By professional estimates, Google is at least 50% of the way down the road into becoming a super entity like Skynet was in the Terminator movies. The young search engine company that was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998 began as a very well designed search engine, but eventually grew into a multinational corporation specializing in internet and internet-related products. They branched out into mobile phones, GPS software, full fledged operating systems with specific hardware to match, and a slew of other sectors. Along the way, Google has become one of the most influential and powerful corporations on the face of the earth. Google’s power comes from its massive user base. The sheer amount of people that use their services means Google is sitting on incredibly detailed and extensive amounts of data about their users’ search habits, location histories, and other juicy tidbits.
What they do with that information is a story for another day, but there’s no doubt that Google has a tremendous foothold in our lives. Most of those Google services that we couldn’t live without didn’t actually start from within the company. In fact, most of the key Google products started out as competitors. Google’s management has displayed a keen ability to scout upcoming startup companies and determine which ones could be bought out and re-introduced under the Google banner. Sometimes they were ideas that no one within Google had on their radar, but whose acquisition would be instrumental in Google’s future growth.
The future of Google, perhaps more than any other corporation of comparable size, is bound to its merger and acquisition activity. The blueprint for Google’s future is therefore visible for all to see, and it can be found in the acquisition history of today. Without further ado, let’s take a look at Google’s 10 best acquisitions.
#10 Where 2 Technologies – Unknown Price
Accurate figures for the buyout price of Where 2 Technologies – a digital mapping company founded by Danish brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen – are hard to come by, since the final sale happened 11 years ago in 2003. Still, the importance of this acquisition cannot be understated. Where 2 Technologies was the foundation for a key component of Google’s product portfolio – Google Maps. Once the acquisition was complete the Rasmussen brothers were officially Google employees, with all the resources and perks that the job entails. They refined their mapping service with a new team and gradually created the Google Maps system as we know it today. Much of the early functionality and aesthetic of the service was created and overseen by the Rasmussen brothers themselves, which goes to show that sometimes you get to sell out and eat your cake too.
#9 Applied Semantics – $102,000,000
Applied Semantics is probably their unsexiest but most important acquisition in company history. For $102 million – the most expensive Google acquisition in history at the time of the sale in 2003 – Google purchased what would become their Google AdSense program. You may be familiar with AdWords, which are the ads that pop up above and below your Google searches. AdSense is essentially a service where websites allow Google ads to appear on their pages, and in doing so get a slice of the revenue. Together, AdWords and AdSense make up the bulk of Google’s multi-billion-dollar revenue. Despite all of the flashy products and hype around products like Google Glass, their bread and butter is still ad revenue. Without the Applied Semantics acquisition, Google would look like a remarkably different company.
#8 Wavii – $30,000,000
Seattle based startup Wavii was acquired by Google quite recently, a little over a year ago in April 2013. Wavii was a service that allowed its users to follow certain topics – sports teams, stock information, celebrity gossip – and get updates on those topics delivered to their phone in real time. Wavii uses advanced natural language processing and machine learning to comb through the web and create quick summaries of news by ‘reading’ new articles and other sources of information published to the web. It then creates a concise summary of the news surrounding the topic that the user is interested in. Upon acquiring Wavii, Google discontinued the application and website, choosing to integrate the technology within their own Google services – presumedly with a focus on Google Now, which functions much like Wavii did.
#7 Bump – $30,000,000
Bump was a novel concept, if only for its simplicity. It was a file sharing service that specialized in transferring data between mobile phones, but it did so in a unique way. Instead of using NFC (near field communication) technology to communicate between the devices, Bump shared files through the cloud. Users would select the files to transfer and then – quite literally – bump their phones together. The phones then send information back to the Bump servers detailing the sensor data about the collision, recorded using the phone’s internal sensors. If the impact details match, the file is then transferred from the sender’s mobile phone to the Bump servers, then from those servers to the recipient’s mobile phone – in seconds. It was a novel concept that Google was interested in acquiring, which they did in 2013. Google discontinued Bump as a separate application, but the Bump technology and development team will be altered for use within Google products.
