Google Inc. may be launching its widely-rumored venture capital branch sooner than previously thought. Of course, this prediction is pinned on the fact that a Reuters reporter spotted a name tag for Google wireless chief Rich Miner listing his affiliation as Google Ventures at a recent Silicon Valley startup event. This isn’t exactly iron clad, but evidence is mounting. Google has yet to make an official announcement.

When asked about the name tag, a Google spokesperson told Reuters that a venture group is “a project we’re working on. But we’re not able to discuss the details right now.”

Miner is best known as the co-founder of Android, which Google acquired (along with Miner himself) in 2005. If he is in fact part of the search giant’s new venture efforts, that’s already pretty telling that Google would likely invest in companies making features it could fold into its smartphone plans.

Word of Google Ventures first started to circulate last year when the Wall Street Journal reported that the group was not only already in the works, but likely to be headed by Google senior vice president of corporate development David Drummond. It also said that entrepreneur William Maris would be brought aboard to help set up operations. Maris previously started Cataytic Health with Anne Wojcicki, wife of Google founder Sergey Brin.

Indicating early interest in this area, Google Gadget Ventures launched in 2007 to provide seed funding to third-party application developers, including $5,000 allotments to individuals and as much as $100,000 to commercial startups.

If Google jumps into the venture game, it will have a reported $8.6 billion in cash to draw from. Still, chief executive Eric Schmidt has said the company would only make “very very conservative investments” in light of the shaky economic environment.

Google would be following in the footsteps of other rapidly diversifying media and tech companies like Amazon, Intel, Comcast and Disney, which have each launched venture arms of their own.

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