October 7, 2022

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Verily Has a Secret Internal Project to Untangle Itself From Google

  • Verily wants to untangle itself from Google’s technology and prepare for a future beyond Alphabet.
  • The project is internally called Flywheel and kicked off earlier this year.
  • Verily aims to get “fully on public tools and services,” according to presentation seen by Insider.

Alphabet life sciences unit Verily is working to untangle itself from Google’s technology as it prepares for a possible future outside of its parent company, Insider has learned. 

The project, internally named Flywheel, is Verily’s plan to be more independent in the work it does as the company matures, according to internal documents viewed by Insider and two employees directly familiar with the plans.

Verily was born years ago inside the Google X research group, which housed risky, long-term moonshot ideas. Then came the Alphabet holding company, a structure that gave some of these newer businesses more freedom to expand away from the main Google operation. One option is to spin off new companies, although that hasn’t happened yet at any notable scale. 

Verily is trying to pull this off now. But many of its products, such as a genetic and molecular data platform called Baseline, lean heavily on Google’s computing infrastructure. The Flywheel project is focused on detaching Verily from this technical connective tissue so it can stand on its own two feet.

One component of Flywheel, for example, is to transition Verily from using Google’s internal cloud software to the public version that is available to any other business, the two employees said. Verily launched Flywheel in early 2021 and the company is aiming to complete an initial version of the new infrastructure by early next year at the latest, according to an internal presentation viewed by Insider. 

Beyond that date, the company plans to get to a point where “Verily is fully on public tools and services,” the presentation reads. The company is working with Google on the Flywheel project, the sources said. They asked not to be identified discussing private matters.

“Verily is continually building our talent and infrastructure,” a company spokesperson told Insider. “We have now reached the next phase of our products. This necessitates additional investment in new platform capabilities to support our operations in the

healthcare sector
, to meet our unique regulatory needs and serve our customers. We plan to take full advantage of the public cloud, including Google and our other partners.”

Google’s life sciences bet is maturing – and could be moving toward an IPO

Flywheel is getting off the ground as Verily enters an aggressive new phase to better commercialize its products. The company spent much of 2020 focused on a COVID-19 triage program and testing sites with Rite Aid and the state of California. A stream of executives left during that time, too. 

Since then it has bolstered its leadership team with big hires such as former FDA deputy Amy Abernethy, who joined Verily as president of clinical research programs in July. CEO Andy Conrad, who started the original project at Google X, has largely stepped back from the day-to-day operations, which are now left to COO Stephen Gillett.

Conrad has in the past talked about a push towards an IPO, current and former employees told Insider. However, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back some of those plans, and it is no longer clear whether Verily has a timeline for a public offering in mind. “It’s the carrot Andy is always dangling in front of us,” said one current employee.

The company is best known for the Baseline project, its most lucrative line of business, but insiders say the company is looking to diversify revenue across other products, such as virtual care offering Onduo. CFO Deepak Ahuja has also pushed for Verily to produce longer-term strategic plans, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Flywheel will at least give Verily flexibility to make those decisions, and it may benefit the company in other ways. Verily often has to reassure potential partners that it won’t share their data with Google, according to a current employee, and greater technological independence could offer more credence to those assurances, they said.

Are you a Google or Verily employee with more to share? Got a tip? Contact reporter Hugh Langley at [email protected] or on the encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram at +16282281836.