Google Ventures’ Big Data Bet

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By QUENTIN HARDY

| April 11, 2012, 10:00 am

Google Ventures, the independent venture capital entity financed by Google, is building the internal data sciences team that is at the center of its investment philosophy.

The latest hire, Hazem Adam Ghobarah, is, like many others at the venture firm, a former Google employee. Mr. Ghobarah spent six years at Google, most recently in the quantitative research and modeling part of its advertising business. He will look for investment opportunities in the data analysis business and work with the firm’s existing companies on ways they can gather and make use of lots of information.

“This is part of an entire team we are assembling,” said Bill Maris, the managing partner at Google Ventures. “We have an internal quantitative team. Adam underlines the importance of this.”

It should not be too surprising that a Google-created entity should have this bent. Google, along with Web pioneers like Yahoo and Amazon, was crucial to the creation of the emerging Big Data industry. By tracking things like consumer clicks and the behavior of thousands of computer servers working together, they amassed large volumes of data at a time when collapsing prices for data storage made it attractive to analyze. They also captured information from nontraditional sources, like e-mail, leading them to create so-called “unstructured” database software like Hadoop and MapReduce. Versions of those are now used to store and analyze other kinds of data.

The ways in which Google analyzed Web traffic to predict patterns are increasingly applied to other fields, as that data moves online. Mr. Ghobarah believes that biology is an increasingly attractive area.

“We keep coming back to life sciences” as an investment field, he said. “In a given year, you have 200 million pathology slides. If that gets online, it is a Big Data problem.” One Google Ventures company, called DNA Nexus, uploads and analyzes genetic information. Part of the company’s edge is that it is able to store its ocean of data inside Google, where it most likely takes little space in Google’s data centers.

Google Ventures, of course, is hardly the only venture firm accelerating its Big Data business. Greylock Partners, where LinkedIn’s founder, Reid Hoffman, is a partner, has hired DJ Patil, a former LinkedIn executive, as its data scientist in residence. Another firm, Andreessen Horowitz, has spread money across several Internet sectors, including businesses like Factual that support data science by ensuring data quality.

 

 

 
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