Alphabet, the new parent company of Google, is the Willy Wonka factory of tech: driverless cars, Wi-Fi beaming balloons, glucose-reading contact lenses and even plans for smart cities.
If founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin can pull off all those so-called “moon shots,” they’ll certainly deliver a future full of intrigue.
But innovation isn’t easy — or cheap.
On Monday, CFO Ruth Porat gave us our first real glimpse into the operations behind those projects, including how much they’re costing the search engine giant.
Sales from the moon shots, which Alphabet calls “Other Bets,” are up 37 percent in the last year to $448 million. But losses from those experimental projects (minus stock based compensation) nearly doubled to $3.07 billion in the 12 months ended December 31.
“We’re excited about the opportunities we have across Google and Other Bets to use technology to improve the lives of billions of people,” Porat said in a statement.
The company also added more than 8,200 employees to its workforce, bring the total to 61,814. That’s up 15 percent from last year.
In August, Google cofounder Page dropped a bombshell when he announced that he and Brin were reorganizing the company they founded 18 years ago. Alphabet is a holding company, with nine semi-independent companies tucked into it. They include the ad-driven Google search engine business, as well as more nascent efforts such as smart devices company Nest, life sciences firm Verily and X, home of more speculative experiments like self-driving cars.
Google’s Internet services — the bread and butter of its portfolio that includes its search engine, YouTube and Android mobile software — is still on top. That’s crucial because Google’s earnings are the sole reason Alphabet can afford to experiment with so many other projects.
In total, fourth-quarter sales rose 18 percent to $21.3 billion, Alphabet said in a statement. Profit, minus some costs, was $8.67 a share. Analysts were expecting $20.77 billion in sales and earnings of $8.09 per share.
Investors seemed happy with the results. As the stock rose more than 5 percent in after-hours trading, the company’s market cap topped $554 billion, turning Alphabet into the most highly valued company in the world. Up until today, the title has belonged to Apple, which is valued at about $541 billion.
So far, the companies that make up Alphabet include: Google, Nest, X, Verily, venture firms GV and Google Capital and Access, which develops the company’s high speed Internet service, Fiber. There’s also Calico, which focuses on human aging, and Sidewalk Labs, which takes on urban planning.
Most of the Alphabet divisions are still in their very early stages. The exception is Nest, which Google bought in 2014 for more than $3 billion. Nest, which makes Internet-connected thermostats and smoke detectors, has become the model for how an Alphabet company should run, according to a person familiar with the matter.
One of the main reasons for the Alphabet restructuring — aside from giving investors more insight into what’s making money and what’s not — was to attract more entrepreneurs, Page said in November. “Trying to make a company for entrepreneurs is something we’re striving for.”