Android Co-Founder Miner Reportedly Tapped to Help Run New $100 Million Google Venture Fund

Rich Miner, the driving force behind Google’s Android operating system for mobile phones and a longtime leader in Massachusetts communications software circles, reportedly will join Google Ventures, a $100 million venture fund the search giant is said to be forming.

Rumors of the planned venture fund have been in the air since last summer. More recently, the rumors included Miner, who is based in Google’s offices in Kendall Square, near MIT. But things perked up significantly in recent days, after a Reuters reporter attending a Silicon Valley venture capital event last week spotted a name badge that identified Miner as part of Google Ventures. According to Reuters, a Google spokesman asked about the venture effort last Thursday said, “It’s a project we’re working on. But we’re not able to discuss the details right now.” But on Friday night TechCrunch stated that it had confirmed the news: “Yes, the rumors are true. Google’s Rich Miner is moving from the Android team to a new venture arm called Google Ventures,” it reported, citing an unnamed source.

Miner, who will be part of the keynote chat at Xconomy’s Future of Mobile Innovation in New England forum on April 7, did not respond to my e-mail seeking confirmation of the TechCrunch report. And an East Coast Google spokesperson sent me a reply virtually identical to what Reuters reported: “This is a project we are working on, but we’re not ready to discuss details right now.”

Which is to say that it all looks real to me.

News of a Google venture fund first surfaced last July in the Wall Street Journal, which reported that the fund would be headed by Google senior vice president of corporate development and chief legal officer David Drummond.

Not everyone thinks it’s a good ideas for companies to be dabbling in venture funding. The Journal article included some statistics and background on corporate venture capital arms, which indeed do have a mixed-to-poor overall record of success. Rather than focusing on cash returns, these funds play a chiefly strategic role, by allowing companies to invest in startups whose products or services fill gaps in the corporation’s own offerings—or that are blazing new trails, both in markets the company might want to enter and in areas that might prove disruptive to the parent firm.

Occasionally, such arms are also formed to incubate and spin out interesting new developments from inside the company that don’t fit core business lines. No one seems to think this is what Google Ventures would do, but you never know: there are a lot of interesting things going on in Google—and not all may get the attention they deserve if they stay inside the company.

Whatever the focus of the new fund, Miner’s presence—his current title is Group Manager, Mobile Platforms—would seem to indicate it will take an interest in Android-related ventures, and also mobile software and communications more generally.

Miner was brought into the Google fold in 2005, when Google bought Android, the Silicon Valley mobile software company he co-founded. Before that, he was Vice President of Advanced Services at Orange, where he headed North American R&D activities. And prior to that, he co-founded Wildfire, a Lexington, MA-based company that developed a voice-based personal assistant (you can definitely see aspects of Wildfire in Google Voice, which Wade reviewed here). He got his PhD in computer science from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. You can read more about his background here.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and chairman. You can email him at [email protected] Follow @bbuderi

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