Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Big-Name VCs Form “Glass Collective” to Back Google Glass App Makers

Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins have joined together to form what they’re calling “the Glass Collective” to invest in developers who are building applications for Google Glass.

It’s essentially a celebrity VC endorsement for the wearable computing device, which is supposed to be publicly available later this year.


The promise of venture capital investment could serve as validation for a product that, even before launching, seems to be alienating many people who are worried about the privacy, distraction and dorkiness implications of a computer that lives on your face.

The trio founding the collective are: Andreessen Horowitz’s Marc Andreessen — famous for creating the Web browser and now a leading VC — Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr — investor in Andreessen’s Netscape and Google — and Google Ventures head Bill Maris.

Speaking at a press conference today, Doerr said he was eager for developers to get their hands on Glass. “More than any other platform I’ve seen before, I can’t imagine what they are going to do with this.”

Andreessen added that he thought Glass had much more potential to be a platform than any other wearable computing product on the market, and that it could potentially be as pervasive as the mobile phone is today.

Doerr, Maris and Andreessen said they would “share deal flow” for seed-stage investments in Glass applications, meaning when they see young startups in the space they will clue each other in.

This is not a dedicated fund, like Kleiner Perkins’ iFund for iOS apps, but a sort of united front and commitment to Glass as an interesting platform for development.

Given that Glass is such a strange and potentially controversial — but also potentially really cool — device, Google is going all-out to try to ensure a smooth launch.

So far, the company has hyped the device with skydiving stunts, had models wear prototypes on the fashion runway, promised developers early access and conducted a social media campaign using the hashtag #ifihadglass that made the opportunity to buy a $1,500 device a publicly coveted prize.

People who signed up to to buy the “Explorer Edition” of Glass are supposed to start receiving their own devices later this month, according to product director Steve Lee.

This latest step can be seen as another of these pre-launch strategies, which are actually pretty smart. Getting Google Ventures (the venture capital firm in which Google is the sole investor) and a couple of famous VCs to tempt developers with money is another effort to make Glass cool, and ensure it sticks around for a while.

But Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins are already the two firms that most frequently co-invest in startups with Google Ventures, so this is more of a stunt than a stretch.

So what applications are the Glass Collective VCs excited to invest in?

  • Andreessen said he’d like to see apps for paramedics, and a live zombie game.
  • Google co-founder Sergey Brin said he’d like to use Glass as a viewfinder for his fancy SLR camera, and to stream GoPro action-sports cameras.
  • Maris said he’d like scientists in wet labs to be able to conduct hands-free experiments with Glass, and for paralyzed people to be able to more easily text. He also said he enjoyed an early timelapse app that people at Google built.
  • Doerr said developers should read David Gelernter’s “Mirror Worlds” to find inspiration, and that he wanted to see Glass used in healthcare and education.
  • Asked whether the Glass Collective would be willing to invest in facial recognition applications for Glass, given the privacy issues, Maris didn’t say no.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald