Google may be synonymous with search, but the company is nearly as well known for its wild “moonshot” projects, like internet balloons, self-driving cars, or attempts to “cure death.”
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt kicked off the company’s 2015 shareholders meeting by defending those moonshots to investors.
Shareholders understand Google’s search and ad business, he says, but they don’t necessarily understand the other projects that the company invests in, like self-driving cars or smart contact lenses.
On past earnings calls, analysts and investors have sounded impatient when questioning how those businesses are going to ultimately pay off.
But Schmidt assured shareholders Wednesday that ambitious goals like cutting down on car crashes or measuring a diabetic’s blood sugar through their tears are the kinds of things that will ultimately make Google a long-lasting, successful company.
“Most companies ultimately fail because they do one thing very well but they don’t think of the next thing, they don’t broaden their mission, they don’t challenge themselves, they don’t continually build on that platform in one way or another,” he says. “They become incrementalists. And Google is very committed to not doing that. We understand the technological change is essentially revolutionary, not evolutionary.”
Google’s’ strategy is to focus on things that are not just relevant now but for the next generation.
Research shows that up to one-third of people are going to be diabetic by the end of our lives, Schmidt says, so anyone who doesn’t think that it’s smart contacts research matters is fooling themselves. Google is starting to license technology its researchers have created to big pharmaceutical companies, all because it first wanted to find interesting solutions to big problems.
For all the moonshot praise, though, Schmidt did also note that Google invests the majority of its money in the core business goals, like search and ads.
Schmidt wasn’t the only one defending Google’s moonshots today. In an SEC filing, cofounder Sergey Brin wrote about how he thinks these projects will continue to improve people’s lives.