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One of Google's former top investors has a new $175 million fund for tech companies solving society's biggest problems

Key Points
  • The fund will invest $175 million in companies and entrepreneurs tackling issues such as climate change, the future of work and urbanization.
  • Scott Tierney and partners say they want the new fund to use tech common at Google and other firms.
  • Tierney says he wants users to "feel empowered" as opposed to "subservient."
Valo Ventures partner Scott Tierney is leading a new fund aimed at using tech for good.
Valo Ventures

Google Capital co-founder Scott Tierney is launching a new $175 million investment fund with hopes of using technology to fix societal issues, some of which have been amplified by technology.

Under his venture firm Valo Ventures, which also includes partners Mona EINaggar and Julia Brady, the new fund focuses on trends including user rights, autonomy and the future of work. It's the firm's first fund since Valo's launch last year. The fund comes during a rise in corporate responsibility investments as well as concern that tech companies have compromised users in favor of greater revenue.

"It's become, 'How can we use what's been built by Silicon Valley, Amazon, Google, Facebook and take that and apply it in the physical world?' " Tierney told CNBC in an interview. "How can we exploit these types of technologies by [making them] available to other industries? That's a big part of our philosophy."

Prior to launching Valo last summer, Tierney worked for seven years at Google. There he co-founded its growth stage venture arm CapitalG, formerly known as Google Capital, as well as led strategy and corporate development at Google Fiber and Nest Labs.

Valo Ventures' partners gave examples of investment areas they'd like to fund, including tech that enables collaboration for users of marginalized communities, artificial intelligence and diversity, all of which have been compromised by and within large tech companies like Google and Facebook.

But Tierney, who speaks highly of Google and its leadership, said he doesn't spend much time thinking about tech's negative impact on society, adding "technology is amoral" and that "it's really the people who use it and how it's built" that can compromise users.

"Google has incredible access to photos and Netflix has incredible access to movies and recommendations, but how do you really improve marketplaces for transportation or energy? " Tierney said. "We want to see how they can make technology users feel empowered as opposed to them being subservient to tech," he later added.

"Everything we have is going to have AI running in the background at some point, and is it there to make our lives better or is it there to just sell us stuff we don't need?" fund partner Mona EINaggar said to CNBC. "We prefer the former."

Using the fund, Valo has already invested in companies including New York-based Landit, which is a personalized career path platform meant to engage more women and diverse employees in workplaces.

"A lot of these bigger companies — they've done a good job at recruiting but not retaining," Tierney said.

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