Juniper Networks launches $50M fund

There’s nothing like money to prime the pump of a technology platform. At least that’s the thinking behind Juniper Networks’ $50 million “Junos Innovation Fund” launched last week.

The networking giant is hoping to spawn a cottage industry of startups working on applications that will run on the operating system that Juniper uses for its devices. Its Junos software allows programmers to access and write code for multiple layers of the data network, which can be extremely useful when creating new, network-based services.

The move is similar to Intel Corp.’s use of Intel Capital to promote industries that will consume the company’s semiconductors and one that Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson says will “enhance Juniper’s R&D roadmap.”

Juniper has steadily increased the amount of money it spends on research and development in recent years, expanding it in step with improving sales figures. It spent nearly $750 million last year on R&D expenses, almost three times more than what it spent just five years before.

It is not yet clear if the networking company will hire additional executives to staff its investing operation or rely on internal expertise.

The company has been busily investing in startups for some time, backing 11 companies to date, including Santa Clara, Calif.-based network optimization startup Ankeena Networks, Santa Clara, Calif.-based switch maker Blade Network Technologies, Petaluma, Calif.-based optical packet system maker Cyan Optics, Petaluma, Calif.-based digital security startup FireEye and Santa Clara, Calif.-based network analytics startup Packet Design.

It is not the first time Juniper has dipped its toe into venture capital investing. The firm invested in Newton Technology Partners a decade ago as a limited partner, records show. The $50 million Newton fund invested in nine companies from 1999 to 2006 from offices in Seoul, South Korea and Palo Alto, Calif. Two of the firm’s nine portfolio companies were acquired, according to data from Thomson Reuters (publisher of PE Week). —Alexander Haislip