'Dumb' VC money may not be so dumb this time

Companies' venture funds poured more money into venture-backed start-ups in the last quarter than they have since the dot-com era.

While in other circumstances that might be a worrisome sign, now it might actually be a positive indicator, said Anand Sanwal, CB Insights CEO and co-founder.

Traditionally, corporate VCs have been known as the "dumb money" since they tend to follow at the tail end of trends rather than anticipate them.

But as more traditional investors have been shy about investing in start-ups, corporate VCs have filled an important void, said Sanwal.

During the first quarter, 83 corporate venture capitalist groups completed an investment for a total of $3.01 billion across 129 deals, according to research published Thursday by CB Insights. That's more than double the amount of money corporate VCs invested during the same quarter last year.

In fact, corporate VC funding accounted for 30 percent of the $9.99 billion in total VC dollars that were invested during the first quarter, which was the biggest quarter for VC funding since the second quarter of 2001.

Corporations are now investing in 4 out of 10 of the largest tech deals and the rate of their participation continues to grow, Sanwal said.

"This is definitely the most corporate VC money, probably since the dot-com days," Sanwal said.

The corporate firms that were most active during the quarter include Google Ventures and Intel Capital, according to the report.

Sanwal doesn't think this indicates we're in a bubble. The fact that so many corporate VC firms are spending this kind of money investing in young companies may actually indicate a positive sign for the economy.

"Folks are bullish right now in general, they are thinking about growth and innovation and so investment is ticking up as a result," he said. "If companies are focused on these growth initiatives, it's an indication that they are feeling good about the economy, and I see that as a bit of a plus."

By CNBC's Cadie Thompson.