Google Ventures

About: There isn’t much information on Google Ventures’ website. It describes itself as “Google Ventures seeks to discover and grow great companies – we believe in the power of entrepreneurs to do amazing things. We’re studying a broad range of industries, including consumer Internet, software, hardware, clean-tech, bio-tech and health care. We invest anywhere from seed to mezzanine stage and embrace the challenge of helping young companies grow from the garage to global relevance. Our team includes entrepreneurs, investors and innovators, along with some 20,000+ exceptional Googlers whose breadth of knowledge, experience and creativity constitute perhaps our own most valuable resource. You don’t have to be a potential Google acquisition for us to want to work with you; we’re out to build great companies, period.”

Prior to Google Ventures which was launched in March 2009, Google has been investing in cleantech through its philanthropic arm, Google.org. Google.org aspires to use the power of IT to address the global challenges of our age. Its initiatives in Clean Energy include RE<C (which aims to develop electricity from renewable energy cheaper than coal), RechargeIT (which aims to reduce CO2 emissions, cut oil use and stabilize electrical grid by accelerating the adoption of plug-in vehicles) and Google PowerMeter (which aims to develop personal information that helps consumers make smarter energy choices). Google Ventures’ offices are in Mountain View, CA and Cambridge, MA.

www.google.com/ventures
See also www.google.org

Key Personnel:
Bill Maris, Managing Partner
Rich Miner, Managing Partner

Portfolio:
Based on Cleantech Group 2008 report, Google made investments in the following companies: ActaCell, AltaRock Energy, Aptera Motors, Makani Power, Potter Drilling, BrightSource Energy, eSolar
Google Ventures so far invested: Silver Spring Networks, Pixazza

News: In March 2009, Cleantech Group reports that “Google has finally admitted there is validity to the long-standing rumors of a dedicated venture capital arm at the Internet giant. Google has officially launched the VC fund, Google Ventures, with about $100 million to invest in technology startups in software, cleantech, biotech, health care and the Web.

In 2007, Google said it planned to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy over the next few years, creating a research and development initiative called Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal, or RE<C, to produce a gigawatt of renewable energy that is cheaper than coal.

But even before creating its venture capital fund, Google has handed out millions to develop or support clean technologies. Some of its investments include:
* $15 million into stealth wind-power startup Makani Power.
* more than $10 million in investments in enhanced geothermal systems: $6.25 million into AltaRock Energy and $4 million into Potter Drilling.
* $2.75 million into Austin, Texas, battery developer ActaCell and Carlsbad, Calif.-based electric car maker Aptera Motors.
* $10 million into Pasadena, Calif.-based eSolar and $10 million into Oakland, Calif.’s BrightSource Energy, both developing solar thermal technologies.

Those investments came from Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org. But from now on, Google Ventures will oversee the company’s VC investments. So far, the fund has already put cash into Silver Spring Networks.

Response is likely to be overwhelming, especially considering the current limited capital availability. Last time Google put out a call for proposals, it received more than 10 times as many RFPs as it expected. Its $10 million plug-in hybrid request for proposals in 2007 drew more than 300 responses.”

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In another article by Reuters in March 2009, it reports “Google Inc is forming a $100 million fund to invest in early-stage start-up firms. The fund, to be called Google Ventures, will be wholly owned by Google, but will operate as a separate entity and will seek investment opportunities to maximize returns rather than looking for investments that strictly fit with Google’s strategic vision.

Rich Miner, a co-founder of Android smart phone software that Google acquired in 2005, and Bill Maris are the fund’s two managing partners. Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Miner appeared at an investor conference for Internet start-up companies with a name tag that listed his name alongside Google Ventures.

Miner said on Monday that Google Ventures will look at a wide variety of companies to invest in, including consumer Internet products, information technology, health care and biotech, among other areas. “Just as we were founded by entrepreneurs, we think we can help some of those next entrepreneurs with the next great idea,” said Miner.

Google Ventures has already invested in Pixazza Inc, a photo-based online marketing service and Silver Spring Networks, a company that uses technology to improve the efficiency of power grids. Google has invested in other companies in the past through its philanthropic division, Google.org. While Google.org may continue to make investments from time to time, Maris said that Google Ventures will now function as Google’s “primary vehicle” for making venture-style investments.

Several high-tech companies have in-house venture capital arms, including Intel (INTC.O) and Motorola, But Maris said that Google Ventures will have more in common with traditional venture capital firms. “We’re making financial return our first lens,” said Maris. But he noted that a part of the appeal of Google Ventures for start-up firms is the relationship to Google and its 20,000 employees.

The fund will focus primarily on companies seeking seed funding and early stage funding, and Google Ventures will have the ability to make investments ranging from tens of thousands to “several tens of millions” of dollars, Maris said.”

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Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin also invested their own money into Nanosolar and Tesla Motors.

See a CNBC interview with Rich Miner here or on vodpod.

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