Here’s what Alphabet’s non-Google business models are going to look like
In August, Google (GOOG) co-founder Larry Page made a surprise announcement that the search giant would soon be a part of a holding company called Alphabet. That probably won’t mean much for its core advertising business, which already rakes in $59 billion a year. But its impact on Google’s other businesses is an open question. Investors will see what the non-search divisions together are making (or losing), and that could put pressure on some of the further-afield enterprises to turn a profit, or at least solidify business models that don’t rely on ads. Here, our take on what those models could look like.
Google’s goal to bring faster broadband to the U.S. has already borne fruit. It currently operates in Austin, Kansas City, and Provo, Utah, with at least six other cities set to launch soon. The service gives the company another touch point for Internet users, and former Google CFO Patrick Pichette has said Fiber is a profitable business. Already other network giants like AT&T (T) and Comcast (CMCSA) are launching their own gigabit fiber services in select cities.
Top geneticists, molecular biologists, and doctors are working at Calico to figure out a way to extend human life, or in Google parlance, “solve” death. If it works it has obvious commercial prospects, but the company has so far been hush-hush about the business model. A clue? Last year it signed a $1.5 billion R&D partnership with pharmaceutical company AbbVie (ABBV) to create new treatments with the drug giant.
Nest has tripled its employee count to 1,000 since Google bought it last year for $3.2 billion. The connected-home company makes money selling hardware (connected thermostats go for $249), as well as leasing cloud storage for videos from Nest Cam, its home-security camera. And it still has plenty of room to grow: Potential future services range from more expansive storage plans to working with insurance firms that want to make sure their customers’ smoke alarms are working.
Google has two investment arms: Google Ventures, which was created in 2009, has backed more than 300 companies, with a notable early investment in Uber. Google Capital, its growth equity fund, focuses on later-stage companies and has stakes in SurveyMonkey, Glassdoor, and Crowdstrike. The creators of Google Ventures and Google Capital, Bill Maris and David Lawee, respectively, are likely to lead them as Alphabet subsidiaries.
Self-driving cars, glucose-monitoring contact lenses, and other “moonshots” reside in Google X, which makes this the company’s biggest money pit—and biggest potential jackpot. Its chief, Astro Teller, has said that tech it developed for Google already generates enough cash to cover the lab’s expenses, and future revenue streams could include licensing and partnerships. But much to investors’ chagrin, making money never seemed like the primary goal.
A version of this article appears in the September 1, 2015 issue of Fortune magazine with the headline “A Look at Google’s Plan B … and C and D.”