Google Capital emerges from stealth; bets on education

Search giant Google has taken the lid of off its growth equity investment arm Google Capital. Backed by proprietary capital from its parent, the firm is being led by partners David Lawee, Scott Tierney and Gene Frantz. It is also announcing its first bet on the education sector with a $40 million investment in Renaissance Learning.

The Wisconsin company, which offers cloud-based K12 learning solutions, joins SurveyMonkey and Lending Club in the Google Capital portfolio.

Google Capital launched in stealth mode last year and kicked off deal making in January, participating in a $800 million debt and equity recapitalization deal for online survey solutions company SurveyMonkey. In May, it picked up a minority stake in peer-to-peer lending platform Lending Club as part of a $125 million secondary transaction.

“Like our colleagues at Google Ventures, our goal is to invest in the most promising companies of tomorrow, with one important difference. While Google Ventures focuses mainly on early stage investments, we’ll be looking to invest in companies solely as they hit their growth phase. That means finding companies that have already built a solid foundation and are really ready to expand their business in big ways. We’ll look across a range of industries for companies with new technologies and proven track records in their fields,” David Lawee said in a blog post announcing the formal launch of the new investment firm.

Google Ventures is Google’s early stage focused investment entity and was launched in 2009. It provides seed, venture and growth stage funding and has invested in more than 200 technology companies since its launch. However, according to a Bloomberg report, unlike Google Ventures, Google Capital will not invest in companies that compete with its parent.

Both arms have capital commitments of up to $300 million each from Google for this year, the report said.

Quick look at the senior investment team: Lawee was Google’s vice president of corporate development, managing the company’s acquisitions and investments. Before joining Google he was a founder of Xfire, an online gaming community, which was acquired by Viacom. Earlier he co-founded three other startups including Mosaic Venture Partners, a Toronto-based venture capital firm. Frantz was a partner at global private equity firm TPG Capital where he was responsible for multiple technology and telecom investments. Tierney was general partner with Steelpoint Capital, the private equity arm for Moore Capital. Before Steelpoint, he was president of Archimedes Technology Group, a nuclear technology company that was acquired by General Atomics.

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