Google looks for opportunities in dark days of recession

Bad economic times? Sure, but Google still sees bright spots

While most companies are hunkering down and trying to survive the recession, Google Inc. has other plans.

For Google it's not just a matter of getting through this economic turbulence, it's about trying to take advantage of it.

"There are undercurrents of fear and doubt. They're self-defeating," said Michael Jones, chief technology advocate for Google. "When people have their heads in the sand, it's a good time to do things. We can't help but feel for the people around us, but as a company, this is an opportunity for us."

Jones was quick to note he's not saying the big thinkers at Google are so brilliant that they have made the company recession proof. Not at all. But in a time when companies are synching up their purse strings to a near strangulation point, canceling projects along with big and small purchases, he thinks it's time to think beyond the down time. And when even good, experienced people are being laid off, Jones sees it as a chance to scoop up great new employees.

It's all about swimming against the stream, which Google did just that this week.

As most venture capital dries up due to a sinking economy, Google on Tuesday launched Google Ventures, a venture capital fund to invest in high-tech start-ups. The company reportedly plans to invest up to $100 million over the next year with a focus on consumer Internet, software, clean-tech, bio-tech and health care start-ups.

This is not exactly an economy that's fostering much venture funding. And the collapse of investment banks like Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear, Stearns & Co. has been making venture capital harder than ever to raise.

But that doesn't mean it's a bad idea for Google to dive into the VC arena. Just the opposite, said Jones, who noted that the recession actually made the company accelerate plans to launch Google Venture.

"Recessions are like the store is out of bread," said Jones. "There will be bread later. It's temporary. You can't make all your decisions like this is your whole life. It won't be, but even if it was a whole decade, it won't be your whole life. Good deals aren't getting funded because people are focused on the next three years instead of the next 30 years."

And it's not as if the bad economy hasn't touched Google, which has laid of personnel and closed engineering offices in Texas, Norway and Sweden.

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Tags global recessionGooglegoogle projectsVenture capital

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