Rare public talk from Google co-founder sees Project Loon hailed and more details on Alphabet, which Page says will foster an entrepreneurial spirit
Google co-founder and Alphabet chief executive Larry Page drew attention to the conglomerate’s communications efforts using weather balloons and said his company’s recent restructure was intended to help draw entrepreneurial talent during a question-and-answer session in San Francisco on Monday.
The talk was Page’s first appearance since Google restructured into Alphabet, an umbrella company that includes the flagship Google web properties as well as newer efforts such as driverless cars, a health research unit and connected home devices maker Nest.
Page rarely appears in public, largely due to a chronic medical condition that affects his vocal cords. Page co-founded Google with Stanford classmate Sergey Brin in 1998, nearly two decades ago.
Page highlighted Project Loon, which aims to connect users to the Internet with weather balloon-based signals, and other Alphabet efforts to develop communications infrastructure.
“Think about how having your cell phone work anywhere in the world could change your life,” he told the Fortune Global Forum.
Alphabet said last week it would begin testing Project Loon balloons in Indonesia, following tests in New Zealand, Brazil and California since 2013.
Page said he hopes the Alphabet restructuring will make it easier for the company to develop next-generation products and services. One of Alphabet’s units is Google X, which develops unusual “moonshot” projects.
Besides Google itself, Alphabet includes the company’s forays into wearable computing, fibre-optic Internet networks and other areas, which can be formed into units of Alphabet, giving them a distinct identity while remaining part of the overall group.
He said he hoped the structure would give entrepreneurs the incentive to try to achieve great things.
“My job is to create that scale we haven’t quite seen from other companies,” Page said. “I want to push the envelope for what’s possible for an innovative company with large resources.”
He said Alphabet was intended to operate somewhat like a venture capital firm, and compared it to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
Alphabet includes venture capital unit Google Ventures and Google Capital, which invests in larger IT companies.
Page credited Google co-founder Brin with naming Alphabet.
“It’s only fair because I chose ‘Google,'” Page said.
Are you a Google expert? Take our quiz!