In just four short years, Google’s venture capital arm Google Ventures has become a major force in the startup space. For perspective, Google Ventures finalized 75 new investments in 2013, a whopping 33 percent of its total deals to date.
Further, Google Ventures now invests more than $300 million a year by some estimates, and its reach extends into all aspects of the tech industry, including payments. Not bad for a company once written off by traditional VCs.
Google Ventures’ most high-profile payments backing of 2013 came in August, when it revealed that it participated in mobile taxi app provider Uber’s $258 million Series C round. But, while Uber basked in the spotlight, Google Ventures made a number of less notable investments that could pave the way for major innovations and market movements to take hold in 2014 and beyond.
As part of our latest edition of PYMNTS 12 Days of Christmas, we bring you six Google-funded startups that you should watch heading into the new year:
1. Buttercoin – Google’s foray into the virtual currency with Buttercoin was far from its first – it invested in Android-based gaming currency provider Pocket Change in 2012. But, Buttercoin is taking aim at the much bigger, and potentially far more lucrative global remittance market, using the low-cost nature of bitcoin transactions as an alternative to the high costs of established remittance market leaders.
Buttercoin has yet to launch, but it plans to open first in India, with an eye for expanding into six more international markets in 2014. The company’s success will prove to be a valuable use case for not only worldwide migrant workers, but also bitcoin, which has been heralded by supporters for its untapped capabilities in the remittance market.
2. LendUp San Francisco-based peer-to-peer (P2P) startup LendUp raised $14 million in Series A funding with the help of Google Ventures for its unique take on responsible lending this November. The funding that will allow LendUp to continue to provide instant-approval loans that come with built-in financial tools for consumers, and early signs indicate you can expect more movement out of the company next year.
3. Nifti – Funded by Google Ventures this July, Nifti helps consumers save money on purchases through automatic price tracking. Users simply follow a product on Nifti, and they receive emails when the product gets listed at the price point they desire through a mobile app.
Nifti could have broader implications for Google as it looks to cut Amazon’s online shopping lead with mobile, but Amazon isn’t backing down. Amazon is taking a serious look at improving its mobile presence, reportedly buying Gopago on December 17, making Nifti potentially more important.
4. Openbay – The decades-old concept of eCommerce marketplaces continued its trend toward specialization in 2013 with the emergence of a number of new platforms that enable people to buy smarter. And on October 28, Google Ventures believes it made the smart bid on Openbay, a platform that connects car owners with local garages and mechanics.
After a successful test in Boston, Openbay is now looking to go national. And with Americans heading onto the roads in greater numbers this year, a reliable online marketplace that reduces fraudulent purchases could prove to be valuable.
5. Plaid – San Francisco-based banking API provider Plaid raised roughly $2.8 million for its ambitious goal of helping developers create better banking applications. Plaid’s big sell, according to TechCrunch, is that it could prove useful as banks continue to look for alternative ways to monetize.
The company has already partnered with American, Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo and if it’s able to answer its security questions, it could replicate its success in 2014.
6. Ripple Labs – Fresh off a $3.5 million funding round, Google Ventures-backed Ripple is aiming to use virtual currency to empower individuals through financial inclusion.
The open-source protocol is actually a bitcoin alternative – an open source network that supports multiple currencies and allows merchants to receive payment in their preferred form of a wide range of currencies – a key selling point as the definition of currency continues to expand in payments. And with the bitcoin bubble already deflating, Ripple could soon be getting a second look from those that passed it by in 2013.