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Google's first employee leaves to join education nonprofit

February 11, 2012|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Los Angeles Times

Google Inc.'s first hired employee, Craig Silverstein, is leaving the tech giant where he's worked since its founding to sign on with the rising education start-up Khan Academy.

Silverstein, who was technically Google's third employee, after co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, was instrumental in creating the search engine that built Google into one of the world's leading tech companies. Google's search engine was its first product and is still its most widely used.

Google and Khan Academy confirmed Silverstein's move Thursday. Khan Academy employee John Resig wrote on Twitter: "Really excited to be working with Craig Silverstein, Google Employee #1. He's joining us at Khan Academy."

Khan Academy is a nonprofit start-up in Mountain View, Calif., (where Google is also based) that produces online videos, exercises and testing materials in a bid to teach math, science, humanities and finance in countries where educational resources aren't widely available.

Silverstein started working on Google's search engine when it was a research project at Stanford University led by Page and Brin, who were graduate students at the time. He officially joined Google when the company was founded in 1998 out of a garage in Menlo Park, Calif.

He eventually left Stanford, where he was working on a doctorate in computer science, to work for Google. Page, Brin and Silverstein did not complete their doctorates. Later, Silverstein served as Google's technology director.

"Silverstein worked side by side with the founders to establish Google's distinct culture and wrote his fair share of the nascent search engine's base code," the San Jose Mercury News reported in 2010. "As Google's first employee, his net worth has been estimated somewhere north of $800 million."

In that article, Silverstein attributed much of Google's success to luck.

"I guess what I'm most proud of is successfully keeping the culture as well as we have, given all the success and growth that we've had," he told the Mercury News. "I'm proud of that. We haven't done perfectly, but we've done a lot better than I ever thought we would."

nathan.olivarezgiles@latimes.com

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