Google has never kept a low-profile, but even by Google's standards its recent track record of buying and investing in start-ups is impressive.
Google has been on a record acquisition pace, with nine purchases in 2010. In addition to making acquisitions, Google is helping independent start-ups grow with a new investment fund called Google Ventures. Thus far, Google's venture fund has invested in 10 companies in a wide range of fields such as antibody research, "green" utility networks, cars, and of course many types of Web-based services.
While the Google Ventures Web site doesn't reveal the amount of each investment, it does give brief descriptions of why each company caught Google's eye. Here's a look at the first 10 start-ups lucky enough to earn investment from Google.
Located in Lebanon, N.H., Adimab claims to have built "the first fully integrated, yeast-based antibody discovery platform." Founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dartmouth University scientists, Adimab has a technique for delivering therapeutic antibodies that dramatically simplifies and speeds up the process, which is usually time-consuming and requires royalty fees to third parties. Adimab is collaborating with Pfizer, Merck and Roche on research projects.
Located in Southlake, Texas, Corduro supplies payment services, including recurring payments, for Internet, mobile and retail transactions. "Our branded gateway for merchants looking to accept credit/debit cards over the Internet is an ideal solution for those who already have a merchant account but are looking for a state-of-the-art payment gateway," Corduro says.
English Central, located in Lexington, Mass., and Tokyo, makes language learning software that uses Web content, such as speeches by President Obama and movie clips, to teach English. "Its unique language learning software allows users to hear themselves speaking, and shows them exactly where they're making pronunciation mistakes," according to Google. Clips from "Twilight", "Alice in Wonderland" and a Skittles commercial are among the videos used to teach English.
Located in San Diego, OpenCandy provides software publishers a plug-in for their installers that lets them recommend other applications their users might like during the installation process. The process offers a simple way to download complementary software products, but with an "opt-in" style that doesn't waste time or bandwidth downloading programs users don't want. "We help software developers make money by recommending software and help software advertisers reach new users," OpenCandy says. The company reportedly received $5 million in funding from Google and other investors.
Pixazza of Mountain View, Calif., is a Web service "that converts static images into interactive content by revealing the 'products in the picture' across popular Web sites," according to Google. Targeted at publishers and advertisers, pictures that are given the Pixazza treatment are tagged just like Facebook photos, but the tags lead to information about products and where to buy them.
Located in Cambridge, Mass., Recorded Future tries to analyze the past, present, and predict the future with data analytics technology that extracts event and time information from the Web and may be able to predict future stock market events or terrorist attacks."At Recorded Future, we compute a momentum value for each entity and event in our database," the company explains. "The momentum value indicates how interesting a certain event or entity is at a particular time, and is continuously updated. In computing the momentum value, we take into account the volume of news around an entity or event, as well as what sources it is mentioned in, what other events and entities it is mentioned together with, and several other factors."
Located in Boston, SCVNGR is a "geo-gaming" platform that makes it easier to build "location-based mobile games, tours, and interactive experiences that can be played by anyone on any mobile device," the company says. The Web-based toolkit allows even non-technical people to build games that can be played via text message, mobile Web browsers and through iPhone and Android apps. SCVNGR reportedly received $4 million from Google Ventures and other investors.
Silver Spring, of Redwood City, Calif., aims to improve utility networks with hardware, software and services that reduce carbon emissions and improve operational efficiency. Silver Spring's technologies "connect every device on the grid," creating a "wireless communications network that allows devices such as meters, load management controllers and plug-in vehicle applications to communicate with each other and the utility," the company says.
Lcoated in San Francisco, VigLink helps Web publishers make money from links on their sites with a commission-based system that pays off when a user clicks through to a product or service and buys something. The service works by copying and pasting "a single snippet of code into your page template," and is free to try, but VigLink takes 25% of each commission.
Located in San Diego, V-Vehicle was founded in 2005, but its Web site is still blank, except for a logo. "V-Vehicle is a new American car company that is introducing a safe, high-quality, fuel-efficient, and well-equipped car for the U.S. market," Google says. "Designed and built in America, V Car makes green affordable for the masses." V-Vehicle has struggled financially, however, and recently underwent a management shakeup.
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