Google co-founder and now Alphabet CEO Larry Page has given his first major interview since the formation of Alphabet, addressing a wide range of topics which include his concerns about heading into uncharted territory with the company, privacy, Project Loon and Steve Jobs …
Speaking to Alan Murray at the Fortune Global Forum, Page said one of the challenges faced by Alphabet was that the company didn’t really have any models to follow, that no other company had tried to do so many things on such a large scale.
In terms of doing the investment, at scale, that we’re trying to do — I wish I could look at someone else and say, ‘If only we did what they’re doing’ […] I worry about that sometimes.
Page said that one difference with Alphabet is that a lot of the things the company is doing are much longer-term bets and involve more risk than things supported by most venture capital firms. He gave the example of self-driving cars, which Google committed to eight years ago.
With the company having taken flack over its approach of accessing user data to offer targeted advertising, Page argued that some current attitudes to privacy have gone too far.
We’ve gotten so hung up on privacy. We’ve actually, I think, made it illegal for a university researcher to anonymously contact you as part of your being in a genomic study.
Project Loon was close to his heart, said Page, with the potential to bring communication to parts of the world that don’t even have phone signals. Each balloon could provide smartphone coverage across hundreds of square miles, he said.
Think about how cellphones have changed your life, think about how they could change the lives of billions of people [in places without infrastructure].
Asked about Steve Jobs’ comment to him that Google was doing too many things, he said that both points of view were valid.
He was right. He did fine as well […] We’re trying to make a company for entrepreneurs [we’re trying to] think creatively.
Page said that part of why the company has its fingers in so many pies is that each time they hit a problem with an external supplier, they start wondering whether it has to be like that. He gave the example of a transformer that took a year to arrive.
Why does it take a year? Why does it have to be shipped on a train car and then a special truck? Is that really the resolution? It makes you wonder […] so ten years later, that might turn into a business.
You can watch the whole interview on YouTube.