Google’s world-domination dream team first came together at one of America’s most unique arts and music festivals, Burning Man.
In addition to founders such as Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk making an appearance, there have reports that the tech elite used the annual Nevada desert experimental art and rave-fest to recruit talent, but it was never made public.
In conversation with Stephen Colbert in promoting his new book, “How Google Works,” CEO Eric Schmidt regaled the crowd with the beginnings of his relationship with his co-founders.
Back in 2001, when Google was nothing more than big ideas and 150 employees, Sergey Brin and Larry Page started courting the long-time tech CEO. But they did so in their unorthodox way, with multiple interviews and invitations to ski and sky-dive.
Schmidt, however, says he refused their advances.
“What were you supposed to do?” asked Colbert. “Sky dive or bungee jump?”
“We all went to Burning Man together,” Schmidt said. “There’s a rule at Burning Man. No pictures.”
The fact that the head of a multi-billion dollar company would admit this in public is more than a fun exercise in storytelling. Burning Man is a unique place, and it speaks volumes about the values of influential tech companies.
On a typical day at Burning Man, a participant may imbibe all sorts of drugs, dance until the sunrise, join a naked bike ride, explore multi-story interactive art, or attend a lecture on yoga.
The kinds of people who attend Burning Man tend to be young liberals who want to see the world become a more open and innovative place. They’re not shy about privacy.
So when we look at the kinds of things Google does, with an emphasis on real name policies or aspirations to make all personal health data public, it’s easy to see how this comes from the personality of someone who attends Burning Man.
The more we understand about the personalities of the influential tech elite, the better we can foresee how they want to change the world.