Quartz: When Google’s co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, decided to set up a venture-capital fund back in 2009, they chose a relatively little-known neuroscience graduate, entrepreneur, and biotechnology investor to run it. His name is Bill Maris, and over the past five years, he’s become one of the most important and powerful men in Silicon Valley.
Each year, Maris has $400 million to invest in startups. So far, Google Ventures, of which he is managing partner, has poured $2 billion into 300 of them, including the likes of Uber, the car hailing service; Slack, the office messaging system; Medium, the blogging platform; and a host of life-sciences and health companies.
Corporate venture capital funds have been around for years. Chip maker Intel, for example, has had one since 1991. They serve the dual purpose of enabling tech companies to earn returns on their vast cash reserves, and help them keep abreast of innovation in ways that giant lumbering corporations often struggle with.
But Maris and Google have embraced corporate venturing with a vigor that few others can match. According to CB Insights, Google Ventures was the fourth most active VC fund of any kind last year. Six of its portfolio companies have successfully gone public. Fourteen are so-called “unicorns”—still private, but valued at over $1 billion apiece. Only a handful have failed; of those perhaps the most notable is Secret, the anonymous messaging app that closed down last week.
Quartz caught up with Maris this week to discuss all things Google Ventures. The discussion has been condensed and edited for clarity.