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

Last week Google Ventures unveiled a new website that includes the first public information about its portfolio and its staff. Yesterday, as part of the fund’s first real media outreach campaign, managing partner Bill Maris and partner David Krane spent about 45 minutes speaking with reporters in Boston via teleconference.

I summed up the conversation in a few bullet points yesterday afternoon. But the discussion was so interesting that I wanted to supplement my summary with the full transcript of the conversation.

While there were several reporters participating in the call, almost all of the questions came from me and from Galen Moore, a reporter with Mass High Tech and the Boston Business Journal.

David Krane: Google Ventures, as you know, is Google’s venture capital arm. We have a presence on both coasts. We’re headquartered in Cambridge with four folks there. Of our 10 portfolio companies that we’ve announced publicly, three are in greater Boston. Those are SCVNGR, a company that builds scavenger huts for mobile platforms; a data analytics and visualization company called Recorded Future; and in Lexington, MA, English Central, which helps non-English speakers how to speak English using online videos and clever technologies. Also, in New Hampshire, we have Adimab in the life sciences space. I’ll hand the call to Bill to start from the beginning and talk about the great progress in the last year.

Bill Maris: I’m originally from Burlington, VT, so I’m glad to talk with you there in Boston. When I joined Google Ventures just over two years ago, it was based on the idea of starting a Google venture fund, and trying to figure out what that would look like and how it would work. Over the last two years, we’ve made a lot of progress, not only on figuring that out but executing on that. We’ve detailed on the site who we’ve added and a number of companies that we’ve added since we officially announced the fund last March.

The job is to find best-of-breed entrepreneurs and startups and do careful, thoughtful due diligence and execute on the ones we are most excited about, and do everything we can to help those companies succeed once we’ve made the investment, which includes bringing to bear Google’s resources, including human capital and technical resources. That has been a large part of my job, and the value proposition that we bring to startups is an equally straightforward one. We’re putting together a team of seasoned entrepreneurs, investors, subject matter experts, and technology experts whose mission is to help those companies succeed. And with that comes Google Ventures’ commitment to those entrepreneurial organizations going forward. That is what we have been executing on and it’s been a year since we publicly launched and it’s great to talk to you all.

Galen Moore, Mass High Tech: Who are the four people you mentioned in the Cambridge office?

BM: Rich Miner, Krishnan Yeshwant, and Scott Davis, who is contributing part-time while he completes his post-doc. So we have three people at a senior level in the Cambridge office. Luis Garcia was formerly at Google and then went to Harvard to complete his MBA. He’s finishing that this year and will be joining us full time starting in the summer.

MHT: The size of the Google Ventures fund has been reported as $100 million, but that’s never been confirmed. Can you talk about the size of the fund?

BM: Our aspirational goal is to invest at least $100 million a year into startups and new ventures. We don’t consider it a failure if we don’t get there. But we also have the ability to go beyond that if we see opportunities [that warrant it]. So, when people ask us about the fund size, it’s not a $100 million fund. That implies a set sized fund that is then rolled out over four years at say $25 million a year. This would imply a larger fund. In Silicon Valley terms it is probably on the order of … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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6 responses to “Behind the Scenes at Google Ventures: The Full Q&A with Bill Maris”

  1. 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!
    I am confident that this idea of mine will work, I just have limited funds to prove my theory and could not make it happen with out help. So how about it, Google has nothing to loose and has Everything to gain. And the most important part of all is you or Google will have contributed to saving our Beautiful Plant an Plant Ocean. God Bless us All!
    Thanks for sending this to the chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Mr. Eric Schmidt.
    Christopher Lee Chesser / Nature Graphics

  2. Karen says:

    How can I submit my business concept to Google Ventures? I did google this question first, honestly! ([email protected])

  3. chot says:

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

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

  5. Nigel says:

    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?