We are used to asking Google for answers and Google maps for directions when we are lost. Google’s parent company Alphabet has a market cap of approximately $544 billion, making it one of the most precious companies in the world. Apple is ahead at $617 billion. Microsoft with a market capitalisation of $486 billion is in the third spot.
Alphabet's largest subsidiary is Google. But Alphabet is home to a dozen innovative companies. Look at the company that is simply called X, which runs “moonshot” projects. Google X chooses to focus on the future as it chooses what problems to solve. In keeping their innovation projects in-house, they use their massive cash reserves to focus on problems that would not get venture capital funds or those that have very long time horizons.
The X lab works very hard to turn these moonshots into commercially viable projects. In the recent times, they have graduated three projects from the lab to the real world. These projects are expected to generate revenue and in a reasonable time expect to be profitable. DeepMind, once a moonshot project about Artificial Intelligence, is now building industrial scale neural networks. The Life Sciences project is now a company called Verily. They are working on contact lenses that will allow people with diabetes to constantly check their glucose levels using a non-intrusive method.
The most recent graduate of the moonshot lab has been named Waymo. The company will work on self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are already visible in Austin, Phoenix, and Palo Alto in the US. China is building lanes for driverless cars. Uber is investing heavily in driverless cars in Seattle. GM and Ford are investing in self-driving cars. This technology is exploding and will disrupt our lives faster than we think.
All of us manage a portfolio of skills just the way a company like Alphabet manages its portfolio of companies. There are some valuable lessons to be learned here.
Being able to build deep expertise in your current job is a great way to secure your current assignment. The moonshot is about the future and they take time. With all the disruptions coming our way, several traditional jobs will be taken over by robots. After all, the elevators today no long need a lift operator. Automation has taken away that job.
The biggest lesson from Alphabet is that you can be the world’s best at your current job and still find time to carry on a dozen Moonshot projects.