Google is looking to invest in key industries. If you want some of that action, it doesn’t hurt to have a pal inside the Googleplex.
Google’s venture capital arm is a year old, with 10 companies in its portfolio. If you’re an entrepreneur seeking Google funding, it helps to be in a market Google considers key, such as cleantech, biotech, health, cloud storage, and mobile, according to Liz Gannes at GigaOm, who attended a briefing at Google’s headquarters.
Google Ventures wants to find promising companies that Google can help, rather than companies that will “wholly” help Google, said [managing partner Bill] Maris. So, for example, portfolio company Pixazza, which uses image recognition to embed relevant ads in pictures, was able to significantly increase user responsiveness to ads by tweaking its interface on the advice of Google Ventures partner Braden Kowitz. Or, said Maris, Google Ventures might invest in a protein design company because it could put Google’s massive computing assets to use.
If you want to get Google Ventures to invest in you, the best way is to get referred by a Google employee or someone in one of the partner’s network, or work with one of the two VC firms that have closely aligned themselves with Google: Kleiner Perkins and August Capital. To date, approximately one quarter of the firm’s investments have been in companies referred by Googlers. Interestingly, none of the companies Google Ventures has invested in to date were founded by former Googlers (that’s a marked contrast to the companies Google has been buying lately).
Google has a big pile of money to give away, $100 million this year, GigaOm says.
Google isn’t just investing in companies; it’s also buying them.
Google last week bought BumpTop, which makes a novel 3D desktop user interface. My colleague Preston Gralla explains:
[Bumptop] essentially converts your desktop into a 3D virtual room. You can place your icons, shortcuts, and files on the floor and along the walls. You can also place various objects into piles, or have BumpTop automatically group everything into piles on its own.
Preston says Bumptop is the future of Android and the upcoming Google Tablet. I agree, but maybe not for the same reasons as Preston.
The 3D user interface of Bumptop is a novelty, it doesn’t have practical value. It looks great, and I salute Bumptop’s creativity and hard work — but I haven’t heard of anyone actually using it in day-to-day work.
Instead, Google is buying Bumptop for its multi-touch gestures, writes Jared Newman at PCWorld (and I agree).
Google already allows multi-touch gestures in its Android phones, but BumpTop’s list of commands goes beyond what Google currently offers. Some gestures are specific to the 3D desktop, such as dragging two fingers to focus on the desktop’s back wall, and some have already been done by Google, Apple and others, such as pinch-to-zoom and flick to move between photos.
But there are some real gems in BumpTop’s stash. For example, dragging a finger flat across the screen in BumpTop pushes objects around, and holding one finger in place while dragging another crops images. Even if Google never implements a 3D desktop, these gestures could come in handy for Android or even Chrome OS.
While Google is shelling out the cash, former-BFF-now-archrival Apple isn’t standing with its hands in its pockets.
Apple is stepping up the pace of acquisitions to acquire mobile technology and talent, writes Bloomberg’s Connie Guglielmo. The company, flush with $23.1 billion in cash, last week bought mobile application vendor Siri and semiconductor designer Intrisity. Apple bought mobile ad network Quattro Wireless in January, and online music service LaLa in December.
“The pace has really picked up, there seems to be a strategic shift,” said Charlie Wolf, an analyst with Needham & Co. in New York. “It looks like there’s an acquisition frenzy going on between Google and Apple in the sense that there’s an increasing urgency on Apple’s part to stay even if not ahead of Google in the phone space and apps space.”
Apple, always mindful of secrecy, sometimes gives a target only three hours to accept the terms of an acquisition, Bloomberg says.
Mitch Wagner is a freelance technology journalist and social media marketing consultant. Follow him on Twitter: @MitchWagner.