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One of the trends we’ve seen in the VC world the last several years is that many of the major tech companies are establishing their own venture capital arms. Google, SAP, Microsoft, Samsung and others have all been doing this.

While these in-house VCs are set up as profit seeking organizations, the real reason for these initiatives is to allow large enterprises to get a firsthand look at some of the cutting edge technologies coming down the pike – and perhaps inject a bit of startup culture into their organizations.

While most of these in-house VCs are housed in the large Silicon Valley tech companies, this trend has even spread  to some of the ‘old industrial’ Fortune 500 companies. One company in particular that is making a real commitment to their in-house VC arm is general Electric. GE Ventures was established last May, and has already started taking stakes in tech startups.

Just to take one example, GE recently made an investment in a cutting edge cybersecurity firm called ThetaRay, joining ThetaRay’s established VC investor JVP.  JVP has a particular expertise in cybersecurity, and GE is leveraging JVP’s experience in this sector for GE Ventures” own efforts by joining JVP as a co-investor in ThetaRay.

As a follow-up, GE Ventures has moved very quickly to take advantage of the new crowdfunding rules recently approved by the SEC to promote investment in innovative tech startups. According to an announcement from Monday, November 4th, GE has just entered a co-investment partnership with the crowdfunding platform OurCrowd.  According to the OurCrowd press release, GE Ventures will have the right to co-invest with OurCrowd in certain early stage companies in the sectors of energy, software, healthcare and advanced manufacturing technologies (3D printing?).

GE Venture’s CEO Sue Siegel said, “OurCrowd has created a unique platform for dynamic early stage origination and funding. They offer a quality investment environment and the partnership will give GE increased access to early innovation.”

OurCrowd is itself a startup, and actually used its own platform to raise its initial capital of $5.5 million in February, 2013. As per the new SEC rules, the OurCrowd platform is limited to so-called “accredited investors”, who are required to invest a minimum of $10,000 to participate alongside OurCrowd in a deal.

The OurCrowd press release noted that it has “successfully raised over $22 million for its 28 portfolio companies, including eight financings in excess of $1 million. It has already launched eight follow-on rounds for its companies to support expansion of its operation.”

You have to admire GE – not only is GE ventures seeking out cutting edge investments with top VC partners like JVP, but they will even be using the brand new strategy of crowdfunding to unearth new technologies that a company of its massive size would otherwise never see.

It will be interesting to see if Google Ventures and the other large in-house VCs also plan to leverage crowdfunding themselves.

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