Home Daily Blitz Google Makes So Much Money, It Never Had to Worry About Financial Discipline—Until Now

Google Makes So Much Money, It Never Had to Worry About Financial Discipline—Until Now


The following is an excerpt from Max Chafkin and Mark Bergen | December 8, 2016 | Bloomberg.com |

Earlier this year, Astro Teller, a ponytailed scientist and science fiction writer, gave a TED Talk.

It was a first for Teller, but not for X, or Google X, as the research lab he runs used to be known. The lab has been a fixture on the conference circuit for years. In 2011, Sebastian Thrun, X’s founder, took the TED stage and predicted that driverless cars would put an end to traffic fatalities. In 2013, Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, showed up wearing X’s wearable computer, Google Glass, and argued that face-mounted devices were a natural successor to the smartphone. In 2015, Chris Urmson, the technical lead of X’s autonomous vehicle program, argued that driverless cars should operate with no human oversight at all. By February 2016 it was Teller’s turn.

“I have a secret for you,” he began, with a self-assured smile. “The moonshot factory is a messy place.”

The comments seemed aimed at a growing sense, among some on Wall Street and within Alphabet, the parent company of Google and X, that Teller was wasting money on crazy experiments. Google spent lavishly to market Glass—the devices were delivered by sky divers at their launch—but the product flopped and was off the market by early 2015. The self-driving car ran into setbacks both literal (fender benders) and figurative (a handful of top Google engineers defected to start their own autonomous vehicle company). Overall, the Other Bets, the belittling term that Alphabet uses to refer to X and other business divisions not named Google, lost about $3.6 billion in 2015, roughly twice what they’d lost the year before.

For more visit: Bloomberg.com