NEW YORK Google Inc is forming a $100 million fund to invest in early-stage start-up firms.
The fund, to be called Google Ventures, will be wholly owned by Google, but will operate as a separate entity and will seek investment opportunities to maximize returns rather than looking for investments that strictly fit with Google's strategic vision.
Rich Miner, a co-founder of Android smart phone software that Google acquired in 2005, and Bill Maris are the fund's two managing partners.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Miner appeared at an investor conference for Internet start-up companies with a name tag that listed his name alongside Google Ventures.
Miner said on Monday that 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.
"Just as we were founded by entrepreneurs, we think we can help some of those next entrepreneurs with the next great idea," said Miner.
Google Ventures has already invested in Pixazza Inc, an photo-based online marketing service and Silver Spring Networks, a company that uses technology to improve the efficiency of power grids.
Google has invested in other companies in the past through its philanthropic division, Google.org. While Google.org may continue to make investments from time to time, Maris said that Google Ventures will now function as Google's "primary vehicle" for making venture-style investments.
Several high-tech companies have in-house venture capital arms, including Intel and Motorola, But Maris said that Google Ventures will have more in common with traditional venture capital firms.
"We're making financial return our first lens," said Maris. But he noted that a part of the appeal of Google Ventures for start-up firms is the relationship to Google and its 20,000 employees.
The fund will focus primarily on companies seeking seed funding and early stage funding, and Google Ventures will have the ability to make investments ranging from tens of thousands to "several tens of millions" of dollars, Maris said.
(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Derek Caney)