Ex-Google Rock Star Decides to Raise $100 Million Biotech Venture Fund After All

Published: Mar 16, 2017

Ex-Google Rock Star Decides to Raise $100 Million Biotech Venture Fund After All March 15, 2017
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

After some world-class dithering, Bill Maris, known mostly as the founder and chief executive officer of Google Ventures (GV), has reportedly decided—again—to launch a biotech and healthcare venture fund.

In early December 2016, only about four months after leaving Google Ventures, Maris was reported to be on his way to raising $230 million for a new health care venture fund. This followed September rumors that he was trying to raise between $350 million and $500 million to develop a healthcare-related capital fund.

Then, about a week later on December 12, 2016, Maris canceled his plans. Maris, at the time, told Kara Swisher, with Recode, “Your article this week was accurate, in that I was talking to investors about raising my own fund, the capital was available and [I] was about to file the papers this week, but staring down the barrel of doing again exactly what I just did was not inspiring to me, and I pulled the plug. Life is too short to not be true to yourself. I’m still taking time off and exploring some other ideas that may be more fun and impactful.”

In a December interview on Bloomberg TV, Maris said, “I don’t know that the world needs another venture fund right now. After 10 years in the business or close to it, there might be other ways to have an impact on problems I think are worth tackling.”

But, apparently, he’s decided to go after the fund, but to go smaller, with $100 million. According to Bloomberg, he will be the sole investors. The focus will still be biotechnology and health care. It will be located in San Diego. And, it will still be named Section 32.

Section 32 is a very esoteric Star Trek reference, of which Maris is a fan. Section 31 was a black-ops, highly secret intelligence division in the Star Trek universe—a fact known to only hard-core Trekkies, which Maris apparently is.

One of the alternatives Maris was considering, according to Bloomberg, was helming a startup.

Maris founded GV in 2009. Part of his rock-star status came from some of the successful investments, which included Uber, Net Labs and Jet.com. As of February 2016, GV had $2.4 billion in managed assets and over 300 investments. Despite those numerous successes, there were noticeable misses—Maris and GV passed on Airbnb and SnapChat. On the other hand, it chose to pass on embattled Theranos.

“We looked at it a couple times, but there was so much hand-waving—like, Look over here!—that we couldn’t figure it out,” Maris told Business Insider in October 2015. “So, we just had someone from our life-science investment team go into Walgreens and take the test. And it wasn’t that difficult for anyone to determine that things may not be what they seem here.”

Maris left GV around the same time that Google was reorganizing under the Alphabet umbrella. At the time, he claimed it was to spend time with his family. However, it was notable that simultaneously, many high-level Google executives also left the company during the restructuring stage. Those included Nest’s Tony Fadell, Google Fiber’s Craig Barratt, Project Wing’s Dave Vos, and Chris Urmson, who helped found Google’s self-driving car project.

When Google was reorganized with Alphabet as the parent company, GV fell into the “other bets” category. These companies, before, weren’t broken out in Google’s financials, but they are now. CNBC hinted that this might be related to the high-profile departures, because there would be more pressure to show results. Other divisions that fell into this category included autonomous cars, Nest, and Calico.

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