Silicon Valley venture backs Google Glass

Silicon Valley venture backs Google Glass

By Miguel Helft, senior writer April 10, 2013: 5:00 PM ET

Three of the Bay Area’s marquee investment firms want to capture the most interesting ideas before they’re hatched.

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FORTUNE — It was classic Sergey Brin. Dressed in sports shorts, an exercise shirt and blue Crocs, the Google co-founder showed up riding an elliptical bicycle, and as he does these days, wearing Glass, Google’s futuristic wearable computer that fits on a head mounted display. Oh, and he was a few minutes late.

The occasion: An announcement that three Silicon Valley investment powerhouses are teaming up to attract entrepreneurs interested in building businesses around Glass. Never mind thatGlass is not yet available to the public or to large numbers of developers. Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers said Wednesday that they are forming the “Glass collective.” It is neither a new fund—as my colleague Dan Primack predicted—nor a commitment to co-invest in deals. Instead, it’s an agreement by the three firms to share potential seed-stage investments. If a Glass entrepreneur contacts one of the firms, all three firms will get to meet her, but will decide independently whether or not to invest in the business.In way, you can think of the collective as a marketing partnership by the three marquee investment firms to capture the most interesting ideas even before they are hatched. To potential Glass entrepreneurs, it says: come to us first. “The web is no longer in your pocket, it is right before your very eyes,” said John Doerr, of Kleiner Perkins, in reference to Google (GOOG) Glass. “This could be a whole new way to appreciate the world.”

Doerr and Brin were joined by Marc Andreessen, of Andreessen Horowitz and Bill Maris, of Google Ventures. And Doerr, who invested in Andreessen’s first startup, Netscape, and in Brin’s startup, Google, said the collective was a bit like “getting the band together again.”

Andreessen said he was attracted to the collective, in part because of the parallels between Glass, which he described not as a product but rather as a platform, and the Web browser. “The range of applications that people can build on this thing is absolutely amazing” Andreessen said. He predicted that Glass would get better by “leaps and bounds” but said that even its first version, Glass is a “very compelling platform.”

Today, Glass, which is operated via voice commands and by touching the display’s frame, does just a few things. It can take pictures, send messages, pose questions to Google, among other things. I asked each of the presenters to describe the kinds of applications that might be possible in the future potential.

Brin said he would like to use Glass as the viewfinder for his SLR camera in order to be able to take pictures more spontaneously. Maris, who early in his career worked in the biotechnology industry, said he would like to see applications that would load lab protocols so scientist could conduct experiments hands-free. Andreessen said healthcare was a field that could see great applications for Glass. “What if every doctor or paramedic had an instantaneous guide to deal with any medical situation,” he asked.

Doerr, for his part, said he hoped developers would create applications in the education field, but said that with a technology this new, it would be difficult to predict what entrepreneurs would focus on. “More than any platform I’ve seen before, I can’t imagine that people are going to do with this,” he said.

Published: Thursday April 11, 2013 MYT 8:34:00 AM

Big venture firms eye opportunity in Google Glass

SAN FRANCISCO: Venture firms Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers are teaming up to provide funding for startups working with Google Glass, the hybrid eyeglasses and smartphone developed by Google.

The firms aim to provide funding to startups working on applications and hardware designed to work with the glasses, they said on Wednesday.

“There’s a potential for a paradigm shift here, like there was with browsers, PCs,” said Bill Maris, partner at Google Ventures, referring to personal computers.

The firms will evaluate opportunities concurrently, and may invest collectively or individually. Funding for glass-related ventures will be carved out of the firms’ existing funds.

Having three firms involved will increase the chance of success, the venture firms said, because the entrepreneurs they fund will benefit from three points of view. Google Ventures regularly co-invests with Andreessen and Kleiner, Maris said.

Kleiner was an early backer of Google.

There should be no shortage of developers willing to experiment with the technology.

“The tool set and the feature set that developers have to work with is very attractive,” said Ben Arnold, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at the NPD Group, citing Google Glass features such as voice activation and augmented reality.

There is no dedicated sum set aside for Google Glass, making the project different to Kleiner’s $200 million iFund, which Kleiner started five years ago to back entrepreneurs building applications and services for iPhones, iPods, and iPads. But the timing of the initiative– coming before it is obvious that a big ecosystem will grow around Google Glass– is similar, said John Doerr, a partner at Kleiner.

Google Glass can live-stream images and audio and perform computing tasks through a stamp-sized electronic screen mounted on the side of a pair of eyeglass frames. It can also record video, access email, and retrieve information from the Internet.

Chinese search engine Baidu said earlier this month that it was working on its own prototype of digital eye wear that is similar to Google Glass.

The technology started getting noticed around a year ago, when Google co-founder Sergey Brin began wearing Google Glass out and about. In February, Google invited members of the public to apply to test a version of the glasses in its Glass Explorer Program. Successful applicants must pay $1,500 for the glasses.

Google Glass will become more widely available later this year, Google has said, including a version that will work with eye wear prescriptions.

That is the version glasses-wearer Doerr said he is waiting for. In meantime, he has tried on another earlier style of Google Glass.

“My daughter thinks I look really weird,” he said. – Reuters

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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