Why is Google Buying so Many Tech Startup Companies?

Most people know Google as being the world’s leading search engine – in fact, as almost being synonymous with the internet search phenomenon. So massively successful has Google been in revolutionising the search industry that people often forget that there are thousands of other search engines still out there. Before discovering Google in 2001 my own search engine of choice was Wired Magazine’s HotBot, which is still in business although I can’t remember the last time I used it!

Google has established a dominant market share because its branding is simple and effective, because its search engine is easy to use, and because it brings up relevant search results when you type in a query. They are already hugely successful and are at the top of their tree, so why are Google buying up so many Tech Startups?

Appetite for Acquisitions

Google’s appetite for techie takeovers is not a new phenomenon, their first recorded acquisition being the usenet company Deja in February 2001. However, since 2010 the pace of takeovers has stepped up several gears. Since then Google has bought out over 100 companies in the UK, USA and Canada. Twelve of these new takeovers have been absorbed into the Google fold since March 2014, with May of this year being particularly busy. To what purpose is all this brain power being used?

Artificial Intelligence

The genius of Google is to recognise the potential of search technology to revolutionise the way people shop, communicate and do business. This being said, a search engine is only as good as the algorithms and technology behind it. A look at some of Google’s recent takeovers confirm what internet marketers have known for some time; that Google’s search engine is becoming very clever indeed. In January 2014, for instance, Google bought British Tech Wizards Deepmind Technologies for $650 million, not a bad price for a company founded only three years before. Deepmind’s speciality is in artificial intelligence systems, something Google hopes to bring to bear on their mobile and voice activated search systems.

Natural Speech

The problem with robots in general and search engines in particular, is their inability to appreciate the nuances of human language. Hence the search engine’s historic dependence on clunky ‘keywords’ as vectors of search results. In December 2012 Google took on Ray Kurzweil as their Director of Engineering, a move signifying a concerted drive towards an algorithm able to identify natural speech patterns. Kurzweil is best known as an outspoken futurist and advocate of exotic ‘transhuman’ technologies, but his primary expertise is in voice recognition software; a field he pioneered in the late 1980s.

What is emerging in Google’s plan is a dual focus on cutting edge artificial intelligence and language recognition. When this is combined with some of the exciting tech ventures Google is pursuing, such as Google Glass and the Google Drive self- operating car; we discover that the primary goal of Google is intelligent robotic technology, NOT internet searches. The algorithm updates that have so annoyed SEO professionals over the last few years may be only the beginning. Google seems to be on the verge of ushering in a genuinely revolutionary overhaul of information technology and how we use the internet in our daily lives.