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O'Reilly invests in 'alpha geeks'
Sebastopol publisher's $51 million fund focuses on promising startups in emerging technologies

Sebastopol tech publisher O'Reilly Media has raised a $51 million venture fund to invest in technology startups.

O'Reilly Media, which made a name for itself by focusing the spotlight on cutting-edge trends through its publications and conferences, will now attempt to further advance emerging technologies while cashing in on its knowledge.

O'Reilly Media will work with the fund, O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, to identify business opportunities evolving from technology.

"O'Reilly has a long history of spotting trends by watching the alpha geeks," Tim O'Reilly, founder and chief executive of O'Reilly Media, said in a statement. "With OATV, we can now invest more directly in the opportunities we uncover."

Alpha geeks are enthusiasts who tinker with hardware, software and other technologies, often pushing the limits of what is possible.

"By watching what they are doing we get a good sense of where technology is going," said Bryce Roberts, managing director of the fund. "We have all the resources of O'Reilly Media behind us."

Roberts operates the fund in San Francisco with fellow Managing Director Mark Jacobson.

Roberts previously worked for another venture fund, Wasatch Venture Fund. Jacobson joined O'Reilly Media in 1995 and worked as executive vice president for new ventures and business development, managing the company's investment portfolio.

The O'Reilly AlphaTech fund will target emerging technologies in fields like Web 2.0 services, do-it-yourself and personal fabrication movements, mobility and telephony applications and renewable power. The company either holds conferences in these areas or has publications devoted to the topics, and in many cases both.

O'Reilly Media is credited with coining the term "Web 2.0," which describes Web sites like Wikipedia and MySpace that cater to user interaction.

The company has made investments intermittently over the years, but the venture fund formalizes and focuses those efforts, Roberts said.

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