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04/30/2018 8.00 pm
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Is Google eating your startup for breakfast?

In the years leading to the new millennium everyone was in a frenzy, reminiscing on how far the human race has come in the past 10 centuries and thinking about what the next 1000 years has in stock for us. The internet was becoming increasingly popular, bridging communication gaps across the world and ushering new possibilities in broadcasting, culture sharing, and international relations. Nobody was ready for what was about to hit them.

Somewhere on the Stanford University campus, Sergey Brin and Larry Page were busy building the technology that would power those next thousand years. Both were fellow PhD students at the institution and worked on publishing their thesis “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.” That research was the beginning of the Google Search Engine.

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Credit : Founders of Google; Brin and Page.

Since inception, Google has been an innovative and research focused company. And they have no choice because in the technology industry, it is either you innovate or watch other people  who do take your bread away.

In the time since launching in 1998, they have had to fight off AOL, Yahoo! Search, Bing, Yandex, DuckDuckGo and even Baidu in South East Asia amongst others. It has not been easy consolidating their position as the most used web crawler around the world. To win effective battles, they have had to go into building their own web browser - Chrome. It is even touted that Android - the mobile operating system - is a channel to get more people to use their search engine. And who would fault them for that, when they had to pay Apple $1 billion to be the default search engine on the iOS.

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It is easy to see what game they are playing. When you are able to control a platform, you can control the tools used on those platform. While Google is busy building platforms to help drive traffic to its cash cow, the search engine itself has become a platform on which startups are building their own businesses.

Many internet companies rely on the traffic that Google drives to their site through SEO for them to remain operational. If you are looking to book an hotel, and you search online for the best rates, Google will list hundreds of companies offering that service. You most likely will transact with one of the first five brands listed. This is good. In this case Google is serving as a referral entity and they have pride themselves in doing this. You go to Google, they show a list of those who can provide the service you need, you go to said providers websites. This is how things are. Everybody is happy. Until now.

What Google is trying

Recent moves by the search engine has been to reverse the above. Instead of serving as a referral platform, they are building features that make them a one stop shop. A place where you can ge all you need. A search engine to rule them all.

These new features all follow the same theme. You search for content or service, and instead of google to provide links to said services as usual, they will crawl the data from businesses and serve it themselves.

Did I hear you say you don’t believe me? Well, let’s check out the evidences.

Cases of the experiment

Google Jobs

Google Jobs is a feature on the search engine that was launched in U.S.A in early 2017 before its introduction to the Sub Saharan Nigerian, Kenyan and South African market almost a year later. It is a feature that allows Google to list in depth results for job queries across the web.

To launch the pilot of this project, they had to partner with industry leaders in each country like Jobberman, Fuzu Jobs and Job Mail. To try it out, you can search for “jobs near me.”

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Google Movies | Cinemas

Have you noticed that when a new movie is released and you try searching for showtimes at your closest cinemas, the engine will show you an aggregated list from all closest cinemas. It is good, you don’t have to visit each website to get information (cheapest pricing and convenience) you need to plan that excellent date at one place.

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Google Travels

Google has also ventured into the realm of online travels. When you search for flights to a destination or an hotel to lodge for the night, they will crawl the websites of those content owners and present all of them to you at once.

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Effects of the cases on companies (be it tech, media focused or not)

Travels and tourism is big on the internet. People always have the need to transport either themselves or commodities from one place to the other. And the logistics of getting a hitch-free ride can be a nightmare. Companies have built their businesses around helping people prevent this nightmare.

This feature by Google reduces every listing company to booking website. If you offer a comparison service, that has been taken out your hands. There would be no way to generate income for say advertisement because the supposed traffic you will be needing are being hijacked on route to your content.

This same scenario plays out for all other sectors. For job listing websites, they have been relegated to being an Application Tracking System. You longer hold the exclusivity of having the jobs that would bring people to your website. What you are now is help your client companies manage applicants to your job postings. This means by this feature, if your business strategy is ads then that revenue stream been blocked.

There are too many chiefs and not enough Indians in companies that have shut down after the release of the Showtimes features. Almost all of them, including Kolanuts, Tripican, Fandango relied on advertisement as their main source of revenue. But with the customers being toted at the gate by Google Search, there is no more traffic to these sites. Which implies that that revenue stream will dry up.

When I asked the “ Is Google eating your startup for breakfast?” I am sure you understand what I meant. Many of these internet companies have not even started their journey and they are already questioning their existence.



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