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Alphabet has moved its Jigsaw subsidiary under Google Management

February 12, 2020 / Sujata Bondge

  • Google parent company Alphabet has moved its Jigsaw technology incubator under Google management.

  • Jigsaw will operate as a separate unit under Google and its CEO Jared Cohen will report to Google’s VP Kent Walker.

  • It is the third Alphabet unit Google has acquired within 2 years.

Another arm of Alphabet, the holding company for Google and a collection of other businesses, has gone away. Within the past month, Alphabet quietly moved Jigsaw, a technology incubator that creates tools to curb online misinformation, harassment, and other issues, under Google management. Before this, Jigsaw operated as a stand-alone unit of Alphabet. While Google confirmed that Jigsaw is officially under Google, it would not comment on the future of Alphabet.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that the Jigsaw team had been moved to Google and that its CEO, Jared Cohen is still with the company and will exist as an independent entity under Google. Cohen reports to Kent Walker now, Google’s senior vice president of corporate affairs. He previously reported to David Drummond, Chief legal officer at Alphabet. David Drummond has announced his retirement program earlier this year.


“Day-to-day operations at Jigsaw won’t change and the division will operate as an independent unit under Google.”

-Google Spokesperson

The change is a reunion of sorts between Jigsaw and Google. Jigsaw was founded inside the search giant in 2010 as an internal think tank called Google Ideas before Google carved it off as a separate unit following the formation of Alphabet in 2015. With around 60 employees, Jigsaw was likely one of the smallest of Alphabet’s “other bets”—the category in which the company puts its non-Google subsidiaries in financial statements.

Learn more: Journey of Jigsaw

Cohen has led Jigsaw since its inception, joining it after serving as an advisor to the secretaries of state during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Cohen conceived of Google Ideas in 2010, alongside then-CEO Eric Schmidt, with the aim of tackling geopolitical issues through technical tools.


Formerly called Google Ideas, Jigsaw was focused on online security issues like harassment and misinformation. When the company changed the name from Google Ideas to Jigsaw and refocused it from being a web and policy think tank to a tech incubator, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt wrote that it would “tackle the toughest geopolitical challenges, from countering violent extremism to thwarting online censorship to mitigating the threats associated with digital attacks.” Last week, Jigsaw unveiled its new Assembler tool, which is aimed at helping journalists more easily spot deepfakes and doctored images.


“One of Jigsaw’s audacious aims was to end censorship within the time of a decade including cyber attacks on the website of political opposition leaders and government filtering of internet content.”


It’s the first former Alphabet company to be shifted under Google since Sergey Brin and Larry Page stepped down from their management roles in December though they remain board members and controlling shareholders in the company. Since the two were behind the creation of Alphabet in 2015, it may be a sign that Alphabet has outlived its usefulness as a holding company. Previously, the company has swallowed up cyber-security company Chronicle in 2019 as well as Nest, a maker of smart home devices in 2018.


The departure of the visionaries behind Alphabet’s formation immediately raised questions about whether its corporate structure continued to make sense. Such a conglomerate is unusual in the tech industry. They created Alphabet in part so that they could focus on more avant-garde ideas, such as self-driving cars and smart cities while leaving others to watch over Google, which still represents nearly all of Alphabet’s revenue. The Alphabet model was a nod to the corporate structure Warren Buffet created with Berkshire Hathaway, a diversified holding company that houses everything from the BNSF Railway to Dairy Queen.

Learn more: Larry page's take on driving cars

In Alphabet’s earnings report last week, the company said that its other bets brought in $172 million in revenue during the holiday quarter—less than 1% of its total in the period—while producing an operating loss of over $2 billion. During a call to discuss the results, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat pointed to the outside investment some of its businesses—such as the life sciences unit Verily—have accepted as a potential model for how Alphabet’s subsidiaries will receive financing in the future.