Business Unusual

Google working on immortality (and a host of other weird and wonderful projects)

Google is almost 20 years old. It was founded in the same year that Gary Kasparov first lost, then won, a chess game against the super-computer Deep Blue in 1996.

A university business idea by two friends is now one of the largest tech firms in the world. Google employs 57 000 staff.

The most unusual part of Google is how it builds its products. The central and super star asset is the search engine which allows for the ad network to deliver $59 billion in revenues last year. That revenue has allowed Google to invest and test hundreds of potential world changing concepts. Those other projects contributed $7 billion.

Earlier this year Google announced it was creating a new parent company to allow Google to focus on fewer products. The new company called Alphabet would allow the founders to look after the various projects while leaving Google to focus and evolve: Search, Ads, YouTube, Maps, Android and Apps.

The other parts are made up of:

  • Calico - aiming to increase your lifespan

  • Nest - automating your home and your world

  • Fiber - very high speed data with integrated entertainment options

  • Google X - the incubator for Google's disruption projects

  • Google Ventures - venture capital for start-ups not inside Google

  • Google Capital - investment arm for businesses aligned to Google interests

The secret to growing to 57 000 staff

The evolution of products is a key way Google gets to try so many options. An idea suggested internally or identified externally is funded based on some basic principles that are not unique to Google but closely adhered to.

  • How popular will it be with users; as a result it should be popular with those wanting to develop it

  • How much pain does it reduce; consider trying to find something without web based search

  • How well does it work; if it will be popular, will it be effective when used by billions

Assuming the projects meets and sustains the criteria it is allowed to evolve. If not the project is shut down.

One of the small projects that has become massive is Maps.

At first the plan was simply to help people locate the businesses they search for online. That evolved to include satellite images of the entire globe.

Following that the oceans were mapped and then the Moon and Mars and the Sky.

Google Earth takes the idea further allowing for construction modelling and environmental and urban change tracking.

Then the street view was added which started the research into to driver-less cars. That has now led to a boat version which is mapping the coast to track sea level changes.

They have products the have mapped the human body to use medically or for Hollywood special effects, a contact lens that will monitor glucose levels and cutlery for those with hand tremors.

You can connect using 1000 Mb/s internet speeds (SA top speeds are 150 with the average being under 10) and access hundreds of shows in HD quality.

Store every photo you have taken and index those by subject, place or theme without doing anything.

Automate your home to check on security or have aircon or lighting set according to the weather.

And were you to look at your phone, then there is an 80% chance it is an Android phone. Google created Android in 2006. Today it's found on over a billion phones, using over 50 billion apps.

There are over 100 services and products that Google has launched or acquired and almost as many have been shuttered.

What next?

Google Ventures and Google Capital have reportedly over $3.5 billion in funds to invest in the next big thing. With that much money to invest in products that are as diverse as the number of websites it indexes, it can be confident that whatever the next big thing is for humanity, it will be part of it.

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