Why Google, Not Apple, Purchased Nest: 7 Facts You May Not Know About Google's $3.2 Billion Acquisition

 @ryanWneal on January 14 2014 12:57 PM
Google Buys Nest
Nest co-founders Matt Rogers and Tony Fadell standing with Google CEO Larry Page (middle). Nest

The announcement Monday afternoon that Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) had purchased Nest Labs for a whopping $3.2 billion came as a surprise to most in the technology industry and raised a lot of questions.

Will Google now collect data about customers' offline habits through Nest’s connected thermostats and smoke detectors? What is Nest getting out of the deal? Who profited the most from the acquisition?

Were any other companies trying to purchase Nest? After all, Nest’s co-founders, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, both worked at Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). Fadell is even known as the “father of the iPod” for leading the original team that created Apple’s revolutionary product and helped change Apple’s direction as a company in the early 2000s.

With so much in common with Apple products, many suspected that Apple would purchase Nest Labs. Especially with Apple continually talking about the “Internet of Things,” meaning everyday appliances made smarter by connecting to the Internet. Did Google just beat Apple to the buy, or was Apple not even interested?

Here are 7 things you might not know about the $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest.

1.       Purchasing Companies Like Nest Just Isn’t Apple’s Style

Unlike Google, Apple doesn’t tend to acquire companies with an end product already designed. Apple likes to have control of the product and keep its plans secret. Purchasing a company like Nest, with products already designed and a specific hardware goal in mind, would reveal a bit too much for Apple’s liking. Apple is more likely to continue purchasing software startups, like its recent acquisitions Snappylabs and Topsy.

2.       Google Wants To Be On Ground Floor Of Next Big Thing

A key takeaway from the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show was that the tech community is less interested in faster phones and higher-resolution TVs, and much more concerned with wearable technology and connected devices like Nest’s smart thermostat and smoke detector. By purchasing Nest, Google now has Fadell’s proven design and innovation skills to design new gadgets under the Google banner. The next revolutionary consumer electronics device could very well be a Google product.

3.       Nest Is More Than Just Cool Devices

Wired points out that there is great value in the network Nest creates between its devices. The Nest Learning Thermostat improves itself based on the comings and goings of the customer, and uses this data to improve Nest devices throughout the country. It’s a growing infrastructure of sensors aimed at anticipating what people want.

Giving Google, a company built around creating value from the Web, access to this network allows Google to move offline in a new way. It also allows Google to apple Nest’s capabilities to its other projects, such as its massive investments in producing green energy.

4.       How Google Can Use That Offline Network

As soon as Google announced that it purchased Nest, people took to Twitter to express fears that the company would use the devices to collect data about people’s offline lives. Google has promised to let Nest continue to operate as an independent company and Nest said its privacy policy will not change, but it seems impossible to think Google will just ignore this data completely. The company finally has a way to collect information offline, and that’s valuable data for advertisers -- Google’s primary customers.

While it probably won’t start advertising sweaters when a house is cold or fire extinguishers if there is a fire, Google has proven its ability to turn information and connections into profit. It’s just a matter of time before it develops an algorithm to pair our offline and online actions.

5.       Tony Fadell Can Get Back To Designing

Nest was growing fast even before the Google acquisition, with recent investments valuing the company at $2 billion. Fadell, an engineer and designer at heart, was occupied as a CEO with taking care of offices, tax codes and manufacturing. With Google set to take over those parts of running a business, Fadell can return to his bread-and-butter. He already designed one device that at once changed the entire portable electronics industry and the record industry. With an unoccupied brain and the resources of Google, there’s no telling what Fadell can create next.

6.       Venture Capitalists Getting Rich

Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, an early investor in Nest, is reportedly making a 20x return with the Google deal. The firm reportedly invested $20 million in Nest, meaning the Google purchase is helping the company pull in $40 million.

Shasta Ventures also reportedly invested $250 million between Nest’s first two rounds of funding. The Google deal has returned “almost all” of that, according to TechCrunch.

7.       Google’s Investment In Nest Paid Off

That $3.2 billion price tag should come with an asterisk. Google Ventures, Google’s venture capital investment arm, invested in Nest’s Series B round of funding. While the exact amount is unknown, Google Ventures will clearly get a sizeable return on that investment. 

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