We’ve followed Google for years, and have heard most of the stories about its evolution — indeed reported many of them ourselves. But this is by far the best story out there about “what really happened” at Google. It’s by John Heilemann, and his reporting is impressive. (Found it via Battelle). True, in some parts it veers toward interpretation (Doerr is clearly a source for this story, and this should be kept in mind), but doesn’t seem to overreach much and fits with our own understanding of the players and events.

Here’s what we found out for the first time:

1) The extent to which Ram Shriram and Ron Conway — the angel investors, and advisors — had to work to bring John Doerr, of Kleiner Perkins, and Michael Moritz, of Sequoia, together on the deal — and the entertaining but insightful drama about how the two Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin resisted hiring an CEO, and the art with which John Doerr maneuvered the situation.

2) Perhaps the most remarkable: The heroic role played by Bill Campbell, the former CEO and current chairman of Intuit. Recruited by Doerr to be a coach to the two young ambitious founders, Campbell is made out by Heilemann to be the savior of Google, a key component of his story’s theme, i.e., that despite their ambition and talent, the kids still needed father figures to get through it all:

�I think John Doerr would say Bill Campbell saved Google,� says Kleiner partner Will Hearst. �He coached Eric on what it means to be a CEO�not the CEO of Novell but of a company like Google. He taught Eric it�s a lot like being a janitor: There�s a lot of shit you have to do. And he spent a lot of time with Larry and Sergey, explaining the difference between being a cool company or a smart company and being a successful company. It didn�t happen overnight, but Bill Campbell won.�

�God bless that man� is what Doerr says. �I don�t know where the company would be without him.�

Moritz concurs: �He is the quiet, behind-the-scenes, unsung hero in this whole epic.�

3) A cute anecdote about Larry Page sitting on a plate of food during the IPO roadshow.

4) The story behind Larry Page’s notorious letter to shareholders, and Doerr’s midnight drive to the Googleplex to make sure it was edited.