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If you're an internet entrepreneur and you could pick any company to invest in your startup, which one would it be?
Chances are Google would be at or near the top of the list. And for good reason: Google is not only the 800-lb. gorilla of the internet and one of the most prominent companies in the world, it has been fairly aggressive over the years in acquiring young startups, from hot consumer plays like YouTube to enterprise ventures like Postini.
Thanks to Google's newly-announced VC fund, some lucky entrepreneurs will find themselves on the receiving end of a Google investment.
What is Google looking for? It is open-minded to say the least. While many investors create their funds with a relatively narrow focus, Google's fund is pretty much open to any company with a great idea. Google lists "consumer Internet, software, clean-tech, bio-tech, health care" as areas that it's interested in, but its announcement also makes it clear that the Mountain View-based company is willing to make investments in "other areas we haven't thought of yet". That's an open invitation for wacky business plans if I've ever seen one.
Google Ventures is managed by former entrepreneur and portfolio manager Bill Maris and Rich Miner, a former Vice President at Orange who joined Google when it acquired mobile platform company Android.
Google says that the entire community of Googlers will play an important role in directing the fund to interesting opportunities and reiterated its belief that "the current downturn is an ideal time to invest in nascent companies that have the chance to be the 'next big thing'".
Certainly Google has cash to invest despite the economic downturn and it will have no shortage of entrepreneurs beating down its doors. After all, Google offers much more than cash. The prestige of having Google Ventures as an investor will have a lot of value for startups and if Google Ventures takes an active role as an investor, it could leverage some of its resources and knowledge to assist its portfolio companies. And of course, many entrepreneurs will believe/hope that an investment by Google Ventures makes a Google acquisition more likely if they're successful.
While that's a possibility, I wouldn't count on it. I'm sure that Google has a genuine interest in getting in finding 'the next big thing' (many critics note that Google needs to finds its next big thing) but I also think Google Ventures is probably also a relatively low-cost way for Google to keep its hand on the pulse of innovation in areas where it has a strategic interest. I'm sure hundreds if not thousands of proposals have already been received; that's free research for Google and tells Google what entrepreneurs out there are thinking about and working on.
But for a chance at some Google cash, most entrepreneurs probably don't mind.
If you're interested in submitting your proposal to Google, you can do so at the Google Ventures website, which advises that proposals be no more than 20 slides or 3 written pages.
Photo credit: Andrew Turner via Flickr.