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Wearable tech VCs pan Google Glass

Venture capitalists have been funding all kinds of wearable devices – from activity-tracking wristbands to brain-sensing headbands to armbands that let people control computers with gestures. But at the Wearable Tech Expo in New York on Wednesday, a panel of VCs all said that, given the option, they wouldn’t back Google Glass.

John Frankel, a partner at ff Venture Capital, said Google Glass is an interesting experiment and that it could be very helpful to doctors. But as a consumer product, he said he’s not convinced it’s going to be a hit.

“It’s too big a change of behavior. It’s technology that sits between you and other people… it feels to me that it’s too impersonal,” he said. “It feels more like the Segway than anything else, which is, ‘hey, this looks great on paper but I probably wouldn’t have one in the garage.’”

Intel Capital’s Tammi Smorynski was also lukewarm, saying that Intel had invested in another heads-up display product and isn’t convinced the market for Google Glass is going to take off.

“We’ve kind of been there, done that,” she said.

For a venture firm that does seed and Series A stage deals and is a $200 million fund, John Burke, a partner at True Ventures (see disclosure) said his firm couldn’t invest in it because it would be too much money. But later he added that Google Glass “really does change the dynamic – it’s a very strange social norm.”

But even though these VCs  don’t seem ready to jump on the Google Glass bandwagon, other Silicon Valley investors are far more bullish. Earlier this year, for example, Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers jointly announced the Glass Collective to fund developers interested in building out applications for the new technology.

In a blog posts about the initiative, investors Marc Andreeseen and John Doerr gushed about Glass, describing it as the door to a “brave new world” of products and possibility.

“The thesis of Glass is profoundly transformational — to integrate connectivity and information directly into your field of vision and into your normal daily life. Instead of having a phone in your pocket or a tablet in your briefcase, why not have the Internet in your field of vision when you want it,” wrote Andreesen. “And why not feed the Internet with live video and audio that matches what you see and hear at any time.”

Disclosure: True Ventures is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

4 Responses to “Wearable tech VCs pan Google Glass”

  1. Will white

    As an everyday consumer product, I just don’t see it happening for Google Glass. It’s pretty funky, difficult to get used to, socially isolating and distracting … Especially given that you can just use your phone and a blue tooth headset to tackle everything glass does without looking like you’ve joined the Borg. That’s not to say that some eye projection tech won’t take off at some point, just not anytime soon my the looks of glass.

    That said, I think there is an enormous market for this technology in high end sports and industrial equipment applications. Ski goggles, bike/motorcycle/racing helmets … I could go on and on …. Work in these areas will help developers build apps and interfaces and refine how a very complicated HUI works … And that will be the very long bridge to bringing the tech down to consumers.

  2. red-dolphin

    To me it seems that Google Glass is already proving to be a fantastic opportunity. Google is investing significant money into it and certainly creating some barriers to entry for new entrants.
    Maybe VCs quoted above have not really tested Google Glass or were not able to invest in such promising project ?
    We expect to see more innovative smartglass coming and will list the interesting ones in our dedicated platform for Wearable Technologies:

  3. realjjj

    They love to compare things with Segway but the Segway was very badly priced. It has to to cost less than a scooter (or even under 1k) to actually sell.
    Glass can easily be sold at 100$, doesn’t have that problem and if it fails it’s very easy to map the next few generations.Plus, it doesn’t even have to launch in the US first, if the consumer is too shallow for such a device.

  4. Either that or these panelists are there to waste their own time or maybe worried about getting their own investments swamped out by the already ongoing and massive Google Glass media blitz. Try asking a VC what they’re bullish on, before they’ve invested… Would probably tell you socks are “too big of a behavior change” from footwraps . I noted that there IS a Wearable Tech Expo with VCs in attendance.