What is a tech company after all?

I used to wonder why Amazon is called a tech company and not a retail company?
Why is Uber called a tech company and not a taxi company?
Why is AirBnB called a tech company and not a hotel company?

The answer is because these companies view technology as the core of their business. Instead of outsourcing software development to Infosys, Wipro etc. or relying on 3rd party services, they hire FTEs and build huge engineering teams to develop the necessary technology in-house to power the business.

Example: Uber could have (or maybe they still are) used Google Maps to power their business – driving directions, location search, ETA etc. But they bid $3B (yes 3 billion) to try to acquire Nokia Maps [1]. Keep in mind this was just the acquisition cost. Imagine the YoY cost of just the resulting headcount itself – how would that compare to what Uber was/is paying YoY to Google Maps? [2] Another and even more audacious example: we know there will be self-driving cars in the future. Making cars is a car manufacturers job. All major car manufacturers will make autonomous driving cars in future. So why does Uber have to build a self-driving car in-house? Can’t they just buy self-driving cars when they hit the market as they undoubtedly will at some point? Tesla’s self-driving abilities are already impressive. Next step, after building out self-driving technology, is Uber also going to manufacture the cars themselves? Uber ATG reportedly costs the company $20M+ per month [3, 4].

Why do tech companies invest in technology so heavily when they could buy the thing from a vendor at presumably lower cost?

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