Google promises $100s of millions to fund living longer technologies: report

Google promises $100s of millions to fund living longer technologies: report

Summary: It's more than about aging — it's about retaining top talent at Google.

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TOPICS: Google
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Fortune senior editor Dan Primack recently returned from a visit to Silicon Valley and he reports new details on the Calico venture that is funding technologies extending human life spans.

He reports that Calico, co-founded by Bill Maris, managing partner at Google Ventures, had commitments of investment from wealthy tech execs and venture capitalists, but that Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page decided to fund the venture entirely from Google's balance sheet: New details on Google's anti-aging startup

Maris began raising money, largely from wealthy tech executives and venture capitalists. One of those Maris called on was Google co-founder and director of special projects Sergey Brin, who expressed interest in investing. But as conversations progressed between Brin, Maris and Google CEO Larry Page, a consensus began to form that the best course of action would be to fund the entire project off of Google's balance sheet (the board would later agree).

I have heard various numbers as to the exact Google commitment, but for now can only really say that we're talking about a minimum of hundreds of millions (tranched out, of course). The company itself still isn't commenting, although it's possible that there will be some specifics in its next quarterly earnings report (due next week).

How is this venture part of Google's mission to index the world's information? Some might argue that DNA is information, too. However, creating drugs and life-extension technologies isn't an index and it's not what Google's shareholders chose to invest in.

Developing drugs and medical equipment is incredibly capital intensive and risky. It will bite into Google's profitability.

It already has to absorb large losses from CEO Larry Page's $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility two years ago, which last quarter resulted in half it's workforce being cut with the loss of 5,400 jobs.

However, the founders' control the voting shares and the board of directors — there's not much that common shareholders can do about it other than take their money out.

The Calico venture could have been funded by Silicon Valley's wealthy elite. Primack reports that Maris had succeeded in persuading many wealthy tech execs and VCs to invest, and both Google founders were considering using their own wealth to invest. However, they decided it'd be better to use Google's money rather than their own.

I think the reason might be that Google has plans to use the life extension technologies as an employment retention scheme to stop valuable software engineers from leaving the company.

Earlier this year at a Commonwealth Club Inforum event, Todd Carlisle, Director of Staffing at Google, said: "What if where you worked resulted in you being able to live a lot longer? "You might never leave the company," he said.

A talented software engineer is immensely valuable to Google's competitors because they can scale their work across an immensely large web services platform.

Google's interests are strongly focused on keeping the best talent at Google — even if they aren't working on essentail projects — because that denies them to competitors.

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18 comments
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  • Who wants to work for Google forever?

    what good is "life extention" when it means having to work even longer for Google?
    William.Farrel
    • They pay well.

      And as I understand, working there is rather fun.
      jessepollard
    • you'd prefer dancing monkeys and people that laugh at iphones then...

      try desperately to copy them. After doing the exact same thing with the ipod/zune.

      so in essence you'd like to work for a company that never has a clue until everyone else gets it one?

      Not all of us are Microsoft shills William.
      frankieh
  • It's not about working more years

    It's all about retention.

    Like he said: "You might never leave the company,"
    mack.
  • that looks like a very very expensive retention plan

    besides, will the guys have to stop speeding and drinking, and trade hamburgers for carrots, for that technology to work?
    ForeverSPb
  • Share

    Will they share the findings with humanity or put a label on it and sell. It is more about money making.
    rhasce
    • chuckle... likely it will be made GPLv3...

      And thus not available to Microsoft or Apple... :)
      jessepollard
  • Google Forever!?

    It's funny that Google seems to always spend money in the millions here and there. Does Google see themselves with unlimited fundings? Where Apple seems to keep stashing their money away like Mr Burns/Scrooge McDuck.
    lares3k
    • don't be evil?

      Google is trying to diversify and help man kind i guess. huge green initiatives, mining asteroids for resources, self driving cars.. none are likely to make billions any time soon, but they keep doing it.. so they must have some altruistic reason for doing it.
      frankieh
  • 432 years experience required

    All you aspiring authors out there need to get to work on a sci-fi book about a secretive high tech company said to be populated by immortals.
    Robert Hahn
    • Robert Heinlein

      Everyone should read "Methuselah's Children"
      calfee20
  • Back Pain and Arthritis

    I'd rather see the money spent on back pain and arthritis. No point in living longer if you're suffering.
    kurio99
  • Ray Kurzweil

    This is why Ray Kurzweil was hired personally by Larry and Sergei.
    He is a world renowned expert in this field and Google is given him the funds to realize his dreams of 'solving' ageing and subsequent death, before the end of his natural lifespan.
    Good luck to him and them.
    garry@...
  • Employment retention scheme?!? That's a whole lotta BS!!!

