We all know that Google is busily – and creepily? – buying up robotics, AI, augmented reality, and mobile companies, which is why it’s clear that if The Avengers and Iron Man were real, Google would be standing by ready to acquire Stark Industries. The question is, for how much? In the past, Forbes has ranked The Fictional 15 and The 25 Largest Fictional Companies, but what would happen if Google actually tried buying one of these companies? Here’s what the numbers show us.
It’s fair to say Stark Industries has some problems. Sure, they bring the leading-edge avionics, electronics, clean energy, holography, AI, healthcare and, yes, weaponry to the party, but they also go around creating as many messes as they clean up, largely in the process of cleaning up those original messes. We’ve all known and appreciated The Avengers as the saviors of humankind in a worldwide pickle and they’ve proven up to the task, but their most recent efforts, saving the world from a mess created by one of their own, does suggest some of their kinks may need more than a little ironing out.
Outdated valuation for Stark Industries?
In contrast, though, it’s safe to say that the now long-since outdated valuation Forbes gave the company in 2011 remains a gross underestimate. Even considering recent issues, $20.3b doesn’t even seem to scratch the surface of the company’s value, let alone its egomaniacs-related hero tech, and I gather any business with the market cap to shell out for such an acquisition would tend to agree. But it’s hard to determine exactly how much such an acquisition would cost. For one, what about the intangibles? And what’s the price tag on the amazing things such a company could achieve by harnessing all that sweet Stark madness and genius?
Because, when you’re talking about Stark, it’s all about the intangibles, and all about the value added by aiming said intangibles properly. Right now, Tony Stark is content fiddling around with money-draining gadgets, facing off against world threats and his latest arch enemies, and (spoiler alert) accidentally creating apocalyptic AI masterminds in the wake of his PTSD, but what if he and the company regained a more, say, economic and balanced view of what it does and the way it does it?
I have a feeling that a big part of that Forbes valuation was based on how much money disappears into Tony’s full-time hobbies/obsessions and how many city reconstructions need to be financed by Stark Relief once Stark and his fellow heroes are done with the hero work. Basically, a certain element of reigning in and cutting of losses is looking more and more necessary to ensure the conglomerate achieves the market position it deserves.
Enter Google, the robot buyers of our time
New management may be necessary for Stark Industries, and I can hardly imagine a company better suited to the challenge than Google. I’ll even wager they’d be more than interested, given the opportunity.
Having already reached a near omnipresent place in our virtual lives, Google’s increasing forays into the more physical side of things has made it clear they’re thinking quite a bit bigger than data and smartphones going forward. Their recent years of acquisitions, for instance, imply a clear trend: robots, AI and the Internet of Things. In short, Google is looking to a future where its presence in our physical lives matches its presence in our web-based ones, and it’s working hard on figuring out how to build it. What else are they doing buying eight robotics companies in a year, other than freaking out the world with videos of robot dogs throwing cinder blocks?
When considering the slew of engineering marvels coming out of Stark’s tailor-bearded head, the inherent value of a company like Stark Industries in the sights of a big-picture behemoth like Google is very, very high. It offers a mouth-watering set of solutions to a lot of Google’s goals, the pedigree of a company over a century old that’s still a fierce competitor, and maybe the most comprehensive private-sector assortment of polished, tested and trued future technologies anywhere. No doubt it’s a no-holds-barred package deal—the kind that would only change hands at a premium.
So, the big question: how much would Google pay?
With about 371b of market cap and a clear interest in everything Stark Industries has to offer, they’d be crazy not to want the company for themselves, but for how much? Google X, DeepMind, Android, the Self-Driving Car project and pretty much any other R&D nook or cranny of the Googleplex would stand to profit from getting their hands on Iron Man suits, J.A.R.V.I.S., Avengers mission goodies or even some old Tony Stark batteries. And surely Google would only be interested in a deal that would guarantee access to Stark himself, who might very well be giddy at the prospect of the kinds of toys he might be able to build with a Google level of money. It’s also safe to say his ego, volatility and colossal quirks might guarantee a difficult negotiation and, more than likely, demand a considerably higher price than Google might initially offer.
The most Google has ever paid for any company, meanwhile, is the $12.5b they paid for Motorola in 2011, and we all know how that went. I can only assume the price to be paid for Stark Industries would have to be way way, higher, even just factoring in its telecommunications and consumer tech offering. Once you add the rest of the business and Stark himself (including access to Avengers facilities, gear and team members and the heap of game-changing prototypes Tony builds while the rest of us are sleeping), it’s hard to imagine Google wouldn’t have to consider divesting a bit here and there to match the price they might have to pay.
Making a conservative, educated guess, I’d say that $65b would seal the deal. It would be Google’s biggest acquisition of all time by a long shot, but it would also mean a leap forward for virtually all of Google’s next-generation projects. Also, consider this: of all the companies on the Forbes Fictional 25, Stark Industries is probably most similar to Tyrell Corp. from Bladerunner, in that both started with defense and robotics, expanded into numerous related fields, and have gained massive economic and political clout. In fact, Tyrell probably exceeds Stark on the latter front when you consider the extent to which that company reigns its evil-genius-ness over the future. Stark is an okay guy, and feels comfortable staying in the background from time to time. Anyway, Tyrell alone gets a valuation of $59.4 billion from Forbes, which is starting to sound a bit more like what Google might give for Stark.
“Making a conservative, educated guess, I’d say that $65b would seal the deal.”
When you consider Stark’s diverse activities, his prowess at the bargaining table, the questionable accuracy of Forbes’s fictional valuations, and Google’s willingness to throw money at things it wants, it’s worth rounding up to $65b. It’s likely a steal, as long as they can get Tony to behave. In any case, I gather that the ability to sustainably and profitably save and change the world, shifting from “Don’t Be Evil” to “Be Great” in the process, isn’t anything one would expect to get for cheap. $20b, on the other hand, would be one hell of a joke.