Twitter is now in the venture capital business

25 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cyanogen partnering with Blu to launch a truly Google-free Android phone.

Less than 18 months into its life as a public company, Twitter is still in hyper-growth, loss-making mode, yet it’s already busy seeding other companies with venture capital money.Twitter ’s quiet push into venture capital has officially begun, investing in Cyanogen, the six-year-old company looking to compete with Google ’s Android operating system.

The company—its Twitter Ventures arm, specifically—was one of the participating investors in a recent, $80 million funding round for Cyanogen, which describes itself as a “a leading mobile operating system pure-play.” The Wall Street Journal first spotted the news. CEO Kirt McMaster makes a habit of fiery rhetoric, recently proclaiming his operating system is “putting a bullet through Google’s head.” There’s more details to the assassination plot now, with Cyanogen announcing a partnership with Miami-based Blu to launch a phone later this year without any Google services whatsoever. The maiden investment comes nine months after Mike Gupta traded in his role as Twitter’s finance chief to lead Twitter’s strategic investments team. The details aren’t final, but McMaster tells Forbes the plan is to ship the phone with alternatives like the Opera web browser, Amazon Appstore, Nokia’s Here maps and Spotify for music. At the time, Digits noted that this likely signaled Twitter would be making its own bets on startups for the first time, but the company remained quiet.

When former Goldman Sachs banker Anthony Noto was appointed CFO in May 2014, his predecessor, Mike Gupta, was moved into a new role overseeing strategic investments. The company also plans to build its own app store, though there isn’t yet a clear path to how its scheme will churn out enough revenue to sustain the company.

Twitter continues to remain mum on the group, so it’s not clear how much capital the company is committing to invest, who else is on the team, or what types of companies it will invest in. Twitter joins the likes of Google and Intel in setting up a separate ventures division that presumably will invest relatively small amounts of money in promising startups. But while modders and open source advocates may be enamored with the plan, it’s unclear how much mainstream appeal a truly Google-free device will have. The story behind the story: Cyanogen first began as one of many Android modifications—an alternate version of the operating system for tinkerers to play with on their devices. More from WSJ.D: And make sure to visit WSJ.D for all of our news, personal tech coverage, analysis and more, and add our XML feed to your favorite reader.

But after Cyanogen was bundled on the OnePlus One the company’s ambitions haven’t slowed down, culminating in its vision for a separate and Google-free operating system.

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