Google moves into venture capital market

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For reasons that will probably remain somewhat unclear, Google (GOOG) is moving into the venture capital business. The decision is particularly surprising because venture capital firms have signaled that 2009 has been and is going to continue to be a very bad year for investing in developing tech companies. But Google has the money.

Investors may question why the internet search giant is putting money at risk when the company's earnings are under pressure. Google has shown before an appetite for looking at long-term prospects, many of which have never made a dime. Even if the firm can find promising companies, $100 million -- the amount it committed for this purpose -- may not go very far in getting it big stakes in the more successful venture-backed private companies, which often raise $20 million or $30 million in their second round of funding. Most venture funds have a much larger pools of capital than Google is committing. Charles River Ventures, a relatively small fund, recently raised $320 million.

According toThe Wall Street Journal, Google may not be looking for investments that will help it develop products. The paper writes that "the company is going to manage for returns and consider a wide range of investments." In other words, the fund is not planning strategic investments, but is being set up to make Google lots of money. Still, it would seem to make much more sense for Google to develop financial relationship with companies that could help it create products and service to expand its own operation beyond search.

It is worth asking why Google needs to make money off investments when it is supposed to be one of the great earnings machines among American companies.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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