Google is forming a $100 million fund to invest in early-stage start-ups, according to Reuters. The fund, to be called Google Ventures, will operate as a separate entity and seek investment opportunities that will help maximize returns — even if these investments don’t strictly follow Google’s strategic vision.
Google Ventures will look at a wide variety of companies to invest in, including consumer Internet products, information technology, health care and biotech, among other areas. Google has invested in other companies in the past through its philanthropic division, Google.org. According to fund co-manager Bill Maris, while Google.org may continue to make investments from time to time, Google Ventures will now function as Google’s “primary vehicle” for making venture-style investments, which can range from “little” seed money tens of millions of dollars.
People with disabilities take note: It is well-known that this group has a much higher unemployment rates than abled-bodied people. About 40 percent of people with disabilities are employed, vs. about 80 percent of able-bodied people. While many organizations offer grants to non-profit organizations, it’s harder to obtain resources for for-profit ventures. Because of their difficulties in finding appropriate work and getting hired, many people with disabilities and chronic health conditions start businesses instead.
That makes venture capital companies like Google Ventures a possible outlet for small-business start-ups that are run by people with disabilities. But make no mistake: The fund is designed to “maximize returns.” Past recipients include Pixazza, an photo-based online marketing service and Silver Spring Networks, a company that uses technology to improve the efficiency of power grids.
If you think you have the next big idea, go to the Google Ventures website. Or try the Small Business Association’s Small Disadvantaged Business Certification Program. Companies that are majority-owned by individuals from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and who can also prove that they are economically disadvantaged, can qualify for an 8(a) certification that allows them to participate in government contracting and set-aside programs. In order to meet the economic disadvantage test, all individuals must have a net worth of less than $250,000, excluding the value of the business and personnel residence.
Google Ventures, of course, isn’t the only venture capital company looking for the next big thing. According to BusinessWeek.com, Venrock Associates, which funds Web start-ups including women’s blogging site BlogHer and search engine ZoomInfo, is considering launching a startup incubator as a way to counter corporations’ ability to buy the same companies it wants to fund.