When Google announced it would plunk down $3.2 billion to buy Nest yesterday, it sparked discussion about privacy, Google's strategy for the connected home and what makes a winning cleantech investment strategy.
The acquisition is largely seen as a very good one for Google, which can use Nest's consumer appeal and learning algorithms to boost its own nascent internet-of-things strategy within the home. It's also seen as a major coup for venture investors who've shifted away from manufacturing-intensive cleantech and have been looking for "capital-lite" investments that can offer strong, fast returns.
Twitter reaction from investors, consumers and tech journalists was swift -- ranging from excitement to serious (and kidding) concern. Here are some of the best.
Rob Coneybeer, managing director of Shasta Ventures, tweeted out a picture of Nest from 2011 when the company was just getting started. Coneybeer invested in Nest's series A and B rounds, reportedly pulling in around $200 million from the acquisition.
Fortune Senior Editor Dan Primack reported some big returns for investor Kleiner Perkins, which poured around $20 million into Nest's series A and B rounds. Kleiner has gotten a lot of flak for its recent investment strategy, but this exit may stem some of the criticism.
Hearing Kleiner Perkins return is around 20x— danprimack (@danprimack) January 13, 2014
Rob Day, a partner with Black Coral Capital (and resident GTM cleantech investment blogger), said the deal backed up his thesis around the next wave of cleantech investment.
The #NextWave of cleantech venture capital looks a lot more like Nest than it looks like Solyndra et al. Downstream reinvention FTW.— Rob Day (@cleantechvc) January 13, 2014
The acquisition has major implications for consumers as well. Nest will be able to use Google's deep pool of engineering talent to build new products, while improving on its intelligent thermostat and smoke detector.
But products made by Nest that are able to track when you are home will soon be connected to Google -- a company with deep advertising interests in understanding exactly where and how consumers are behaving.
Ryan Block, co-founder of gdgt, sparked a range of sarcastic reactions about privacy when making this astute observation:
Oh PS with Nest’s built-in sensors now Google knows when you’re home, what rooms you’re in, and when you’re out. Just FYI.— Ryan Block (@ryan) January 13, 2014
@ryan The Nest/ Search combo is pretty darn close to the Star Trek bridge computer— Jay Kirsch (@jaykirsch) January 13, 2014
@beerandpork "Ad Agency Buys Thermostat Manufacturer"— Lawson Kight (@lawsonkight) January 13, 2014
They know when you are sleeping. They know when you’re awake. They know if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake! #GoogNest— Chris Nelder (@nelderini) January 13, 2014
The news also brought out the right-wing conspiracy theorists, who saw the acquisition as a government takeover.
Esquire magazine was a little more realistic about the consequences. Haven't we already handed over our privacy to companies like Google?
Google's Nest purchase means it probably wants to take over your home. But wait, wasn't it already doing that? http://t.co/eBzEU3wOOd— Esquire magazine (@Esquiremag) January 13, 2014
Along with privacy concerns, the acquisition sparked humorous speculation around how Google may use Nest's thermostat and smoke detector for its own benefit.
If your house is burning down you’ll now get gmail ads for fire extinguishers— Sam Faulkner Biddle (@samfbiddle) January 13, 2014
One week before Google's acquisition of Nest, the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes ran a widely panned story on the "cleantech crash." Reporter Lesley Stahl detailed troubles in clean energy investing, coming to the conclusion that the industry is on life support. I couldn't help but note the irony in timing.
And finally, after the news broke, Nest co-founder Matt Rogers tweeted out this picture of himself, Tony Fadell and Google CEO Larry Page:
Big day today! pic.twitter.com/5P6xfR5KWL— Matt Rogers (@nestmatt) January 13, 2014
Yesterday was big for many reasons. It proves that venture investors can still reap high returns in cleantech, even on a hardware-based company like Nest. It's a strong confirmation that Google is serious about home energy management and provides the resources to build Nest's product line. And it builds on the growing trend of product convergence in the energy, consumer electronics and online worlds. The strong reaction to the news reflected its importance for cleantech.