Methuselah revisited? It’s mainly business.

Google-500-johnbugayMany are familiar with the Biblical account of Methuselah, who lived to be 969 years old (Genesis 5:21-27). Now Google is investing in longevity, and we read, “the biggest percentage of Google Ventures’ assets are now invested in science and, in particular, oncology.”

Bill Maris, the president and managing partner of Google Ventures, said in a recent interview, “If you ask me today, is it possible to live to be 500? The answer is yes.”

Bloomberg goes on to note, however,

Google Ventures has close to $2 billion in assets under management, with stakes in more than 280 startups. Each year, Google gives Maris $300 million in new capital, and this year he’ll have an extra $125 million to invest in a new European fund.

That puts Google Ventures on a financial par with Silicon Valley’s biggest venture firms, which typically put to work $300 million to $500 million a year. According to data compiled by CB Insights, a research firm that tracks venture capital activity, Google Ventures was the fourth-most-active venture firm in the U.S. last year, participating in 87 deals.

A company with $66 billion in annual revenue isn’t doing this for the money. What Google needs is entrepreneurs.

“It needs to know where the puck is heading,” says Robert Peck, an analyst at the investment bank SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, who published a report in February examining Google’s outside investment units, including Google Ventures. “Look at what happened to BlackBerry when it missed the advent of smartphones. And Yahoo! missed Facebook.”

So the investment strategy is still sound by business measures. Even so, the investments are made with more human needs in mind: “There are a lot of billionaires in Silicon Valley, but in the end, we are all heading to the same place,” Maris says. “If given the choice between making a lot of money or finding a way to make people live longer, what do you choose?”

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