Google strengthens venture capital arm

12 November 2012

NEW YORK: Google, the internet and mobile giant, is boosting the resources provided to its venture capital arm, as it seeks to identify the next generation of disruptive start-ups.

The company has announced plans to increase funding to its Google Ventures unit, which is charged with spotting and backing promising young enterprises, from $200m to $300m per year.

More broadly, the aim is to invest $1.5bn in fledgling businesses during the coming five years. It has already entered sectors from solar energy and healthcare as part of this process.

"It puts a lot more wood behind the arrow if we need it," Bill Maris, a managing partner at Google Ventures, told Reuters. "It doesn't necessarily mean that we're going to do a lot more deals, or that we're going to do a lot bigger deals.

"It's a further affirmation of what we set out to do, which is to find and invest in the most disruptive and interesting founders we could find."

Google Ventures was established in 2009, and backs between 40 and 50 firms at the early "seed stage" each year, typically delivering up to $250,000 per agreement.

It has supplemented these efforts with roughly 15 tie-ups valued at up to $10m, and one or two deals where the level of financial support reaches between $20m and $50m.

Google itself offers a model of the ideal investment opportunity, Maris argued, as founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page created a distinctive service which achieved a dominant position.

"Sergey and Larry are what made Google different from every other search engine out there," he said. "That's what we're looking for."

While Page, Google's chief executive, has mooted the possibility of raising the financial clout of its Ventures division even further, the company is also focused on taking a considered approach.

"Larry has repeatedly asked me: 'What do you think you could do with a billion a year?'" said Maris. "A billion a year is not something we can reasonably do ... $300m was picked because it was an increment above $200m."

Rich Miner, a general partner at Google Ventures, added that its areas of interest include big data and mobile, where it has previously backed players like SCVNGR, Crittercism and Astrid.

"We really should see every mobile investment out there," he told AllThingsD. "We know some of the challenges. We know some of the pain points."

Data sourced from Reuters, GigaOm, AllThingsD; additional content by Warc staff