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5 Start-Ups Big Tech Is Eyeing in 2012

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As tech giants like Google (GOOG) and Intel (INTC) look for new ways to grow, many are turning to small start-ups for investment opportunities.

Known as corporate venture capital, this form of investing has seen an uptick in the past year as lumbering tech companies often find it easier to partner with nimble start-ups rather than build new products themselves.

These young companies, in turn, can gain access to top notch executives, engineers and technology through their corporate investors.

Corporate investment capital accounted for 14.9% of all venture deals in 2011, up from 13.6% in the year prior, according to the National Venture Capital Association.

Here are five profiles of cutting-edge startups backed by tech's biggest names.

Profitero

Corporate Partner: IBM (mentorship, not investment)

What It Does: Price monitoring software for retailers

Profitero, an Ireland-based start-up which makes pricing analysis software for retailers, won IBM's (IBM) entrepreneur of the year award earlier this month.

The 13-person company helps retailers to properly price their merchandise by giving them access to data like how much their competitors are charging and which new products have their rivals started to sell. They can also monitor their competitors' shipping costs and stock availability through a Web-based dashboard.

Profitero collects data on 30 million products from over 2,800 retailers, with plans to expand to 100 million products by the middle of this year. It has also secured several major European clients like U.K.-based merchandising giant Tesco and French supermarket chain Auchan.

IBM chose to partner with Profitero because of its disruptive power within the retail industry.

"There's tremendous opportunity for retail to leverage data," said Claudia Fan Munce, managing director of IBM's venture capital group. "It's one of the industries that has transformed based on the data analytics, the velocity of the data and responsiveness that people are looking for products."

IBM's venture capital group does not manage a portfolio of start-ups, it rather focuses on identifying businesses of interest who receive access to Big Blue's resources and mentorship opportunities.

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