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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Venture Capital Partnership for Google Glass Apps

Three prominent venture capital funds want software developers to know they are on the hunt for apps and software for Google Glass, the company’s Internet-connected glasses.

On Wednesday, Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Andreessen Horowitz announced the Glass Collective, an investment partnership. The three firms said they had agreed to share every pitch from start-ups related to Glass, so each firm would have the chance to invest.

It is an efficient way for software and hardware developers to get their ideas in front of three prominent venture capital firms and to jump-start developers’ creativity in thinking about ways to use the new hardware, said Bill Maris, managing partner of Google Ventures. The fund, which operates separately from Google, invests up to $250,000 in this type of early-stage start-up.

It is also a way for the firms to make sure the deal flow of the best ideas comes to them first. They are trying not to miss out on wearable computing, which many analysts say could be the next big wave of tech investing.

Though the firms are not starting a separate fund for Glass apps, Glass Collective is an idea similar to Kleiner Perkins’s iFund, a $100 million fund that the venture capital firm opened in 2008 to seek iPhone app developers.

John Doerr, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins, said Google glasses could be the next major platform for apps, similar to other platforms like browsers, mobile phones and Facebook.

“Though it’s early days, there’s the potential here to build a platform,” said Mr. Doerr, who is also on Google’s board. “I think it’s exactly the right time to kick-start an effort to support entrepreneurs.”

Just as other mobile platforms competed with the iPhone, other wearable computing platforms are expected to compete with Glass, like Internet-connected watches or bracelets. The investors said, though, that they are focused narrowly on the glasses.

“This is about Glass, this is not about wrist or foot or ring,” Mr. Doerr said.

He said he is interested, for instance, in health care apps, like online fitness trainers who could coach people as they were exercising. Mr. Maris said he imagined ways that people could benefit from accessing the Internet hands-free, like people with physical disabilities being able to send text messages or scientists being able to look up information while working in the lab.

Mr. Doerr said he had been wearing the glasses and uses them especially for taking pictures and looking up words while playing Scattergories with his family, though it is questionable whether that follows the game’s rules.

Mr. Doerr’s Scattergories strategy raises an often-asked question about Google’s glasses. What will it mean when people can do things without others knowing they are doing them â€" like surreptitiously looking up words while playing a game, reading e-mail at the dinner table or recording a video of a conversation

“Using the device, if someone is reading e-mail or taking a picture, you know it, and you can be more present in a conversation because you haven’t put a phone in your face,” Mr. Doerr said. “And if you want to be focused on the person across the table, focus on them. Ignore those droids.”