Fast Company


SPACE TO GROW Managing director Alex Gawley says Area 120 seeks to solve “problems that people encounter daily.”

Google’s “20% time”—the long-standing perk that invites employees to carve off a fifth of their working hours to devote to personal projects that might have value to the company—is among its most iconic traditions. It’s given birth to some highly successful products, from Google News to the Cardboard VR headset. But Google’s demanding day jobs, it turns out, often don’t shrink to accommodate ambitious side hustles. There’s a sardonic joke inside the company: 20% time is really 120% time.

Twenty percent time may be more ethos than inviolate corporate benefit. But as Google and its parent, Alphabet, have swelled to 89,000 employees, the company’s commitment to bottom-up innovation remains a foundational value. Which led Google to ask itself a question: What if Googlers with big dreams could devote their full attention to tackling them, with enough structure and resources to maximize the odds of success?

The answer it came up with is Area 120, a two-year-old in-house incubator whose very name slyly

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