little text ads that appear next to search results. What will it think of next to make the next billion?
Since Google came along and made millions by improving the Web search equation, new challengers claiming they're the "next Google" have cropped up almost every week. Little fish aside, Google's facing a whale of a fight from Web behemoths Yahoo and Microsoft, which are aggressively trying to turn their millions of visitors into loyalists by improving their search tools. Microsoft probably talks the biggest, threatening to use its dominance in operating systems to make searching the Web, e-mail, office applications and the desktop seamless.