- Despite both living under parent company Alphabet, Verily and Google Health act largely independent of one another.
- But that might be about to change.
- Verily CEO Andrew Conrad told employees he wants to end the ‘rivalry’ between the two companies, hinting at more collaboration in the future.
- Google Health has grown to around 500 employees and could help Verily as the latter company strives to reach an IPO and break away from Alphabet entirely – something insiders say Conrad is pushing to do.
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Since it was spun out of Google’s highly secretive X research lab in 2015, Verily Life Sciences has operated largely independent of Google’s own health efforts – but that may be about to change.
On April 27, Verily CEO Andrew Conrad sent an email to employees telling them he wanted to end the “rivalry” with Google, according to two employees who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
“Healthcare is big and broken and neither Google nor Verily will win if we are divided,” Conrad wrote in the email shared with Business Insider. “I am committed to making this work better. I don’t want to go back to a world of foolish sibling rivalries.”
Verily, which was once the life sciences arm inside Google X, was spun out as one of Alphabet’s “other bets” when Google’s corporate structure was blown up in 2015.
CEO Andrew Conrad said at the time he wanted “to defeat Mother Nature,” and the life sciences company has since launched projects ranging from smart shoes to nanoparticles that detect cancer.
Meanwhile, the Google Health team, which operates largely out of Palo Alto, California, is exploring the role of search and AI in healthcare, as well as other ideas around preventive health.
Insiders say Verily and the Google Health team have occasionally worked closely together on projects, such as collaborating on a tool for diabetic eye diseases which the two launched last year.
But several Verily employees also said there has long been a sense of competition with Google Health, especially in cases where the two organizations have worked on similar projects.
For example, Verily has its own data infrastructure team, while Google has its “Cloud for healthcare and life sciences” solution. Sources said there have also been instances where both Google Health and Verily were both working on similar hardware projects, including a smart ring that can detect temperature.
“Google Health and Verily are a lot of times doing almost the same thing,” said one source familiar with the inner workings of both companies.
Some projects and teams have been moved from Verily into Google Health over the years, according to several sources speaking to Business Insider.
“When Google is heavily invested in some of the projects Verily is spinning up, they will sometimes absorb them back into the Google mothership,” said one insider.
Neither Verily or Google responded to Business Insider’s request for comment on this story.
Verily has around 850 full-time employees, according to internal data viewed by Business Insider. Google Health, which is currently led by David Feinberg, had about 500 employees as of February this year, according to CNBC.
As Business Insider recently reported, Verily made an aggressive pivot to COVID-19 programs when the pandemic began – an initiative known internally as ‘Code Red.’ During the onset of that initiative around 1,000 employees from around Alphabet were temporarily brought into Verily to help out.
Sources say it is common for employees within the Alphabet organization to move from one company to another temporarily, in what is referred to internally as a “bungee.”
But as ‘Code Red’ winds down, Verily and Google Health could find themselves working together more closely than they have before.
Tapping more of Google Health’s resources could also help Verily, which has already procured outside investment, to eventually break away from Alphabet as a fully independent company.
In 2017, Verily announced it had raised $800 million from Singapore’s state investment firm Temasek. Then in 2019, in a round led by Silver Lake, the life sciences division raised an additional $1 billion in external investment.
Two employees told Business Insider that they had been explicitly told last year Verily was looking to go public in 2020, which would be a first for an Alphabet “bet” company.
However, they added, the pandemic will likely postpone those ambitions.