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The Biz Roundup March 31

Google gets into the venture capital game. GoogleMoney? GoogleCapital? GoogleAngel?

Though committing only to invest $100m in its first year as a venture capital investor, Google executives made clear in an interview with the Financial Times that the internet group had its sights set on joining the top ranks of the valley’s close-knit financial world, which is dominated by firms such as Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital. These firms typically raise funds of $500m or more and have been behind many of the valley’s leading success stories. . . .

The fund said it would consider putting “tens of millions of dollars” to work in some companies, a scale that also pointed to its intention to become a giant investor, given the way that VC funds seek to spread their risk over many different investments. . . .

While many technology companies run corporate venture funds to make strategic investments in start-ups, often with a view to acquiring them later on, Google said its investments would be made purely on financial grounds. . . .

The Google fund has also been created with the “contrarian” view of the company’s founders, and would be open to ideas that could eventually even prove disruptive to Google itself, Mr Miner added.

(“Google poised for venture capital launch,” Financial Times, March 31) If you’ve got a great business plan, but the VC pitch has been gathering dust, time to whip out the duster. After a steady decline in capital going into venture capital firms — especially in Silicon Valley — Google in one fell stroke just made up for months of lost ground. It’s the “contrarian” view that’s going to make them — and possibly you — tons of money.

iPhone Apps have gone from zero to a billion in just one year. How about that? Apple making money for other people!

Less than a year old, Apple’s online App Store is on its way to becoming a billion-dollar marketplace for iPhone applications that often sell for no more than a few dollars, according to Mobclix, a startup that offers developers analytical data garnered from mobile devices. . . .

Mobclix reports that 60 percent of online buzz about App Store apps regard those that are free. This indicates that free apps supported by advertising could be a better business in some cases than charging a fee . . .

(“Apple’s App Store becoming a billion-dollar marketplace,” San Jose Mercury News, March 31) Approximately 20 to 30 percent of downloaded Apps are used at least once per day by the individual who downloaded them. That looks to me like a great customer base for “free supported by advertising.”

What happens when the news goes out of business, Roger-Ebert-out-of-a-job edition.

Sun-Times Media Group Inc., owner of the Chicago Sun-Times and many suburban newspapers, today voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with the aim of reorganizing operations, settling a tax liability and making the company fit for a buyer.

(“Sun-Times Media Group files for bankruptcy,” Chicago Sun-Times, March 31) Sun-Times runs some of the best regional papers on the planet there in the Chicago area; their reporting on the Blagojovich blow-up was some of the best in the nation. And, yeah, good ‘ol Roger Ebert may someday have to dust off his resume if it don’t work out. If you’re interested, you can buy the stock for a nickel (which, if their balance sheet is any indication, will give you total investment losses of about a nickel).

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