By Drew Olanoff
Friday, Google bought an Ontario-based company called BufferBox. In a way, it kind of came out of left field. Since it's a Google Ventures company, one can guess that those on Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) campus were very familiar with the service, which provides an easy alternative to waiting around for packages at your house.
Not only is package delivery a bummer, because things get lost, hitting up your mailbox when you get home isn't that much fun either. The worst is when you don't even have a mailbox and you come home to twenty pieces of junkmail slipped under your door. The mail delivery system is broken and old. It's ripe for…disruption. How broken? The US Post Office lost $15.9B in 2012.
So at first blush, one could say that Google wants to compete with the likes of shipping magicians like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and UPS, but I think that it goes a bit deeper than that. This doesn't feel like an "e-commerce" play. Google has the knack of honing in on verticals that are a pain for people in the real physical world. Don't want to drive your car? Maybe one day it'll drive itself thanks to Google.
Back to BufferBox, the YCombinator company that currently only operates in Canada. It's an area that is great to test things out in, away from our needy grubby hands in the United States. Google also rolled out its Fiber product in Kansas City, away from us geeks in San Francisco and New York, so that it could perfect its product before unleashing it on the universe.
This is how BufferBox describes itself on its website:
Today's parcel delivery system is outdated - missing package deliveries is crazy! You're not home during the day, so stop shipping parcels there! Ship them to your closest BufferBox instead! We're a network of parcel pick-up stations that are conveniently located, allowing you to grab parcels securely and on your schedule!
Google challenging the Post Office? Altruistic? Kind of. Business savvy? You betcha. Sounds like it's right up Google's alley. What does a company have to have to take over the mail routing system? Brilliant mapping technology.
One day, I could see a world where we don't have mailmen and women coming to our houses every single day to deliver junk mail. These things can be dropped off in a box in a place that's more convenient for you, say by your office. That way, you can pick it up when you want to, and come home to a nice relaxing home, and clean doorstep. Let's not forget to mention the anxiety of worrying about a package being stolen by a neighbor. It happens.
So in a nutshell, one must only wonder why Google picked up BufferBox, because Google never really goes into great detail on why it acquires companies. It doesn't really have to, for competitive reasons. Just know that everything at Google tends to happen as part of a master plan, and this particular acquisition could lead to a massive master plan.
Remember when Google bought GrandCentral? It turned into Google Voice. The service that could one day compete with the likes of AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ). That acquisition was led by Google's Wesley Chan, now a partner at Google Ventures. He thinks big, so does Google. Just when you thought the GrandCentral acquisition was going nowhere, Google Voice was launched.
Searching all of the world's information, free or cheaper Internet for all, free phone numbers and voicemail, devices like laptops that are priced fairly for Education and lower-income families running powerhouse open-source software, services that make everything we do online feel more intimate and social, both at work and home, reinventing television…there is an obvious pattern. Google wants to help reshape, and evolve, the world.
You've got Google Mail.