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OPLIN 4cast #420: Google Ventures in health tech

Posted in 4cast

Google Ventures logoThere’s an old saying: “Follow the money.” At the end of 2014, a lot of people were following the money invested by Google Ventures, an independent venture capital arm of Google, to try to spot future trends. The firm has been investing in startup companies since 2009, and currently manages about $1.5 billion in such investments. Apparently Google Ventures expects health technology to be the next big thing, because their investments shifted decisively in that direction in 2014. Bill Maris, the president of Google Ventures, gave quite a few interviews after that information was released and shared some interesting thoughts, some of them quoted below.

  • Google Ventures shifts focus to health care (Wall Street Journal Digits blog | Alistair Barr)  “In the last three years, consumer startups went from Google Ventures’ top sector to one of the firm’s least favorite. Health and life-sciences companies received the smallest share in 2012 and the largest this year. Over that period, other venture investors maintained steady interest in these sectors. About 20% of VC money flowed to consumer-services companies, a similar share to health care startups, in the U.S. in each of the past three years according to Dow Jones VentureSource.”
  • For Google Ventures, 2014 yielded 16 exits and a strong focus on life sciences and health tech (VentureBeat | Kia Kokalitcheva)  “Among the year’s standout investments, Maris is particularly excited about Flatiron Health and One Medical. Flatiron Health, in which Google Ventures invested one of its biggest sums at $130 million, gathers and analyzes huge amounts of oncology data to help doctors better treat cancer patients. ‘One in five patients in the U.S. are part of the Flatiron network and they don’t even know it,’ Maris said. One Medical, a popular alternative to traditional doctors’ offices (and all the pain and hassle they entail), is a reimagining of the patient experience given today’s technology, as Maris describes it.”
  • Google Ventures, Microsoft and Vice does deals (Bloomberg View | Katie Brenner)  [Maris interview response] “Right now life sciences companies are becoming IT companies. And you can have a consumer Internet company that has no revenue, that just has users paying nothing for a product. And investors see that product as valuable because it attracts users. They know that ultimately someone will pay. We should think about life sciences startups in the same way. Some of our life sciences companies are building important tech that’s useful to lots of people. They should be valued the same way that tech companies are valued.”
  • The man investing Google’s billions says we shouldn’t be afraid to live forever (The Verge | Ben Popper)  [Maris interview response] “The acceleration we saw in computers from 1960 until now is an acceleration we’re going to see in the life sciences, and that’s why it’s a huge opportunity. And not just for making money. You make a great investment in the consumer internet, maybe you make a lot of money and create something useful, interesting, or fun. But in life sciences you have a chance to be part of something that lets people live longer and healthier and not lose the people they care about. That is really profound.”

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