Alphabet's X LAB

Shooting for the Moon

Obi Felten at X labs by Winni Wintermeyer
Obi Felten is a fan of fail fast at X labs.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The goal of Alphabet’s X lab is to incubate ambitious, unconventional solutions to technology problems and spawn new profitable companies.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • X lab has successfully developed driverless cars, balloons that bring the Internet to remote regions and kites that act as wind turbines.
    • Obi Felten is a German-born manager and marketing expert who studied psychology and philosophy at Oxford University.
    • The “Other Bets” section in Google’s financial statement, thought to include X lab, last year reported a loss of $3.6 billion.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

 

At Alphabet’s secretive X laboratory people are paid to dream big – and fail.

Since 2010, the lab has been turning science fiction into reality, from driverless cars to balloons that bring Internet to remote regions and kites that act as wind turbines.

The goal is to solve the world’s technology problems by reaching for a “moonshot,” an idea that expands the frontiers of what’s considered possible – like U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 call to land a man on the moon. Or “shooting the moon” in the card game Hearts.

But X lab doesn’t just pursue any crazy idea. Like those who plotted the moon mission, the dreamers at X must have both a vision and a concrete plan to achieve it.

Ideas first go through a period of “rapid evaluation” in which teams conduct initial research and in the best case scenario receive a budget.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.