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Kodak Ventures Off To Fast Start

Kodak Ventures expands into Silicon Valley with San Jose, Calif., office.
Eastman Kodak Co., which had sales of nearly $14 billion last year, launched Kodak Venture, its venture-capital arm, in October to invest in the early-stage technology of "infoimaging," which blends IT with Kodak's trademark, imaging. Kodak Venture, which has a $100 million commitment from Kodak, already has completed 11 deals this year.

Linda K. Glisson, principal of Kodak Ventures, expects to complete five deals this month, for a total of $15 million to $20 million. She says deals already have been made with DataPlay Inc., a digital storage media developer for portable Web devices, and YesVideo.com Inc., which is converting videotapes into CDs, DVDs, and streaming video. The size of the two investments wasn't disclosed. The remaining three transactions will be in wireless, digital-rights management, and compression.

As the industry moves away from the traditional, physical-world activities of processing and printing, Kodak is trying to keep up. "Now it's based on bits, not atoms. How do you monetize bits? That's our mantra," Ted G. Lewis, senior VP of digital business development, told reporters Tuesday at Kodak's new San Jose, Calif., office. "Bits are not as consumable as paper, ink, and film."

Some investments will come from Kodak labs, and all deals will require a business unit as a sponsor. "Innovation is not about smart people. It's about reducing risk to zero," Lewis said. "We try to do that for our business units."

Kodak Venture will likely only invest $65 million before the end of the year as it establishes an office in Singapore to concentrate on the Asian market, where Glisson sees great potential. The $100 million commitment from Kodak will be an annual fund.