Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Google Ventures Sows Seed Funding With New Start-Up Lab (Video Tour)

As incoming CEO Larry Page seeks to recapture Google’s entrepreneurial spirit, Google Ventures thinks it’s in for a year of expansion and support from its corporate parent.

The VC arm, which gets $100 million from Google each year to invest as it sees fit, wants to give more early-stage companies seed funding, and to that end has taken over an enormous Google-owned building in Mountain View, Calif., and started filling it with companies. The space is mostly empty; there are just about 20 people working there now.

Google Ventures Partner David Krane took us on a tour of the Startup Lab, which opened in October and is currently occupied by start-ups like LawPivot (legal Q&A) and OpenCandy (software discovery), a product group from the vacation rental roll-up company HomeAway, and the yet-to-be-launched company of GrandCentral (now Google Voice) founder Craig Walker (which Google Ventures hasn’t invested in yet, though it’s made Walker an entrepreneur in residence).

The companies each pay $5 per month for as much space as they need, filled with recycled furniture from AdMob. They get a ping-pong table, free bikes and a microkitchen filled with snacks, courtesy of Google. They also added their own barbecue for the universal getting-to-know-you activity of grilling meat.

“This is not to be thought of as any sort of curated environment,” Krane said, anticipating the are-you-copying-Y-Combinator question. “This is merely work space.”

Krane said he mostly leaves the companies at the Startup Lab alone, stopping by about once a week. Google Ventures occupies its own floor of a building over on the other side of campus, right below Google’s autonomous car team, and also has offices in New York City, Cambridge, Mass., and Seattle.

Google Ventures has made about 30 total investments to date, with one exit: Ngmoco to DeNA. Just last week, it closed its first deal with a company led by former Google employees, the Web security provider Dasient.

It’s kind of crazy that a two-year-old venture firm with a staff of about 20 former Google employees wouldn’t have stumbled into investing in a former Googler’s company before now. And this is at a time when Google is fighting a talent war against its own employees’ entrepreneurial urges, which often lead them to join younger companies or start their own.

Krane said to expect more deals with former Googlers as Google Ventures “will do substantially more than 30 deals” this year.

“We don’t advocate or want people to leave Google,” Google Ventures Partner Bill Maris said, “but if someone has the entrepreneurial bug at that exit interview…”