Internet behemoth Google took its latest investment arm public yesterday with the announcement of Google Capital and a $40m (£23.9m) investment in US learning analytics firm Renaissance Learning.
The late state funding vehicle has been quietly operating behind the scenes for the past year and has already made two investments in SurveyMonkey, an online survey company, and Lending Club, a peer-to-peer lending service.
“Like our colleagues at Google Ventures, our goal is to invest in the most promising companies of tomorrow, with one important difference,” David Lawee, a partner at Google Capital, wrote in a post published today on the company’s blog. “While Google Ventures focuses mainly on early-stage investments, we’ll be looking to invest in companies solely as they hit their growth phase. That means finding companies that have already built a solid foundation and are really ready to expand their business in big ways.”
Renaissance Learning, a cloud-based assessment and learning analytics company from Wisconsin with over 1,000 employees, has been around since the 1980s and has a valuation of $1 billion. It is owned by Permira, a European private equity firm with a track record of investing in IT companies.
Renaissance Learning CEO Jack Lynch said on Wednesday that the deal, which gives Google investment a minority stake in the company, puts the company’s value at $1 billion.
Google didn't reveal how large the Google Capital fund will be but Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that the investment arm already has $300 million, much of which will be directed toward online education.
“The most important -- and distinctive -- feature of Google Capital is how we work with our portfolio companies,” Lawee said. “Over the past 15 years, Google has built a strong business, and that’s mostly thanks to the great people who work here. Our portfolio companies have abundant access to the talent, passion and strategic expertise of some of Google’s technology and product leaders.”
Lawee will lead the fund with partners Scott Tierney and Gene Frantz.
Lawee was previously Google’s VP of Google Development, where he was tasked with managing the search giant’s acquisitions and investments. During the five year period that Lawee worked there Google acquired approximately 100 companies.