I’m not sure what’s in your wallet, but when Google announced an all-cash deal to acquire data cloud platform Looker for $2.6 billion in its fourth largest acquisition, it hit home—once again—the massive financial capacity of the search engine giant. And to think that the hefty price tag represents only a bit over 2 percent of its parent Alphabet’s cash-on-hand, confirms that’s one flush family—and it keeps on growing.
What Do Things Look Like Over at Looker?
An analytics and business intelligence software company, Looker was founded in 2012 by Lloyd Tabb and Ben Porterfield. With lots of VC funding, the company grew quickly by helping its customers effectively capture, analyze and use data. Looker took data components like prepping, cataloguing and visualizing, and brought them to a single, easy-to-use, cloud-based platform. According to Looker CEO Frank Bien, “we bring business information such as revenues, bookings, and the lifetime value of the customer into the hands of users and companies.”1 Looker has 600 employees, 1700 customers and eight locations, including international offices in London, Tokyo and Dublin. Bien recently cited a revenue run rate of more than $100 million and said they were seeing a 70 percent year-over-year growth.
The company was doing quite well on its own. But it was coming time to reward all Looker’s early investors (Interestingly, one of those investor’s was Google; through its venture capital division, it led some $280 million in investment, including an $81.5 million financing round in 2017).2 There were plans for an IPO, but when Looker went looking for a buyer, it found some viable possibilities: Microsoft, Amazon—and Google.
But Did Google Need Looker?
With Google’s insatiable desire for growth, the easy answer is yes. Data analytics is a huge market. According to International Data Corp, worldwide revenue for big data and business analytics solutions will reach $260 billion by 2022.2 And although Google is already in the market with Google Cloud, its 8.4% market share is meager compared to Amazon (31.6%) and Microsoft (16.8%).4 With that unfamiliar third-place ranking, Google may be ready to shake up the sector. It already invests strongly in its cloud segment; that division grew more than 93% last year and in the last quarter of 2018, it spent $6 billion on R&D.4 The Looker purchase adds to its investment and sends clear signal of its intent.
But there’s another reason Looker probably looked so attractive to Google. The companies already work together. In addition to the VC investment, Google and Looker share some 350 customers. And Looker had already integrated its data platform tools with Google Cloud’s BigQuery ML. Once the deal gets a green light from regulators, Google and Looker will be set to move on day one, with complementary services and platforms.
Why Should You Care?
When Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian announced the deal, he said: “data is becoming the new app.”5 The sentiment is spot-on. Data as a service isn’t just big money; it’s big business. Add business intelligence to all that data, and it’s a powerful tool for growth. That’s what Looker did. Its business intelligence platform took troves of data from multiple sources and then made sense of it all, interpreting it into its own language. No need to be a programmer with advanced knowledge of structured query language. Once Looker’s BI is fully integrated into Google’s AI, the benefits to businesses—and institutions of higher ed—will be many.
Especially with regard to higher ed marketing, the combination can greatly improve marketing ROI and all the results that come from it. First consider BI. With its ability to streamline the process of collecting, reporting and analyzing data, it lets you make sense of what’s happening in your enrollment or development funnel. Want to know where your most consistent donors live? Look at the zip codes. Want to know what marketing campaigns attracted students from which parts of the country? The data are there in easy-to-read charts and graphs.
Add the if-this-then-that logic of very rudimentary AI and you can catch a glimpse of the future. You may already segment emails, delivering specific messages based on previous user actions. For advertising, the experience can be even more personalized. Imagine if your prospects only saw people with whom they identified, speaking a language they understand, hitting on their unique pain points, at any given point in their journey to enrollment. That’s the easy part. It’s programmable.
Now Combine Both.
Take all that business intelligence with actions your prospects take and sprinkle the learning capabilities of AI. Without human input, campaigns can learn when it’s best to run ads and to whom and act accordingly. Add in what’s happening out in the broader world. What’s the economy doing? What were birth rates 15 to 20 years ago when your prospects were first entering the world? What are the in-demand jobs now—and into the future. AI takes all that info and learns so it can analyze, predict and act—before. Before your competitors. Before the trends turn forward or back.
ESM Digital isn’t Google or Looker. But we do use our own data analytics, business and artificial intelligence. And we have decades of higher ed and marketing expertise so we can serve our clients today, with an eye to the future. When we encounter a twist, whether it’s a new reg or a change to the search engine algorithms, we don’t duck the obstacle. We hop on board the ride and jump to the controls. Do you enjoy a great ride with an awesome ending? We do!