Google’s plans to bolster its cloud computing business by buying data analytics startup Looker for $2.6 billion.
The deal, announced Thursday, is the biggest move so far under Google[/f500link] Cloud chief Thomas Kurian. He joined Google earlier this year to establish Google’s cloud unit as a formidable rival against larger cloud computing companies like Amazon and Microsoft.
Analysts have long questioned Google’s ability to sell technology services to businesses. While the company has long offered email, word processing tools, and other workplace software, it has struggled to take market share from bigger enterprise companies.
The significant size of the latest deal implies that Google intends to make a bigger push into the enterprise market, on top of Kurian’s recent plans to hire more salespeople and target specific industries like retail and finance. In February, Google said that it would acquire a smaller enterprise software startup Alooma for an undisclosed amount.
The deal is Google’s fourth biggest acquisition ever, behind the $3.1 billion acquisition of online ad-serving company DoubleClick in 2007, the $3.2 billion purchase of home technology company Nest in 2014, and the $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility in 2012.
Looker gained prominence in recent years as a business analytics tool that lets customers gather and examine trends in corporate data that may be stored in multiple third-party databases and cloud computing services. In December, Looker raised $103 million at a valuation of $1.5 billion from investors like PremjiInvest, Google’s growth equity fund CapitalG, and Founders Circle Capital, according to deal tracking service PitchBook.
Kurian said that Looker customers would still be able to store and analyze corporate data in third-party services sold by competitors such as Salesforce, Amazon, Microsoft, and Oracle, where Kurian once worked for over 20 years. He pitched Looker as complimentary to Google’s so-called hybrid cloud strategy, which involves Google ensuring that its technology works with rival cloud companies and the internal data centers of its customers.
Kurian brushed off any potential antitrust issues with the company’s latest deal, saying that the service competes with several other business analytics tools and that Google is “not buying any data along with this transaction.”
Companies like Microsoft and Amazon sell similar business analytics tools as well as younger companies like Domo and Tableau, which went public in 2018 and 2013, respectively.
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Kurian declined to elaborate on how Google will integrate Looker’s technology with its own services, only to say that Google will “announce our roadmap once we get regulatory approval.”
Kurian did say that Google would likely integrate some of its machine-learning technology with Looker’s business analytics tool. Google could use its natural language processing technology, which lets computers understand text and speech, to make it possible for customers to ask the tool questions in “multiple languages,” presumably using their voice or by manually typing queries.
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