Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Meet Google’s Secret Time Machine Investment

Google Ventures, the search giant’s VC arm, is celebrating its one-year anniversary with some show and tell: The previously secretive investment group now has a website that discloses who works there, and what they’re investing in.

Much of this info has been out in one form or another, and Venture Capital Dispatch’s Scott Austin does a good job of walking you through the details. But here’s one that caught my eye: Google has invested in a company that can see the future!

Recorded Future, based in Boston and Sweden, appears to be in beta, and has a fairly inscrutable home page. But if I’m interpreting its blog and promotional videos correctly, the gist of its product seems to be a search engine that looks for chronological data — ie references to things that happened in the past, or are supposed to happen in the future — and arrays the results in interesting graphs, etc.

Presumably there is more to it than this, but the company is keeping mum. “At this stage we do not do interviews, just trying to stay quiet and build cool stuff for now,” CEO Christopher Ahlberg wrote to me when I sent him an email inquiry today.

Google Ventures is similarly unhelpful: During a press call to talk about the VC group this afternoon, Google (GOOG) declined to say how much it had invested in Recorded Future, when it made the investment or anything else.

Luckily, the Boston Globe’s Scott Kirsner did some snooping earlier this year, so he’s got a decent workup of the company here. For instance: Business intelligence firm Spotfire, Ahlberg’s previous company, was sold for $195 million in 2007, after raising $40 million.

But if you don’t like reading, here are some clips that sort of hint at where Ahlberg and Google are headed.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik