Behind the Scenes at Google Ventures: The Full Q&A with Bill Maris

5/4/10Follow @wroush

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built out the team and have some investments. Going forward, you should expect to see regular updates to our investments. Now that the plane is a couple of feet off the runway, those things are more reasonable. So the answer is yes.

X: You have a center of gravity in Mountain View and a presence in Cambridge. Can you imagine going into any other locations?

BM: Yes, Interesting ventures are not limited to Silicon Valley and Cambridge. We believe in being where innovation is. So yes, I do imagine that, and stay tuned because that is very possible.

X: Given Google’s visibility around the world, I’d guess that you are even more inundated with business plans and proposals than the average venture fund. How do you manage it all?

BM: We do get a lot of deal flow. So we have to apply certain filters to it to understand where we should spend our time. The deals referred to us by trusted co-investors or Googlers naturally rise to the top of the queue. We all have networks we leverage, and other networks we have worked with in the past. It’s not that dissimilar from other funds in that in order to differentiate the signal from the noise you have to apply some kind of filter. We get a lot of stuff over the transom and honestly it’s more than we can look at. We can’t look at everything and spend as much time on every idea as we would like. The ones referred to us, or recommended to us, are the ones we spend the most time on. But it is an unfortunate reality that there isn’t really a scalable way to spend as much time on every idea as you want. Whether we get more or less than other funds, it’s hard to say, but I know there’s a lot, and it’s overwhelming. We can’t get through it all.

MHT: In Cambridge, Microsoft has been sponsoring programs with startups in a very public way, and on the other side people have been asking why Google is not doing the same. You don’t see as much Google involvement in public events in the startup ecosystem in the Boston and Cambridge area. Why is that, and do you guys expect that will change?

BM: I think so. Rich has held office hours alongside a group of other funds. We have sponsored a number of other events. Don Dodge [formerly of Microsoft] recently joined Google and has deep ties into the entrepreneurial community, especially on the East Coast. Now that the fund is fully operational, you should expect to see more outreach and more engagement and more of all that that. It’s part of being part of the community.

An important question that came up earlier was about the commitment from Google and the permanence of Google Ventures. There is no question internally about that. It’s difficult to communicate the concept of that permanence externally. But I would direct you the entrepreneurs and the co-investors we have been dealing with over the last year to get their perspective on the answer to that question. Obviously we wouldn’t be doing this if there were a risk that it was going to go away in a year. That’s not something we are worried about. But I can understand why an entrepreneur who hasn’t dealt with us would have that concern.

MHT: Did you meet that $100 million investing target in your first year?

BM: That’s not something we’re going to comment on.

MHT: Is there an average deal size or deal number targeted?

BM: No. We’ve made some investments that were hundreds of thousands, and others that were tens of millions. N equals 10 in this case. We could come up with an average but it would be meaningless. When there are 30 or 40 companies we will have a better feel for that, but right now it’s too early to say. I will say that the deals that we’ve done have been a little bit bifurcated—some are the angel-type investments and others are much larger investments. The mid-stage, Series C types of deals we haven’t found to be as good a value proposition. So we’re at the two ends of that spectrum. It’s just the way things have been working out. It’s not so much an approach.

DK: We are just a couple of feet off the runway. We’ll keep you posted as things evolve. You can expect Google Ventures to be more communicative and more open now that the staff is secured and we’ve got some opportunities and some resources to tell the story.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • http:/homepage.mac.com/cchesser/ christopher lee chesser

    Dear Google;
    Hello my name is Christopher Lee Chesser and I have an Idea that I think Google would be interested in. I have not been able to contact any one at Google with my idea therefore I choose to go this way.
    What I am suggesting is I believe that I have figured out a way to stop the oil! But in order to do this NOW I thought that a high profile company like Google might be interested in this because it would give Google even more popularity. And this is good for business. I am not and engineer I am a professional Artist with little money but I can see where many can not. And after President Obama’s speech tonight I thought that if I could get my idea out fast it would be for the better. So what better and what faster way could there be then by using Google. Right! I mean FAST is what Google is all about, RIGHT!
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    Thanks for sending this to the chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Mr. Eric Schmidt.
    Sincerely,
    Christopher Lee Chesser / Nature Graphics
    president

  • Karen

    How can I submit my business concept to Google Ventures? I did google this question first, honestly! (ksoeffker@yahoo.com)

  • chot

    Seeking Partnership, Angel or Venture Capital funding to Launch the unique Virtual B2B incubator/ecommerce concept.

  • http://www.olympya.com Paulo Mattos

    I need to contact anyone from Google Capital and I am not being able to.

  • http://www.coolesolutions.co.uk Nigel

    How on earth does someone contact Bill Maris? No matter how many searches I do on Google it fails to find a result. Anyone any ideas?