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IBM starts half billion dollar fund for next generation Internet companies

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NORTH CASTLE, N.Y. - IBM is giving 500 million reasons for 'Net entrepreneurs to take their ideas to market.

To be more specific, the IBM Global Financing unit today announced it was putting up a half billion dollars to support Internet technology companies. This expansion shows once again how the 800-pound mainframe gorilla wants to be a player in the red-hot field of Web start-ups. Indeed, in a rare show of hip-ness, the company even has established a Global Net Generation Business unit.

However, this is not entirely a risky or an altruistic move, as the firm states the money is slated for companies who will use it to buy IBM services, software and hardware. Moreover, those dollars will be going only to those companies that have already gotten a first round of financing from venture capitalists. IBM says it will work with venture capital firms who have companies in need of a new cash infusion for computer equipment. While the terms of the financing will be left flexible, those companies must be developing business-to-business Internet products.

IBM, which has been putting "e-" in front of as many of its products as possible, could bill itself as the world's biggest and oldest Internet start-up company. It claims that in total, it has invested $1 billion in a variety of cutting edge financing programs. This includes putting money into venture capital firms and acquiring companies with desirable technology. For select 'Net start-ups, IBM even offers an "incubator" package of services and products, worth up to $1 million, complete with a six-month grace period.

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