Earlier today, it was announced that while Cornell builds its new applied sciences school on New York’s Roosevelt Island, Google will let the school use 22,000 square feet of its Eighth Avenue building for Cornell’s students (and up to 36,000 square feet of the building if necessary in coming years).
The offer comes rent free and is a generous five-and-a-half years long, after which Cornell says it will be ready to hold classes on its own, new campus.
It’s a smart move by Google, which was the only company to talk with the school, says the founding dean of the CornellNYC Tech Campus, Dan Huttenlocher – who is quick to note that Cornell approached Google. (The school’s options were either to pay roughly $10 million in rent for commercial space in Manhattan over the next five years, or to seek out the kindness of a tech giant. Given that Google’s Eighth Avenue building in Chelsea is the size of a city block and has roughly as much square footage as the Empire State Buidling, Google was at the top of Cornell’s list.)
Huttenlocher says there is no arrangement other than what’s spelled out in the release — meaning no money is changing hands, and no one has promised Google a first look at the technologies being developed at the school. “It’s not like any kind of exclusive,” he says. “We have a great working relationship with many companies, including Google, and Google has great relationships with a number of leading universities, of which Cornell is one. It’s just a natural way to work together on our shared interest of advancing tech in New York.”
Still, it’s easy to see how Google could profit handsomely from its gift to Cornell, which is costing the company an estimated $12 million.
Most obviously, if Cornell’s students aren’t explicitly encouraged to think about either working for Google or selling their ideas to the search giant, it’s likely that spending much of their days at the company will have the same effect. Google, after all, is chock full of smart people. It’s still growing net revenue at 20 percent per year. And it has that renowned cafeteria, a marvel that is probably a powerful inducement alone. Think perfectly prepared grilled hanger steak with bordelaise sauce and pomme frites; wild striped bass; braised salmon in coconut milk. All free. When you’re living on frozen bagels and Red Bull, the prospect of such daily delicacies can be as intoxicating as any hallucinogenic.
Maybe it won’t be like bobbing for apples (exactly). Huttenlocher points out that with about 3,000 employees in New York, Google isn’t the only company in its enormous building, which once housed the Port Authority of New York. But Google’s proximity to the students certainly seems helpful, especially when considering what Google has to undertake to fill what are reportedly between 1,000 and 4,000 new jobs each year. More, the students of CornellNYC will largely be focusing on two of Google’s favorite things, media and advertising.
Besides, even if the students of CornellNYC wind up heading to younger companies where there is more perceived “upside,” Google’s announcement this morning should build some goodwill not only with CornellNYC’s incoming classes but the 50,000 alumni that Cornell boasts in New York City. And given how powerful a tech hub the region is becoming, any little edge counts.
“Technology continues to do more to transform lives and improve lives,” Google’s CEO, Larry Page, told a crowd of reporters earlier today at Google’s offices on Ninth Avenue in New York. “Imagine if we could double that number of people dedicated to changing and improving the world through technology.”
Now imagine a healthy percentage of those people joining forces with Google. Google surely has, and good for Google.
Updated: an earlier version of this piece did not include comments from Dan Huttenlocher.
Photo: Chalkboard image courtesy of Shutterstock.