Alphabet CFO: Google’s ‘biggest risk is complacency’

Google’s “biggest risk is complacency, not innovating, not investing,” said Ruth Porat, the CFO of parent company Alphabet at Code Con on Wednesday.

It’s important that we “continue to evolve what the user experience is,” she added, emphasizing that technology companies need to keep coming up with new ideas to stay ahead. 

Porat said we should expect Alphabet to buy more companies to aid their growth. “We look at acquisitions all the time,” she said, reminding the audience of how fruitful the purchases of YouTube and DoubleClick were. But “we have a high bar.”

She talked about the company’s successes, but also acknowledged some failures. Porat said they are taking a step back in their high-speed internet push known as Google Fiber, because “at the end of the day, it isn’t going to be the transformative play that we believed.” They reached the conclusion “to pause what we’re doing to see how much we can do with technology before we ramp what we’re doing again.”

Instead of fiber, one should expect Alphabet to make a big push in machine learning. “We think machine learning as it relates to healthcare and life sciences is extraordinary,” she said.

Porat also talked about how Alphabet generally avoids lawsuits, but they believed “there was only one right path” to handling the self-driving battle with Uber. “When we do sue, it’s in our view so compelling that we don’t have an option, but to sue.” She was unable to discuss the lawsuit further.

Above all, expect Alphabet’s CFO to remain in tech for now. Porat, who used to be the CFO of Morgan Stanley, gave a resounding “no” when asked if she missed Wall Street.