Google Launches Sidewalk Labs to Fix City Life with Tech

June 11, 2015

4:00 pm

Breaking: Sidewalk Labs to be led by Dan Doctoroff, former New York Deputy Mayor of Economic Development and Bloomberg CEO.

Yesterday, Google CEO Larry Page announced the launch of Sidewalk Labs, an urban innovation company based in New York.


According to their press release, Sidewalk Labs will “develop technology at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds, with a focus on improving city life for residents, businesses and governments.”

In a post published on Google+, Page stated that “Sidewalk will focus on improving city life for everyone by developing and incubating urban technologies to address issues like cost of living, efficient transportation and energy usage. To do this, Sidewalk will focus on new partnerships, products, and platforms that focus on each of these areas.”

“Making long-term, 10X bets like this is hard for most companies to do, but Sergey and I have always believed that it’s important,” stated Page. “And as more and more people around the world live, work and settle in cities, the opportunities for improving our urban environments are endless.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Google used a similar approach when launching Calico in 2013, an independent research and development biotech company. Their mission is to research and better understand aging and the diseases associated with it. Like Sidewalk Labs, Calico is an entirely separate company from Google and run by someone outside of the organization. In Calico’s case, it is being led by former Apple Chairman Arthur Levinson.

Times Square New York

Due to the nature of these long-term research organizations, it is unclear where Sidewalk Labs will begin. However, Page stated “so it helps to start from first principles and get a big-picture view of the many factors that affect city life,” which alludes to an initial analysis and research period prior to forming partnerships or creating products.

Page also did not make a clear distinction why Google decided to form a new organization, rather than adding it to their lineup such as Google[x]. One may make the distinction that of the public information that has been released about products and concepts coming out of Google[x] that they are directly associated with their core business values, such as Project Loon. Loon is a network of balloons floating on the edge of space that connects populations who do not have internet access, which has a clear connection to their current products and appeals to their shareholders. Long-term investments such as Calico and now Sidewalk Labs share unrelated missions to Google, which could be the reasoning for entirely separate, but supported ventures.

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he’s likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@) or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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