Susan Wojcicki is reminiscing about her old home in Menlo Park, Calif.
"It's a very humble house, less than 2,000 square feet," she recalls fondly. A cozy, four-bedroom home -- and incredibly historic.
After earning her MBA in 1998, Wojcicki bought 232 Santa Margarita Ave. for about $600,000. She rented the garage to two Stanford students for $1,700 a month to help with the mortgage. The renters: no ordinary slackers, but the Google Guys, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who incubated Google right there.
"It's a good reminder for the company that we did come from a small house, not a fancy house," says Wojcicki.
Her life-changing decision to open her home to Brin and Page did more than just help start the world's most-popular search engine. It also:
Landed Wojcicki a key early job at Google less than a year after purchasing the home. Today, she's one of its top-ranked executives, overseeing the crucial online advertising business as vice president of product management.
Introduced a future husband to Wojcicki's younger sister Anne, who recently married Brin on an island in the Bahamas. Google has invested $3.9 million in Anne Wojcicki's biotech start-up, 23andMe.
Created a cottage industry for the Wojcicki family. Susan Wojcicki's husband, Dennis Troper, is an operations executive at Google. Brother-in-law Gregor (married to middle sister Janet) is a former Googler who worked in the finance department. Mom Esther Wojcicki, a teacher, has consulted for Google on educational issues.
If you've ever clicked a text ad on MySpace, About.com or any thousands of blogs with "Ads by Google," you've got Susan Wojcicki to thank. Expanding ads beyond Google's own search pages was her idea. Now, Google has asked her to further grow the empire by bringing its advertiser base to old media such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television.
"There are no sets of words that can be used to describe Susan's contribution to the company," says Google CEO Eric Schmidt. "She's historic, in terms of our company's founding. She's also one of those people who thinks very broadly and quickly, and (it's) deceiving because she's so pleasant."
Wojcicki is Google employee No. 18. Her early duties included refining the original Google logo designed by Brin and the overall spare look of the Google home page. She came up with the first of Google's "doodles," the remaking of the logo for holidays and other special events. Her first artistic doodle: an alien lands on Google.
In Google's fledgling days, Wojcicki, a former junior staffer for chipmaker Intel, was in charge of marketing efforts. Brin and Page charged her with spreading the word about Google on a shoestring. Her big idea: stir word-of-mouth by putting Google's search engine all over the Web. She reached out to companies to license Google search for their websites and offered it free to universities.
In 2003, she came up with her multimillion-dollar brainstorm: AdSense.
AdSense is an extension of a program Google had successfully launched in 2002, called AdWords. AdWords offers advertisers sponsored search ads, those little text ads that appear near search results. Advertisers have to pay only if the ads get clicked.
Wojcicki's suggestion: Why not offer these same ads all over the Web, on blogs and websites? Entice Web "publishers" to participate by giving them a portion of the ad revenue. In other words, every time someone clicks on an ad on your site, you get a check.