Google Ventures to grow: more cleantech cash?

Google Ventures is venturing to get bigger. How big a part will it play in cleantech VC sector?

How much Googlecash will flow into greentech? Google just announced it is going to add management clout to its Google Ventures venture. That is Google’s VC arm. That was announced last spring. So far it has made eight investments, some of which have been made public. Wikipedia has a list of five known Google Venture ventures. More staffing indicates there’ll be more VC activity by Google Ventures.

Here’s what Google says about its own VC fund’s goals: “Google Ventures is broadly interested in startups in industries including consumer Internet, software, hardware, clean-tech, bio-tech, health care and others. First and foremost, we're looking for entrepreneurs who are tackling problems in creative and innovative ways.”

We know Google has already put $100-million into its VC arm. That’s modest by VC fund standards. Announcements of billion-dollar funds are not unheard-of in the VC world. Silicon Valley’s NEA has announced it has raised $2.5 billion in VC cash. So this year may tell whether Google becomes truly big in the VC world, or just a minor player with a big name Either way few start-ups would turn down a Googlecash infusion even if it was only a modest sum. Imagine the publicity IF it was made public. But there are still secret Google Venture ventures.

Google may choose to grow its Venture fund as well. The company's current EBIDTA is running at over $8-billion. Another hundred million, more or less, is not a significant number in the realm of Googlecash. As I blogged earlier Google is already becoming visible in the cleantech sector via its philanthropy arm and it's moving to become, literally, a power broker.

GOOGLE’S FIRST KNOWN CLEANTECH INVESTMENT

So far we know of one Google Venture into cleantech. They’ve put money into Silver Spring Networks. This Silicon Valley firm (Based in Redwood City) provides smart grid services for utility companies. Besides Google, Silver Spring has investments from Foundation Capital, JVB Properties, Kleiner Perkins, Northgate Capital. This makes it clear that Google is not seeking exclusivity or sole ownership in its VC efforts. If Google Ventures acts like other major VCs we will see investments in many start-ups getting cash from various sources, not just Google.

Silver Springs is already partnering with GE, ABB, Cisco, Oracle, Itron, Invensys, Pacific Gas and Electric.