Google Ventures Rethinks Its International Investment Strategy

Although Google’s investment arm, Google Ventures, only opened its London office in July 2014 — setting aside an initial $100 million to invest in startups “across Europe” — it’s now abandoning the idea of running separate funds, according to CEO Bill Maris.

Speaking in an interview in today’s FT, Maris said the fund wants to have more flexibility in where it invests — so will be pooling its investments into a single global vehicle next year.

We’ve reached out to Google Ventures with questions and will be updating this story as we learn more. Update: A spokesperson for GV confirmed it will be operating as a global fund starting in January, telling TechCrunch: “This gives us more flexibility and dollars to invest in the best founders and companies, regardless of where they are based, and reduces limitations of a specific fund size. Aside from this, it’s business as usual for the team in London — nothing else changes.”

The fund has made more than 300 investments overall since being founded back in 2009. But the European arm has been relatively quiet since launching, making only a handful (six) of investments so far. One of the initial partners, Peter Read, also departed last July, a year in.

The full complement of initial partners (including Read) discussed their investment strategy on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt London in October 2014, soon after the launch, with Eze Vidra, saying at the time: “We are not focusing in any one country in particular. Innovation is truly global.”

It seems Google Ventures is now taking Vidra’s words at face value, although it remains to be seen how it will go about apportioning funds to startups in the U.S. vs startups in the rest of the world. Although Google has confirmed it will continue operating its London office — having a regional base is surely important for deal flow.

Since opening its London office in July 2014 almost all of Google Ventures’ European investments have been in the U.K. — and almost all of those in London, where its U.K. office was located. The exception is Stockholm-based VR gaming startup, Resolution Games — the fund led a $6 million Series A into the company this August.

Back in July Google Ventures joined a $60 million round in U.K.-based members-only travel startup Secret Escapes. Its other U.K. investments are in music licensing platform specialist Kobalt; personalised book publisher Lost My Name; and email conversions marketing tech business Yieldify.

It also invested in the Oxford Science Innovation Fund, which is looking to back high tech business spinning out of the U.K.’s Oxford University.

To date the vast majority of Google Ventures investments have been in the U.S./Silicon Valley. Portfolio companies include Uber, Nest (now owned by Google), Periscope, Udacity, Pocket and PlanGrid, to name a few.

Google Ventures is also rebranding as GV, in part to put a little more clear blue water between it and parent company Google (aka Alphabet) — to tackle the perception of a conflict of interest. He concedes rivals have always accused the fund of being a “secret cloak-and-dagger unit of Google”.

“The minute that happens we’re done — that’s the end of the business,” he told the paper. “There is not a single case that supports that mythology. The company gets no information from us, we’re a shareholder just like any other. My interests are aligned with entrepreneurs and the other shareholders and not Google.”