“When we invest in a company we have a thesis on what will drive its growth, and then we lean on Google to help drive that growth,” Duramy says. As Google sees machine learning and AI as the secret sauce for its own products, so too does CapitalG see it as an important tool for its portfolio.
“Ultimately our interest is for the companies to be more successful because of this,” he says. “It’s too early to tell, obviously, but the initial signals are promising.”
Plus, most of the heavy lifting falls to Google employees.
While one big point of turning Google into Alphabet was to make individual “Other Bets” like CapitalG more financially independent and accountable, CapitalG describes the bootcamp as a partnership, and says that it doesn’t have to fund most of the event.
On Google’s end, Kemp says that Google employees enjoy participating, and it provides the company with useful feedback on its educational tools.
Plus, it can encourage participants to use Google tools. For example, several engineers said halfway through the course that they planned to try out Google’s TensorFlow software, used for artificial intelligence. TensorFlow is an open-source framework, but getting more people to use it helps improve the system, which benefits Google’s internal teams, too. TensorFlow adoption also potentially pushes engineers towards its other, paid products, since it’s well aligned with parts of its cloud offering, like its tensor processing unit (TPU) chips.
CapitalG’s Howard was adamant that the program wouldn’t feel like a sales pitch in any way, and Kemp, too, puts it squarely:
“Obviously it’s a win for us if users adopt TensorFlow, if users move over to Cloud ML, but it’s never the focus of the content,” she says. “There’s a way to do it gracefully where you offer [the training] without selling Google’s product.”
With its second class completed, CapitalG is aiming to host several more boot camps in the Bay Area, one on the east coast, and an another in India, where it has a handful of portfolio companies.
Michael Lusignon, an engineer from security company CloudStrike, flew in from out of state for the week-long course. Even though it was a big disruption from his day-to-day, he says, two days in, that the commitment was worth it.
“The level of training we have here is sort of a rare opportunity,” says Michael Lusignon. “When we got the invitation, I jumped right on it.”