Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

New Yorker: Bezos' Initial Google Investment Was $250K in 1998 Because "I Just Fell in Love With Larry and Sergey"

Considering the ongoing skirmishes going on right now between Amazon and Google over digital book publishing, it’s more than ironic that Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos was one of only a few initial investors in the search giant.

But–in one of the many interesting details in New Yorker author Ken Auletta’s new book, “Googled: The End Of The World As We Know It”–it was indeed Bezos who invested $250,000 in the start-up in 1998 at four cents a share.

(Some previous reports have had it at six cents a share and at a $100,000 level.)

Three of the others, according to Auletta, all of whom ponied up the same amount, were Stanford University computer science professor David Cheriton, entrepreneur Ram Shriram and Sun Microsystems (JAVA) co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim.

Later, more angels invested in Google (GOOG), followed by the big $25 million venture round by Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital in mid-1999.

While it was known back when Google went public in 2004 that Bezos held about three million shares in the IPO (Auletta said it was precisely 3.3 million shares), the book has a lot of the details about the meeting between him and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in the Menlo Park, Calif., garage of current Google exec Susan Wojcicki.

He had been brought there, according to the book, by Shriram, who had sold his company, Junglee, to Amazon (AMZN) in 1998.

“I just fell in love with Larry and Sergey,” Bezos told Auletta in an interview–not that there’s anything wrong with that considering the flip-flop relationships of Silicon Valley.

He’d presumably be more in love–and less inclined to be fighting Google, first in search with A9 and now in online publishing–if he had held onto those shares.

That stock would be worth $1.6 billion today.

But a spokesman for Amazon declined to comment on what Bezos did with his Google stake, noting it was a personal investment.

Interestingly, Bezos is also an early investor in the current hotsy-totsy microblogging start-up, Twitter.

A part of Auletta’s book, which is slated to come out Nov. 3, is in this week’s New Yorker in an excerpt called “Searching for Trouble.” It is, oddly, not available online.

In any case, the piece is mostly about the various ways Brin and Page dissed big media moguls, figuratively (destroying old media advertising business models) and literally (showing up at meetings sweaty and wearing skates and gym shorts).

Good thing they never did that to Bezos.

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald