- In 2015, Google’s corporate structure was completely reimagined, as the search giant moved under the new parent company of Alphabet.
- The company’s core business – search, YouTube, and Android – would remain apart of Google, but much of its other efforts, including Nest and Waymo, would be broken out into separate companies, each with their own CEOs.
- Because the top executives of these companies are not named Larry or Sergey or Sundar, they often fly under the radar – but don’t overlook these leaders.
- One was a child chess prodigy, who created a smash hit video game by the age of 17. Another is the largest shareholder in Apple. None are women.
- Below are the top executives at Alphabet’s “Other Bets.”
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The company’s core business – search, YouTube, and Android – would remain a part of Google, under the watch of CEO Sundar Pichai. The rest would be broken out into separate companies, each with their own CEOs. All would fall under the auspices of the new Alphabet construct, led by Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
These non-Google companies that make up the Silicon Valley conglomerate are usually referred to as the “Other Bets,” which is how they are labelled on Alphabet’s financial statements.
But bets don’t always work out, and some have proven more successful than others. Over time, some have been either reabsorbed into Google (Chronicle, Nest, Jigsaw) or killed off entirely (Makani).
Though their revenues and losses are lumped together each quarter, Alphabet’s “Other Bets” share little else in common, with company’s ranging from anti-ageing labs to drone delivery services to startup investment funds.
Also, because the top executives of these companies are not named Larry or Sergey or Sundar, these leaders often fly under the radar. But that doesn’t mean their backgrounds aren’t worth considering.
One was a child chess prodigy, who created a smash hit video game by the age of 17. Another is the largest individual shareholder in Apple. Notably, none are women.
Here are the top executives at Alphabet’s “Other Bets:”
Access CEO Dinesh Jain
What it does: Access is Alphabet’s attempt to deliver faster internet everywhere, and comprises two services: Google Fibre and Webpass. Google Fibre – which delivers internet service to consumers directly through fibre-optic cables – is available in 11 US cities today.Webpass – which uses point-to-point wireless technology – is currently available in 7 US cities.
Meet the CEO: Dinesh Jain, a veteran of the cable and telecommunications industries, was named Access’ new CEO in February 2018. He became the third chief exec at the company in just over one year and tasked with defining the focus for a company that laid off hundreds of employees in 2016 and announced that it was halting plans to expand its fibre business. Prior to Access, Jain was the chief operating officer of Time Warner Cable.
Calico CEO Arthur Levinson
What it does:Calico is Alphabet’s research and development company focused on combating ageing and age-related diseases. In short, Calico is trying to find new ways to help people to live longer. It’s also considered to be the most secretive of the “other bets.”
Meet the CEO: In September 2013, Arthur Levinson was named the chief executive at Calico. Before joining the Alphabet’s anti-ageing endeavour, Levinson served as CEO of the biotech giant Genentech from 1995 to 2009.
Besides leading Calico, Levinson is also the current chairman of Apple, where he’s held the position since 2011 when Steve Jobs passed away. Levinson continues to be Apple’s largest individual shareholder.
DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis
What it does: Founded in London in 2010 and acquired by Google in 2014, DeepMind is an artificial intelligence research company perhaps best known for AlphaGo – an artificial intelligence that beat professional players at the ancient board game Go.
The company’s mission is to “solve intelligence” by creating learning systems that can answer some of the hardest questions in science. Last year, Google also absorbed the healthcare arm of DeepMind into its Google Health division.
Meet the CEO: Demis Hassabis was a former child chess prodigy, who by 17 co-created the smash hit video game “Theme Park.” Earning degrees in computer science and cognitive neuroscience, Hassabis would go on to found his own video game companies, and eventually started DeepMind in 2010. In 2016, The Guardian dubbed Hassabis “the superhero of artificial intelligence.”
GV CEO David Krane
What it does:GV (formerly known as Google Ventures) is Alphabet’s venture capital arm that was initially focused on funding early-stage startups. By 2015, the fund – which has $US4.5 billion under management in total – shifted its strategy to invest in more mature companies.
You might have heard of GV’s famous “design sprint,” a five-day process for designing, prototyping, and testing new ideas.
Meet the CEO: David Krane started at Google nearly 20 years ago as director of global communications and public affairs. He’s been the managing director at GV since 2014 and took over as CEO in 2016 when its founder, Bill Maris, left the firm. Some of Krane’s most notable investments at GV include Uber, Nest, and Blue Bottle Coffee.
CapitalG Founding Partner David Lawee
What it does:CapitalG (formerly known as Google Capital) is Alphabet’s growth equity fund, focused on investing in later-stage companies. The original idea for CapitalG was to give young companies access to Google’s many experts across different areas, but CapitalG says its funding runs independently of Google. Among its investments you’ll find Lyft, Airbnb, Looker, and Cloudflare.
Meet the CEO:David Lawee started at Google in late 2005 as the company’s first vice president of marketing. Later, Lawee served as Google’s VP of corporate development, where he oversaw around 100 acquisitions, including some of its most important for its ad business: AdMob and DoubleClick. Lawee was the founding partner of CapitalG in 2013.
Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth
What it does:Loon is working to bring internet access to unserved and underserved communities around the world by a network of balloons operating in the stratosphere. It celebrated its first large-scale deployment this year, bringing internet service to Kenya.
Meet the CEO: With over 30 years experience in the cellular industry, Alastair Westgarth was named Loon’s CEO in 2017 after its previous boss left after just six months on the job.
“It seemed too crazy, even for a company with a reputation for making the outlandish possible,” said Westgarth, describing the moment he first heard about the Loon project back when it was still a part of X. “Once a curious sceptic, I now have the great privilege of being the CEO of Loon, and I couldn’t be prouder of the progress the team has made,” he added.
Prior to Loon, Westgarth was the CEO of a wireless antennae company named Quintel.
Footpath Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff
What it does:Footpath Labs is Alphabet’s urban-innovation arm that hopes to use new technologies to address major urban challenges. Its first approved project was to turn Toronto’s waterfront neighbourhood, known as Quayside, into a high-tech development, but the project was shuttered in 2020. The company continues to work on projects such as factory-made mass timber construction, but has not revealed plans for any new projects as ambitious as Quayside.
Meet the CEO: Before helping found Footpath Labs in 2015, Doctoroff served as Bloomberg LP’s CEO from 2011 to 2014. Prior to his work at the news and information giant, Doctoroff was New York City’s deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. During his tenure, Doctoroff oversaw the rebuilding of the World Trade Centre and the popular High Line development.
Verily CEO Andy Conrad
What it does:Verily is Alphabet’s life-science arm, with a mission to make the world’s health data useful. So far, that’s meant the company has taken on an array of projects ranging from diabetes care to creating utensils for those with movement disorders.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the company also launched a screening and testing service. Verily landed $US1 billion in outside funding last year, and it could be one of the first Alphabet companies to go public.
Meet the CEO: Before being named Verily’s CEO in 2015, Andy Conrad served as the chief scientific officer of LabCorp – one of the world’s largest health care diagnostics companies. Conrad also helped cofound the National Genetics Institute, which created one of the first cost-effective tests for screening HIV.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik
What it does:Waymo is Alphabet’s self-driving technology company, which started as the “Google Self-Driving Car Project” back in 2009. This year, Waymo raised a total of $US3 billion for its first external funding round.
Meet the CEO: With John Krafcik at the helm since 2015, Waymo became the first company to complete a ride in a fully self-driving vehicle on public roads. It also launched Waymo One – the first commercial, autonomous ride-hailing service in the US.
Prior to Waymo, Krafcik was president of the car-buying website True Car, and had served as CEO of Hyundai Motor America for nearly a decade.
Wing CEO James Ryan Burgess
What it does:Wing is Alphabet’s drone delivery company. After initial tests in Australia, where it delivered everything from burritos and coffees to over-the-counter medications, Wing became the first drone operator to receive federal clearance in the US to start delivering packages from the sky. It’s also seen a boost in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meet the CEO: James Ryan Burgess joined Wing back in 2012 when it was still a part of Alphabet’s moonshot laboratory, X. He served in multiple leadership roles before becoming its chief executive. Prior to Wing, Burgess worked for a handful of energy and robotics startups. Today, in his free time, he’s also a pilot and paragliding instructor.
X’s Captain of Moonshots Astro Teller
What it does:X, formerly known as Google X, is Alphabet’s factory for moonshots – which is to say, ambitious projects that take years to actualize. A number of Alphabet’s “Other Bets” got their start at X, including Waymo, Wing, Loon, and Verily.
Meet the CEO: Eric “Astro” Teller has been Alphabet’s Captain of Moonshots since 2010. Prior to that, Teller had founded five companies, the last of which, BodyMedia, was acquired by Jawbone for $US100 million.
“[He thinks] farther ahead in research and business chess than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Teller’s friend and former classmate at Stanford, David Andre, once told Chicago Business.
As for why he enjoys taking on the seemingly impossible, Teller said at the South by Southwest talk back in 2013: “When you try to do something radically hard, you approach the problem differently than when you try to make something incrementally better. When you attack a problem as though it were solvable, even though you don’t know how to solve it, you will be shocked with what you come up with. It’s 100 times more worth it. It’s never 100 times harder.”