Paul Buchheit Biography

(Creator of Gmail)

Birthday: November 7, 1977 (Scorpio)

Born In: Webster, New York, United States

Paul Buchheit is an American computer engineer, entrepreneur, angel investor and philanthropist who is best recognized as Google’s 23rd employee and the creator of Gmail. He “hacked” and refined his earlier prototype web-based email system keeping in mind larger storage and better search capabilities as key features. He also wanted the product to be accessible to as many people as possible and as such had suggested an ad-supported model which prompted the creation of Google AdSense. He had suggested the company’s motto, “Don't be evil”, which some maintain was first coined by engineer Amit Patel in 1999, and came up with the “did you mean?” feature to eliminate spelling mistakes in Google searches. After leaving Google, he co-created the real-time social media feed aggregator FriendFeed, which was later sold to Facebook. He is currently a partner at the investment firm Y Combinator and has invested in over 83 startups through angel investments.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Paul T. Buchheit

Age: 45 Years, 45 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: April Buchheit

Born Country: United States

Computer Engineers American Men

U.S. State: New Yorkers

Founder/Co-Founder: FriendFeed

More Facts

education: Case Western Reserve University

Childhood & Early Life

Paul T. Buchheit was born on November 7, 1977 in Webster, New York, United States as the fourth of five children of his parents. He attended Webster Thomas High School, but hated homework, so he “turned it into a game to see how little time and effort I could possibly waste on it while still getting ‘good enough’ grades”.

He got into programming early on while playing a fantasy RPG video game as he could not find some items and wanted to dissect the game files to learn where the game saved items from his inventory. Once he realized that he could hack into game data to insert any item he wanted, he started to enjoy programming more than the actual game and it became his hobby.

He later went to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where he pursued a degree in Computer Science followed by a PhD (Honors) degree and was a member of the college rowing team. Later in 2012, he delivered the commencement address in front of 1,750 students of his alma mater on May 20 in Veale Convocation Center.

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After his freshman year in college, Paul Buchheit interned at Microsoft in 1995, where a senior advised him, “Make sure they don't stick you off in a corner working on something unimportant”. He took it to heart, and rather than pursuing a “career” at a big company, he has always wanted to “launch a cool product or create something important”.

Upon graduation, he applied to Intel in Santa Clara, California, where one of his friends was working, but especially because it was at the heart of Silicon Valley, where he hoped to find cool startups. He joined Intel in June 1998 but was not very happy working in its big and bureaucratic environment, and instead began sending his resume to a handful of local startups he had heard about.

He had been working with Linux since before going to college and became interested in the “little startup” Google after learning from Slashdot that it was building clusters of Linux machines. Google, which was at the time just a small team of people in a little office in Palo Alto, accepted his interview offer, which he passed successfully and was hired as the company’s 23rd employee.

He joined Google in June 1999 and was initially working on the Google Groups project, a web-based discussion groups service, as well as indexing of the Usenet service. He revealed to Triplebyte that he had built the first version of the “did you mean?” feature after looking through search query logs and realizing that he was “not the only person who can't spell”.

In August 2001, Google co-founder Larry Page sat down with him and instructed him to “build an email something”, which led him to build what is now Gmail. He had previously developed a web-based email system as a class project in college in 1996 after being frustrated that he could not access his emails from his dormitory room.

Buchheit, who describes his approach to product development as “hacking”, as in reaching “a goal by employing a series of modifications to extend existing code or resources”, revisited his earlier prototype to expand on it. He was also dissatisfied with the limited storage of existing services like Hotmail (2MB) and Yahoo (4MB) and attempted to build an email service with massive storage and a robust search function.

While there were oppositions from other Google stuff for wasting resources on such a project, his early prototype had caught the attention of both founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. He faced another hassle when, in early 2002, the question of how the product will make money was raised, with him vehemently opposing a subscription-based model and rather proposing an ad-supported model.

Once again the founders saw this as another opportunity to advertise adjacent to web search results and assigned a separate project team that worked on which eventually became AdSense in March 2003. Gmail first released to select users in April 2004 and was eventually released to general public on February 7, 2007, and now has 1.2 billion active users worldwide and offers 15GB of storage.

Buchheit, who was in hospital for months following the birth of his daughter 100 days early, realized after getting back to work that Google was becoming more and more bureaucratic as it grew. Under newly hired experienced managers, he started to feel the way he did at Intel and decided to leave the company after seven years in May 2006.

He subsequently started investing small amounts in startup companies as an angel investor and said that his “primary goal was to learn more and be helpful”. He had invested US$1.21 million in 32 startup companies within three years, and while many of them failed, some were successful, saving him from losing any money.

In late 2007, he and three other ex-Google employees launched FriendFeed, an aggregating application that combined social media channels into one feed, which they sold to Facebook for a multi-million dollar figure in August 2009. The deal granted him and his partners senior roles at Facebook, but he left the company in 2010 to become a full-time angel investor and became a partner at the investment firm Y Combinator.

Personal Life & Legacy

Paul Buchheit has been married to April Buchheit since 2002 and they live in Palo Alto, California. The couple experienced significant health trauma following the premature birth of their daughter and due to the early death of his 33-year-old brother from pancreatic cancer.

He now actively donates to various health-related organizations and startups like CareMessage, and his wife also supported funding the Intensive Care Nursery at UCSF Children's Hospital, where their daughter was treated. In 2009, he set up a Google Moderator page and a FriendFeed page to allow anyone to suggest as to what causes should benefit best from his financial support.


Paul Buchheit initially didn’t have much expectation from the future of Google as most startups tended to fail, but took it as an opportunity to learn about startups. However, within a week of joining, he had realized that “this company is going to be big” and had gone back to ask for more stock options, which was declined.

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