10 cool firms Google Ventures has backed
30th Aug 2010 | 09:00
From miracle cures to magic cars
Cool Google Ventures:1-5
Venture capitalists provide cash, guidance and resources to help new businesses thrive - businesses like Google, which might still be stuck in a garage if it weren't for VCs' early investments.
Now the search giant wants to return the favour, and its Google Ventures arm aims to find the most exciting new businesses and help them to thrive - not just by throwing money at them, but by sharing resources too. Here are ten firms that Google's backing to make them bigger.
"The first fully integrated, yeast-based antibody discovery platform" might not sound too exciting, but Adimab is doing something extraordinary: it's built a kind of synthetic immune system that can help pharmaceutical companies develop the antibody drugs of the future.
Don't bother checking out the Corduro website: it's essentially a placeholder, with precious little information. You might be better off checking out the iPhone/iPad payment application Square, because we suspect Google's investment in Corduro is for something similar: the firm offers a mobile payment platform for small businesses, and of course Google has a mobile platform in Android.
3. English Central
Bringing English Central into the YouTube family makes a lot of sense. The site offers an unusual take on language learning, enabling students to choose popular English language video clips rather than traditional, deathly dull educational footage. English Central then uses speech recognition to analyse the students' speech and provide feedback.
Another medical investment, iPierian focuses on fighting diseases for which there are poor medical models and limited available treatments such as Parkinson's disease, spinal muscular atrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Its technology effectively reprogrammes human adult cells to behave like stem cells, deftly side-stepping the controversy over the use of human embryos' cells in medical research.
The Miso service is a kind of Foursquare for TV, enabling you to share what you're watching with others, discover new things to watch and earn points to unlock "fun, virtual badges like Princess, Food Mobster and Moustache Patrol." Miso was already available in Web-based, iPhone and iPad flavours, an Android version has just launched and we'd expect to see it on Google TV when that ships.
Cool Google ventures: 6-10
Pixazza turns pictures into sales opportunities and has been dubbed "AdSense for images", so it's not surprising that Google's taken an interest. Celeb snaps become "get the look!" sales opportunities; photos of beautiful beaches sprout adverts for boat trips; and time-lapse photos become equipment lists with shopping links.
PIXAZZA:If you've ever wished web pages had more things popping up in front of them, has Pixazza got the product for you!
7. Recorded Future
Remember the pre-cogs in Minority Report? Recorded Future is a bit like that, but without floating any bald people in tanks. The world's first "temporal analytics engine" analyses the past to predict the future, and immediate applications include financial trading, competitor analysis and national security. When Eric Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal that "I actually think most people don't want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next" we suspect that Recorded Future was part of what he had in mind.
Life, the saying goes, is a game. SCVNGR took that literally and created a gaming platform where the real world is the game world. More than 550 organisations in 20 different countries have built applications using SCVNGR, encouraging users to carry out specific tasks - strike a pose, scan a code or just check in, Foursquare style - in order to earn points. Think of it as a high-tech treasure hunt and you've got the basic idea, but this is a system that scales: games can be as small as you like or encompass entire cities with thousands of simultaneous players.
SCVNGR:This app turns the real world into a gaming platform, with locations setting challenges that you can take to earn points
9. Silver Spring Networks
Silver Spring creates hardware, software and services for Smart Grid systems, a more efficient way to deliver electricity. As the US department of energy notes, "if the grid were just 5 per cent more efficient, the energy savings would equate to permanently eliminating the fuel and greenhouse gas emissions from 53 million cars". Smart Grid technology also encompasses home automation, with appliances monitoring energy use and adjusting their behaviour to keep your utility bills low.
This is perhaps the most intriguing investment of all: V-Vehicle is a new car company that promises to "make green affordable for the masses". What kind of cars will it make? Nobody knows for sure, although reports suggest they'll have plastic, customisable bodies rather than traditional steel skins. What technologies will its vehicles adopt? Nobody's saying. The presence of former Mazda designer Tom Motano - the man behind the RX-7 and the MX-5 - bodes well, as does the presence of other heavyweight investors including famous VC firm Kleiner Perkins and former Texas oil boss T. Boone Pickens.
V-VEHICLE:So far the only pictures of the V-Vehicle car are teaser shots in video clips. The firm promises affordable green motoring for the masses
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