    Employee retention is not what Google would be after in this wasteful venture.

    Hoping that employees will see value in slowing aging or living longer, won't work, because, it won't be able to be proven that someone lived 1 or 2 or even5+ years longer via the research and application of it.

    The biggest reason that it's just BS, is that, people become less productive as they age, and they also get very bored staying in the same work environment for many years. In addition, people who are ambitious and feel the entrepreneur spirit in them, won't be swayed by the promise of living a little bit longer, especially when the promise of living longer won't be able to be proven. If the research were to be fruitful, it would be a "benefit" in the future, and not so much in the present or near future. So, that benefit won't be applicable to the present workforce at Google, and thus, the claim that it could be an employee retention scheme is worthless.

    The best employee retention scheme that any company can devise, is great salaries, great benefits packages, promotions, free housing, free meals, early retirement with great pensions (thereby invalidating longer life as an employee retention scheme), stock options that could make them wealthy, education that improves employee career options, and many others.

    Calico is a way for childish minds in charge of Google, to look innovative and forward looking. Plus, it's quite easy spending other people's money when you won't be held responsible when things go wrong with a new venture. Other people's money is the investors' money, and the investors themselves believe Google to be innovative and cool, so, they keep expecting Google to eventually show a good return on their investments.

    But, Google is well-known to also throw a lot of stuff at the wall to see what sticks, and they've had a lot of failures and a few hits, like Android is a hit. Essentially, Google will support Calico for a few months, perhaps a year or two, but it will eventually be dropped as another failure. Besides, extended life research is something that has been ongoing for centuries and especially in the recent past, at universities and drug manufacturers. People have been living longer in the last 100 years, and now, it's not surprising that there are so many living to 90 years and longer. The problem with living longer, is the quality of life, where people might be living longer, but with health problems and at places for the elderly, such as assisted living facilities.

    The biggest problem for Google is that, the talent they get, won't be wanting to be working for them when they get into their 50s, and Google itself will be trading most of them for younger and hungrier talent in their 20s. So, the promise of extended life is nothing but a promise which won't be kept.
    adornoe
  • Google is back up is cr+p

    Personally, I don't think I would like to work their, as they start projects but never complete them, their customer service is non existent, and as I have a good reputation, I would not like to to be joked or laughed at by my colleagues, by working with 2nd class company.
    Example, Google Earth there are many places not yet completed, in Philippines yeah I know for the Americans its not the centre of the world, but still it exists, live with it.
    It has been scanned, most areas have not been cleared up yet, and this is from 11 years ago...
    CS? yeah ask anyone with a problem with GE, or the Diary with all the problems they have, nobody from technical actually gets involved in helping, its always volunteers !!!!
    So you see, Google is not that good, and if they want to put money in then fine, but ask them to be involved with a project, then forget it. And you want to work for this company??? where is your pride? or is it just the USA way of doing things!!!!
    jnieurzyla
  • Google's back up is cr+p

    Personally, I don't think I would like to work their, as they start projects but never complete them, their customer service is non existent, and as I have a good reputation, I would not like to to be joked or laughed at by my colleagues, by working with 2nd class company.
    Example, Google Earth there are many places not yet completed, in Philippines yeah I know for the Americans its not the centre of the world, but still it exists, live with it.
    It has been scanned, most areas have not been cleared up yet, and this is from 11 years ago...
    CS? yeah ask anyone with a problem with GE, or the Diary with all the problems they have, nobody from technical actually gets involved in helping, its always volunteers !!!!
    So you see, Google is not that good, and if they want to put money in then fine, but ask them to be involved with a project, then forget it. And you want to work for this company??? where is your pride? or is it just the USA way of doing things!!!!
    jnieurzyla
  • And bigger profits for Google as well....

    .... You don't think for a moment that if they do develop something that' practical, that they're not going to make it their next cash cow? Google will become the 1000 lb gorilla that Apple and Microsoft could only have dreamed of becoming. Not that it matters that much. None of that's going to benefit anyone but the plutocracy. Because they'll be the only ones who can afford it.
    lazarx
    • The competition already exists, and that competiton has been at it

      a lot longer than the Calico project.

      Google just wants to look cool and innovative, and I'm pretty sure they don't expect any return on their investment with Calico. Like I said before, it just goes to prove that, wasting other people's money is very easy, and the investors should be "peesed" at how Google management is wasting investors' money.

      BTW, with government already way into taking over all healthcare matters, whatever Calico or any other research company comes up with that is beneficial to consumers/patients, would be very likely taken over by government. So, no, Google would not see much benefit from their "research".
      adornoe