David Lawee was asked yesterday while on a panel at TC50 about exit strategies what the most successful acquisitions that Google has done to date. His answer was insightful and I think quite candid, he pointed out Keyhole, Urchin, and
WrightleyWritely and in each case referenced how the company was able to retain the people and then transform a part of their business with the acquisition. BTW, if you ever get a chance to meet Lawee you will find him to be one of the nicest people at Google, an attribute which no doubt helps the company tremendously when doing M&A deals.
Google has done a pretty extensive laundry list of deals over the years, I found this list on Wikipedia (found using Google, what else?). Interesting to note that Android could well prove to be a defining acquisition when the history book is written, but we’ll have to wait and see on that one.
Keyhole and Urchin are dramatic examples,
WrightleyWritely to a lesser degree because Google Apps hasn’t changed the market landscape and Google Docs, being just one part of Apps, is rather poorly integrated into other services (although that is changing). However, it would be hard to argue that Google Maps and Google Analytics don’t represent seminal events in our industry, they are standard bearers and in each case they upended the existing market by going to free for what were previously expensive products, and by dramatically expanding the distribution at competitor’s expense.
Interestingly, Youtube was not talked about much and I believe this is indicative of the challenges that Google has had making this work. Youtube is fantastically successful from a traffic standpoint, not so much so from a monetization perspective nor from the perspective of impacting other Google products. Given the amount of money that Google paid for Youtube and it’s then very small team, it would be hard to argue that they didn’t set themselves up for a few very high hurdles to clear before generating a return on this investment. The fact that there are so many streaming video services available only further reinforces the view that this was not a transformative event in Google’s history, at least not so far.
Lastly, I was shocked that David didn’t bring up Applied Semantics, which could be argued is the goose that laid the golden egg at Google. But then again, I don’t think Google likes for anyone to point out that core search and contextual advertising was anything but developed by Google brains.