By launching an in-house incubator designated for its employees, Google has found a compelling way to keep its top talent from looking sideways.
The incubator, called ‘Area 120,’ will allow company employees that with bigger ambitions than being salaried employees to develop their ideas with Google’s funding and support (and yes, specifically Google, not Alphabet). Google also provides the option that it can become an investor in the employee’s startup further down the road.
The Information reports that Don Harrison and Bradley Horowitz, both long time executives in the company, will head this program.
The logical extension of the “80/20” rule
The Area 120 incubator is expected to work as follows: In the initial stage, teams within Google will submit their business plans and apply to join Area 120. If the incubator’s managers deem the project worthy, the teams will be able to abandon their regular tasks and work full-time on their new projects for several months. At the end of the dedicated full-time entrepreneurial period, each team will be given the opportunity to present (or more accurately sell) their idea to Google. In a best case scenario, the teams get further investment that will eventually allow them to start their own separate, Google-funded company.
The incubator’s name harkens to Google’s old “80/20” rule; In the past, Google declared that it would allow its employees to devote 20% of their time to personal projects they were truly interested in. A few examples of the 20% agenda that you have surely heard of are Gmail and AdSense. With this precedent, it is not surprising that Google is allowing its employees to develop new startups within the company. Otherwise, it could miss opportunities for products guaranteed to have a bright future.
While not much else is known about Google’s new incubator, several sources report that the incubator will operate out of Google’s San Francisco offices rather than Google’s Mountain View Campus.
Ultimately, it seems that the purpose of Google’s new move is to prevent its promising talent from starting their own companies and turning to private investors. All the while, Google gets to make a few more bucks from projects that may likely succeed.