Google to share (some of) the wealth with venture-cap arm

William Maris and Rich Miner are living the dream: They've got $100 million of someone else's money and a year to spend it on interesting projects. Maris, an experienced venture-capital hand, will be joining with Miner (formerly of Google's mobile branch) to head Google Ventures, a new albeit long-rumored VC endeavor for the company.

The project, announced in the corporate blog, will focus on early-stage projects -- anywhere between seed and mezzanine-level, in the parlance of the VC tribe. The project's fledgling site states that it's "studying a broad range of industries, including consumer Internet, software, hardware, clean-tech, bio-tech and health care," and says explicitly that it's not merely seeking potential acquisition targets.

This isn't, however, Google's first time at the rodeo. BusinessWeek reported in September 2007 that the company was quietly offering VC-style money to selected startups, often acquiring them or their tech once they'd flowered a bit. At the time, according to the article, more traditional VC groups were annoyed by the company's actions, since often the funding seemed to bind young enterprises to the search giant. Of course, that was an entire economy ago; with VC notably nervous in the early months of 2009, bold moves by Google Ventures may make those 2007 efforts look like one of the company's famous long-term beta periods.

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