Monday, 19 July 2010

VC Factsheet: GOOGLE VENTURES

Company Summary + History
Google Ventures, the venture capital arm of Google, was launched late March 2009 and although a newcomer to the venture capital space packs an arsenal of fire-power, namely an established name, proven business processes and capabilities in the technology sector.

According to the technology portal Mass High Tech Google Ventures plans to invest approximately 100 million USD each year with a yearly deal activity of 30-40 deals while pursuing ‘a stage- and industry-agnostic strategy’. According to the same source ‘the venture arm will seek financial profit from its investments and not filter companies based on their strategic importance to the parent company’. The fund presently focuses geographically to companies in North America. Google Ventures is overseen by David Drummond, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer while investments vetting will be led by Bill Maris and Rich Miner.

Key People
Although no senior individual on the Google Ventures team can be discounted as ‘non-key’ it seems that Bill Maris and Rich Miner are the heavy hitters.

Bill Maris: Managing Partner of Google Ventures. He is the founder of Burlee.com, one of the first web hosting services, which is now owned by Web.com. Prior to joining Google Ventures he was managing a biotechnology and healthcare portfolio for an investor based in Sweden. Maris holds a degree in Neuroscience from Middlebury College in Vermont, USA.

Rich Miner: A holder of a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, Miner brings with him 25 years of technology start-up experience. He is a co-founder of Android, the company that invented the Android mobile platform which, according to many technology sources, has become the iPhone’s main rival. Miner moved to Google after Android was acquired by Google. Miner’s career highlights include being Vice President R&D for North America at Orange Ventures, where he was also an original principal, and co-founding Wildfire.

High-Profile Deals
Silver Spring Networks: Google Ventures' first ever project, Silver Spring Networks is, according to the Google Ventures website, ‘a leading smart grid solutions provider [whose] hardware, software, and services help utilities [companies] reduce carbon emissions, operate more efficiently, and empower their customers with new ways to monitor and manage their energy consumption’. Silver Spring Networks has already had funding of approximately 150 million USD, with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Foundation Capital being the lead investors. This is a late-stage investment for Google Ventures.

VigLink Inc.: Google Ventures participated with First Round Capital and angel investor Niel Robertson in a first round investment of 800,000 USD in VigLink, ‘a tool for publishers of all sizes to make monetization of their outbound links effortless, transparent and honest’ as stated on the Google Ventures website.

EnglishCentral: Google Ventures and Atlas Ventures have reportedly invested 3.5 million USD in this speech recognition platform which allows users to practice speaking English using videos found on the website and then giving instant feedback on the user's progress.

Adimab: a biotechnology company which has developed ‘an integrated antibody discovery and optimization platform [which] provides unprecedented speed from antigen to purified, full-length human IgGs’ (immunoglobulin G antibody molecules). The website Xconomy.com reported that Google Ventures invested in Adimab’s fourth round financing together with SV Life Sciences, Polaris Venture Partners, OrbiMed Advisors and Borealis Ventures a total of 8.2 million USD.

SCVNGR: Google Ventures, along with Highland Capital, invested 4 million USD for SCVNGR, a location-based service games developer. SCVNGR was first established in the DreamIt Ventures programme in 2008. Its main competitors are Gowalla and Foursquare.

OpenCandy: Google Ventures participated, together with Bessemer Venture Partners, O'Reilly AlphaTech, as well as investors Reid Hoffman and Jordan Greenhall, in the 5 million USD Series B funding of OpenCandy. OpenCandy provides a service of linking advertisers and developers to consumers through bundled software. The service gives consumers the option of downloading and installing additional relevant software during the installation process.

Requirements for Capital Investments
Google Ventures has declared no criteria for eligibility of investment. It is relatively new and open to all sectors and stages of investment, but has so far been investing mostly in series B or later funding for start-ups.

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