Quite simply, no. Nor should Apple or Facebook or many others. Though Mr. Z has done a good job of going public without giving up control it still should never have to happen. A visionary company is prevented from continuing to be visionary by the demands of regulations, shareholders, and public scrutiny of their financial underwear.
Google’s side projects, whether driverless cars or bringing Kansas into the 20th century with broadband internet access, are not going to add to shareholder value any time soon, if ever. What they are far more likely to do is change the way people live for the better. For those of us hellbent on aging, driverless cars will be the greatest thing that ever happened when we are watching our time grind by, longing to escape the odoriferous confines of the old folks home and are no longer able to reap the full rewards of internet porn.
I’m sure Google will manage to make some money off of their projects. Not enough to meet the earnings expectations of many shareholders but enough to remain a profitable company. Shouldn’t that be enough? For a private company it can be.
Currently the only way a startup can make sure employees, VCs and the rest get their payday is by going public. That isn’t some condition of nature but the result of the current rules and regulations in the securities industry. Those are not immutable, and are an abject failure if the goal is to prevent fraud and investor losses; instead causing the proliferation of moral hazards and unintended consequences.
Crowd-sourcing, micro finance and a host of other children of the internet age have created new ways of organizing, developing and funding human creativity. It’s time to get out of the way and let it happen. If employees and venture capital investors could sell shares in whatever venue they chose, whether the company website or a dark alley on the wrong side of the tracks, there would be no need to go public and no need to sacrifice a world-changing vision for the short-term interests of the unimaginative.
Would investors lose money in such a system? Abso-goddamned-lutely. Will they lose more than they do in the current system? I doubt it. Stupid people will find ways to lose money regardless (see this post), and the upside is realizing a greater fraction of What Could Have Been. That’s a world I’d gladly pay to see.