Bill Maris

Silicon Valley venture backs Google Glass

April 10, 2013: 5:00 PM ET

Three of the Bay Area's marquee investment firms want to capture the most interesting ideas before they're hatched.

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FORTUNE -- It was classic Sergey Brin. Dressed in sports shorts, an exercise shirt and blue Crocs, the Google co-founder showed up riding an elliptical bicycle, and as he does these days, wearing Glass, Google's futuristic wearable computer that fits on a head mounted display. Oh, and he was a few minutes late.

The occasion: An announcement that three Silicon Valley investment powerhouses are teaming up to attract entrepreneurs interested in building businesses around Glass. Never mind that Glass is not yet available to the public or to large numbers of developers. Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers said Wednesday that they are forming the "Glass collective." It is neither a new fund -- as my colleague Dan Primack predicted -- nor a commitment to co-invest in deals. Instead, it's an agreement by the three firms to share potential seed-stage investments. If a Glass entrepreneur contacts one of the firms, all three firms will get to meet her but will decide independently whether or not to invest in the business.

In way, you can think of the collective as a marketing partnership by the three marquee investment firms to capture the most interesting ideas even before they are hatched. To potential Glass entrepreneurs, it says: Come to us first. "The web is no longer in your pocket, it is right before your very eyes," said John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins in reference to Google (GOOG) Glass. "This could be a whole new way to appreciate the world."

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Doerr and Brin were joined by Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz and Bill Maris of Google Ventures. And Doerr, who invested in Andreessen's first startup, Netscape, and in Brin's startup, Google, said the collective was a bit like "getting the band together again."

Andreessen said he was attracted to the collective, in part because of the parallels between Glass, which he described not as a product but rather as a platform, and the web browser. "The range of applications that people can build on this thing is absolutely amazing," Andreessen said. He predicted that Glass would get better by "leaps and bounds" but said that even in its first version, Glass is a "very compelling platform."

Today, Glass, which is operated via voice commands and by touching the display's frame, does just a few things. It can take pictures, send messages, pose questions to Google, among other things. I asked each of the presenters to describe the kinds of applications that might be possible in the future potential.

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Brin said he would like to use Glass as the viewfinder for his SLR camera in order to be able to take pictures more spontaneously. Maris, who early in his career worked in the biotechnology industry, said he would like to see applications that would load lab protocols so scientists could conduct experiments hands-free. Andreessen said health care was a field that could see great applications for Glass. "What if every doctor or paramedic had an instantaneous guide to deal with any medical situation?" he asked.

Doerr, for his part, said he hoped developers would create applications in the education field but said that with a technology this new, it would be difficult to predict what entrepreneurs would focus on. "More than any platform I've seen before, I can't imagine what people are going to do with this," he said.

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