#6 Waze – $966,000,000
Waze is a GPS navigation service – in the same vein as Google Maps – that was acquired by Google in 2013. Founded by Israeli software engineers in 2008, Waze had a unique approach to mapping that incorporated real time social data uploaded by its users. This gave Waze unique characteristics compared to most mapping services, such as the ability for users to identify police speed traps and traffic jams that would instantly be overlaid on the map for all other users to see. Google clearly believed that the technology was valuable, since they spared no expense in their near $1 billion buyout. Waze still operates as an independent service outside of the Google product bubble, but they are wholly owned by Google.
#5 Skybox Imaging – $500,000,000
The purchase of Skybox Imaging is another instance of Google thinking big. The young California based company specializes in offering live, high resolution satellite imagery for analytical purposes. Thanks to the satellite fleet of high quality cameras that Skybox has in space, they can capture HD video of virtually any location on earth. One of the main selling points behind Skybox is their ability to provide analytics for physical transportation and supply chain management anywhere on earth, a service they believe can revolutionize various industries. Google apparently felt the same way, since they shelled out $500,000,000 a few weeks ago to take control of the young company. With Google’s funding, Skybox’s ambitious goals come one step closer to reality and towards a future where anyone and anything can be tracked – in HD – from space.
#4 Boston Dynamics – $500,000,000
Like Skybox Imaging, the acquisition of Boston Dynamics is an example of Google making a step towards science fiction-inspired technology. Boston Dynamics is an engineering and robotics company that – prior to Google’s acquisition – was already quite famous on the internet. The company made videos of their prototypes and uploaded them on YouTube for the world to see, and – depending on whether or not you believed a future robot uprising is inevitable – are either terrifying or amazing. The Boston Dynamic prototypes include a humanoid robot that can walk and jump, and a dog-sized robot that can reach running speeds faster than a human. These videos really have to be seen to be believed, but we’ve included one above for reference. It doesn’t take much to see the kind of value this technology could hold, but it’s interesting to see that Google is taking an interest in being humanity’s main supplier of our future robot servants-turned-rulers.
#3 Nest – $3,200,000,000
Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest sent shockwaves through the tech world. Google already has statistics about their users’ search and mobile habits – but what about when they’re at home relaxing? Nest is a company focused on the creation of the ‘smart home’. They specialize in creating products that integrate with each other to create the automated home of the future. Thus far they’ve created smart thermostats and smart carbon monoxide detectors, products with software that analyzes user habits and adjusts themselves accordingly, but they have an eye toward a much more spectacular vision of the home of the future. Google bought into that vision – quite literally – and have taken their first step into the homes of their users through their acquisition of Nest.
#2 YouTube – $1,650,000,000
In retrospect, the 2006 purchase of YouTube for $1.65 billion might as well have been a bargain bin sale. In a world where WhatsApp is sold to Facebook for $17 billion, acquiring YouTube – the world’s biggest video sharing service – for a fraction of that price is a steal. YouTube’s prominence hasn’t declined since Google purchased it, in fact it’s only become more popular. Approximately 100 hours of video are uploaded to the YouTube servers every single minute, and it’s become the dominant video platform for an entire generation of people all across the world. Honestly, do you need any more convincing that this was a good purchase? We all use YouTube, some of us every single day. Whichever one of Google’s M&A employees orchestrated this deserves a pat on the back and a job for life.
#1 Android – $50,000,000
Okay, so buying YouTube for $1.65 billion is undisputedly a steal; buying Android for $50,000,000 is highway robbery. The ubiquitous mobile OS that Google has pioneered wasn’t even originally developed from within the company. Google purchased the then-unknown brand in 2005, with many people speculating they were going to use Android to enter the mobile phone industry. In 2007, Google unveiled the Android OS to the world – and announced that it would be open source. This meant that anyone could develop for Android, or make any changes to the Android source code, without going through the hassle of getting legal permission. This decision revolutionized the mobile phone industry forever. Today, Android has the biggest slice of the mobile OS market. Android phones outsell both iOS and Windows Phone devices combined, and 71% of all mobile developers create products for Android. Global smartphone domination for only $50,000,000; not a bad deal.