Person of Interest: Rich Miner

Meet the techie who put Cambridge on Google’s map.

rich miner

Photograph by Ken Richardson

RICH MINER WASN’T GOING to move to California, not even for $50 million. That’s the size of the check Google reportedly wrote back in 2005 to buy Android, the mobile-software startup that Miner cofounded. But he “really wasn’t interested in relocating” to his new employer’s Silicon Valley headquarters. Instead, the 20-year resident of Cambridge argued that Google should get serious about Kendall Square, a place crawling with top-flight tech talent. Google ended up taking that advice from Miner – and from other insiders with local roots – and currently employs a staff of 250 (and counting) at its Cambridge outpost.

The pitch “wasn’t a tough sell,” Miner says. But then again, he’s more adept at foretelling trends than your average salesman. The iPhone was still years off when he and his Android cofounders helped convince Google that mobile phones were the future of computing. Sure enough, sales of Android-powered devices now top 200,000 per day. (PC sales are only a fraction of that.) A Google executive recently dubbed the Android acquisition its “best deal ever.” That’s because by giving away the Android software for free, Google ensures its moneymaking applications, such as Google Search and Google Maps, will have a welcome home on millions of smartphones.

These days, the company puts Miner’s skills to work at Google Ventures, which invests up to $100 million a year in fledgling businesses. Miner knows firsthand what an infusion of G-cash can do. Back when Android was competing with several similar ventures, he says, “It was the resources of Google that allowed us to assemble a platform that was much more powerful than anything anyone else was doing.” He’s now in a position to return the favor.

As the partner who oversees Google Ventures’ East Coast investments, Miner has already put money into five promising startups, including three in Boston (Scvngr, English Central, and Recorded Future). Can he find the next Android? Why stop there? Miner says. “We could find the next Google.”