UPDATE: The new alliance between Google’s venture capital arm, Google Ventures, and HomeAway, all began innocently over drinks at the Four Seasons in East Palo Alto, Calif., several months ago.
Brian Sharples, HomeAway co-founder and CEO, says his company wasn’t looking for cash, but over the course of weeks the two firms developed an interest in working together.
Sharples says Google Venture’s newly taken minority stake in HomeAway isn’t about Google getting into the vacation rental business or related to any big online booking push by HomeAway. Google Ventures doesn’t even have a seat on the HomeAway board, he says.
“We are not an instrument for Google getting into the travel space,” he says, adding that Google Ventures is tasked with making a return on investments.
However, with the deal, HomeAway gets access to a lot of Google talent.
“We can go around to different pockets of Google to help us solve problems,” Sharples says.
For example, Sharples says Google can help HomeAway with scaling vertical search and other tech issues.
And, since HomeAway is rapidly growing — as Google has done — HomeAway also can look to Google for help in solving organizational and Human Resources issues, for example, Sharples says.
In fact, for the past six or seven weeks, Sharples says, HomeAway has picked up on a Google tradition of Friday video broadcasts to company offices around the world.
Thus, HomeAway has initiated a weekly Friday morning video broadcast, which it calls Table Talks, featuring Sharples and other senior execs at headquarters in Austin, Texas, sitting around an Art Deco-style 1950s era kitchen table, “chatting about whatever is going on in the business,” Sharples says.
The table symbolizes entrepreneurship because some of the million dollar companies that HomeAway acquired along the way were being run from execs’ kitchen tables.
Sharples declined to specifiy the amount of the Google Ventures investment, saying it was a significant amount, but probably not a lot for Google.
“We definitely don’t need cash. We make plenty of money. Google wanted to get involved with the company and invest. We think they are smart people and are happy they wanted to acquire a position in the company.”
With today’s publicity about Google Ventures taking a minority stake in HomeAway, there probably was a lot to talk about at the kitchen table in Austin this morning.
The original story follows:
Although not on the same scale and type of the proposed ITA Software acquisition, Google clearly has an increasingly focused eye on the travel industry.
The vacation rental giant’s CEO spoke about the deal to the New York Times this afternoon. Independent confirmation still to be obtained.
Google Ventures has a stated aim to invest around $100 million every year in companies “ranging from seed investments as small as a hundred thousand dollars to late-stage investments of tens of millions of dollars”.
The division and its investments are not seen as operational ones within the wider Google empire, so any worries about the Big G moving in directly on the vacation rental industry are premature at this stage.
Sharples does not state the value on the investment, although some are estimating around $25 million. No money is believed to have changed hands, with Google Ventures apparently buying out existing shareholders.
HomeAway is looking to Google for technical guidance on improving the website and making the core business of renting properties more efficient, Sharples says.
NB: Dennis Schaal contributed to this story.