Google Voice, Google Video, Google...Ventures?

If you thought everybody's favorite search giant was getting close to running out of new projects to launch, think again. While Google Labs could be called the project to launch new projects, Google's latest addition to the Don't Be Evil Empire is the project to buy them all.

The company announced on Monday that it has formed Google Ventures, a venture capital fund intended to invest in "a diverse array of industries" — a gusty move in a time when venture capitalists are closing up tighter than clams on their way to New England. The fund will receive $100 million the first year, and is to be headed by investor/entrepreneur William Maris along with Google's former mobile-platform chief, Rich Miner.

Jumping into business speculation might seem counter-intuitive with the global economy one kerflush away from 1929, but the investors-in-chief say it's needed now more than ever. "[G]reat ideas come when they will...If anything, we think the current downturn is an ideal time to invest in nascent companies that have the chance to be the 'next big thing,' and we'll be working hard to find them." They may well discover they're not that hard to find — the VC market has been slower than molasses lately, with 2008's Q4 results showing a 71% decrease in investments over Q4 2007. The VC brigade played fast and loose in 2007, doling out nearly $12 billion to up-and-coming up-and-comers, while the cash flowing in the tail of 2008 — just under $3.5 billion — leaves one wondering if Mr. Lincoln might want something for a pinch-induced migraine.

Still, g$ may prove a valuable feeding ground for Google, providing an intermediate step between independent-but-underfunded and acquired-but-on-hold. With the opportunity to inject just the right amount of cash, who knows what Google ventures we may see popping up.
Justin Ryan is News Editor for
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