Google's wireless chief, Sacca, leaves to become angel investor

updatedChris Sacca, the head of special initiatives at Google who led Google’s efforts to open up the wireless spectrum to more competition, is leaving Google to invest in early-stage technology companies.

Sacca wielded significant clout at Google. He pushed hard on a free WiFi initiative in San Francisco, but that effort got caught up in a regulatory quagmire, and flagged. However, he succeeded in rolling out free WiFi in Mountain View. Other efforts have been much more significant: He led Google’s effort to lobby for more open standards on the 700MHz wireless spectrum. Wireless spectrum has long been dominated by an oligopoly of players. Verizon, one of those major carriers, responded by opening up its network to use by other companies and devices — a move widely viewed as reactive to Google’s efforts to press for change.

No replacement for Sacca has been named.

Sacca is known for speaking his mind, sometimes to the consternation of his employer. Last year, he caused a ruckus when he criticized the powerful wireless carriers for stopping users from downloading Google applications on their phones (see his account here). Sacca also made waves by criticizing the bureaucracy in San Francisco.

He’ll be leaving Google at the end of this month. He has forged relationships with Ev Williams, of Obvious (owner of messaging company Twitter) and Paul Graham (head of incubator company Y Combinator), though he hasn’t made any formal arrangements for co-investing. He’ll invest from a small fund for seed investing, though he’s still mulling options on partnerships with other angel investors down the road. He has invested in companies such as Twitter and Photobucket (see our coverage), and has advised several others, including Auctomatic, a YCombinator company.

This is an about-face from last year, when he appeared to dismiss the idea of launching an angel career. At the time, he wistfully remarked to us that he didn’t have the financial firepower of earlier employees Georges Harik or Aydin Senkut. Arriving much later at Google, he received less stock. What a difference a year can make, though. His stock value has risen by 75 percent since that time last year.

He’d considered becoming a venture capitalist, but is more interested in the early stages of entrepreneurship, and angel investing is thus more appealing.

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