Google Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is

by Sachin Balagopalan on July 1, 2007 · 1 comment


Google announced a couple of days ago that it was launching a program that will distribute grants and seed money to gadget developers. The program is called Google Gadget Ventures.

  1. Grants of $5,000 to those who’ve built gadgets we’d like to see developed further. You’re eligible to apply for a grant if you’ve developed a gadget that’s in our Google gadgets directory and gets at least 250,000 weekly page views. To apply, you must submit a one-page proposal detailing how you’d use the grant to improve your gadget.
  2. Seed investments of $100,000 to developers who’d like to build a business around the Google gadgets platform. Only Google Gadget Venture grant recipients are eligible for this type of funding. Submitting a business plan detailing how you plan to build a viable business around the gadgets platform is a required part of the seed investment application process.

The genesis of this program is a direct result of the success  iGoogle, Google’s personalized homepage has had. Users can pick and choose gadgets they deem useful and place them on their personalized homepage. Most of these gadgets are developed by third party developers and the library is pretty extensive. I looked at their developer guide and the Google Gadgets API and it is very well abstracted. The basic building blocks are XML, HTML and JavaScript and no advanced programming knowledge is required which makes it easy to write or develop these gadgets. The $5000 grant is not too bad for someone who develops a clever gadget that Google feels has some potential to be improved. They also take it a step further to encourage startups/businesses who build their products on top of the Google gadgets platform by offering seed investments of $100,000. Of course the criteria is quite stringent if you want to apply for the $100,000 seed money.

A great strategy if you think about it. Give the developer the incentive to improve and enhance their gadgets and more importantly what does Google get out of it? Well it depends if you’re a skeptic or a believer. The skeptics will argue that this is Google’s way of potentially acquiring good ideas they can later repackage and make into a viable product/business for them. It’s cheaper than paying incentives or bonuses to regular employees. It’s also a good publicity ploy to show the company cares about the third party development community thus enhancing the image of the company. This is particularly poignant considering the recent surge in Facebook apps developed by the outside community after they opened up their developer platform to the masses. The criticism or backlash over Facebook is all over the blogosphere these days - see Marc Andreessen’s post on this.

I tend to be a believer in Google because I think the company recognizes the “power of the masses”. Opening up the platform is a great way to scale the gadget platform and provide feature-rich gadgets to the end user who ultimately benefits. Providing incentives not only ensures the on going success of the gadget but also gets the creative juices of the developer community flowing which ultimately leads to some quality and useful gadgets.

The gadget ecosystem will continue to evolve and eventually we’re going to see some serious business applications that will be based on one or more of these platforms - a la Microsoft the desktop and Microsoft.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tom 07.01.07 at 12:10 pm

Good points

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