Great tech innovators: Astro Teller

Astro Teller
  • Age: 45
  • Company: Google X
  • Best known for: Google Glass, Driverless Cars, Project Loon
  • Quote: "If you're not saying 'no' [to ideas] 99% of the time, you're not trying hard enough. The innovators you're working with have to have very thick skins."

A self-described "builder of magical, audacious ideas that through science and ideas can be brought to reality", Google's Eric 'Astro' Teller is one of the tech industry's less conventional innovators. An expert (and PhD holder) in the field of intelligent technology, he has led Google's semi-secret Google X laboratory since 2010.

Called a "moonshot factory" by the search giant, Google X is tasked with solving critical world problems - or moonshots - such as supplying internet connectivity to developing countries or reducing deaths caused by traffic accidents.

Projects to date have included Google Glass, Google Driverless Car and Google Contact Lens, in addition to Project Loon, the company's mission to provide Internet access to rural and remote areas using high-altitude balloons equipped with wireless connectivity.

The Cambridge, England-born innovator adheres to a strict process for selecting and taking on projects, including encouraging innovation by rewarding failure.

In addition to selecting the right problems to tackle (there must be the scientific or technological means to solve it), Teller and Google X employees are tasked with making something 10 times better, rather than 10% more - a philosophy that led to the Google X name. It should also make a substantial impact in 10 years' time.

An entrepreneur, scientist and author, Teller has created and grown five companies outside of Google X and holds a number of US patents in hardware and software technology.

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