Ina Fried

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Android Co-Founder Rich Miner on How He Is Spending Google’s Money

Rich Miner set out a year ago to make sure that Google Ventures had its hand in more mobile deals.

And it’s fair to say that is happening. Among its recent mobile deals, Google’s venture arm has invested in Appurify, Apportable, Cluster, MessageMe, Osito, Sold and Uber.

In that last one, Google Ventures wrote a check for $258 million.

“And a lot of deals that aren’t coming to us as mobile deals are turning out to be,” the Android co-founder and Google Ventures partner said in an interview.

Mobile itself, Miner said, is broadening from experiences limited to the phone to those that touch the rest of our lives. Uber, for example, is part of a growing category of companies whose business revolves around “pressing a button and having real-world things happen.”

The number of sensors being added in and around mobile devices is also creating tons of opportunities.

“MacGyver would have loved to have had a mobile phone,” Miner said. “Think what he had to do to make a flashlight or compass.”

Now those devices — a camera and so many more formerly standalone features — are just part of what comes standard on a phone. That creates opportunities for new kinds of companies for giving a second chance to ideas that didn’t make it during the early days of the Internet.

“I definitely think there are things in local and groups that were tried in Internet 1.0 that become a lot easier with mobile,” Miner said.

Also top-of-mind for Miner are enterprise efforts, such as the recent investment in Enterproid, which these days is going by the name Divide.

As for whether too many things are getting funded, Miner said that there probably are some bad ideas or weak teams that got angel funding, but that, in general, the good ideas with solid teams are getting continued funding; he said that some of the startups that are struggling to find cash probably weren’t worthy of angel funding in the first place.

“There’s no doubt the influx of angel funding had more bad ideas get funded,” Miner said. At the same time, he noted that the advent of Kickstarter has meant good ideas that would never have gotten traditional funding have been able to see the light of day. “I think it all balances out in the end.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work