Google invests in startup of co-founder's wife


SAN FRANCISCO -- Fresh off her marriage to Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin, biotechnology entrepreneur Anne Wojcicki is now wedded to the company too.

In Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed Tuesday, Google revealed that it invested $3.9 million to obtain a minority stake in Wojcicki's biotech startup, 23andMe Inc.

Some of the money that Google anted up this month was used to repay $2.6 million in financing previously provided to 23andMe by Brin, one of the world's wealthiest men with an estimated $16 billion fortune.

The disclosure, which marked Google's first confirmation of a secretive marriage consummated in the Bahamas earlier this month, could pose nettlesome questions of nepotism for the Internet search leader, which ranks among the world's most scrutinized publicly held companies.

But any criticism of Google's ties to 23andMe is likely to be tempered by the investment's relatively small size. Google earned $1 billion during the first quarter, or about $11 million per day, and ended March with $11.9 billion in cash.

Tuesday's filing didn't explain the rationale for Google's investment in 23andMe, but it said the company's audit committee had consulted an independent adviser to assess the startup's value.

Google invested in 23andMe as part of its goal of developing new ways to help people make sense of their genetic information, spokesman Jon Murchinson said in a statement. He said Brin recused himself from all management and board discussions about the 23andMe investment to avoid a conflict of interest.

Formerly a biotech investor herself, Wojcicki co-founded 23andMe last year with biopharmaceutical industry veteran Linda Avey. The startup, located near Google's Mountain View headquarters, is trying to "allow individuals to gain deeper insights into their ancestry, genealogy and inherited traits," Wojcicki said in a statement.

The startup, whose name refers the 23 pairs of chromosomes in humans, plans to officially launch by the end of this year," according to its Web site.

23andMe also has attracted investments from venture capital firms New Enterprise Associates and MDV-Mohr Davidow Ventures as well as biotech bellwether Genentech Inc., whose chief executive, Arthur Levinson, sits on Google's board. The amount contributed by the other investors wasn't disclosed.

Brin, 33, might not have met his wife if he and his partner Larry Page hadn't decided to incorporate Google in September 1998 and move their work from their Stanford University dorm rooms.

Google subsequently leased the garage of a Menlo Park home of Susan Wojcicki, who introduced her sister Anne to Brin. Susan Wojcicki now works as a vice president of development for Google, which now owns the home where Brin and Page launched the company.