At the time of the split, Page said that part of the Alphabet model is to have strong CEOs running each Other Bet. Then, about a year after Alphabet’s formation, a string of key executives left the company.
As one former Other Bets executive described it to CNBC, the structure can be grating for leaders who are CEOs in title, but still dependent on the real CEO — Page — for financials and big-picture approvals.
For example, Access, the division which houses Alphabet’s Fiber internet efforts, was once one of the company’s most audacious projects, but it has been significantly scaled back under Alphabet in both ambition and budget. A former Access executive told CNBC that the tightening of the purse strings wasn’t directed by chief financial officer Ruth Porat, but due to decreased interest from the founders.
“Beware their changing whims,” this person said.
Although Alphabet companies are separate, the powers of their CEOs aren’t equal to what they’d be at truly independent companies.
The compromise clearly hasn’t mattered to all of the Other Bets CEOs — several have retained the same leaders since the split. And there have been successes: Investments from Alphabet’s venture arms are paying off, life sciences company Verily seems to be chugging along (it gets highlighted for reeling in revenue alongside Access during earnings calls), and the research lab X recently launched two new companies — Wing, which makes delivery drones, and Loon, which makes high-altitude balloons that deliver internet access to the ground. But, still, it’s easy to argue that these days, working on non-Google project at Alphabet isn’t as sexy as it used to be.