By Heather Somerville and Shalini Nagarajan

(Reuters) - Alphabet Inc venture capital arm GV said Bill Maris, a leading voice in the venture industry, is leaving the investment firm he founded and ran as chief executive for close to eight years.

GV, formerly known as Google Ventures, said Friday that Maris would be replaced by managing partner David Krane.

"Bill Maris has decided to step down to take a break with his family and tackle something new," GV said in a statement.

Krane has been at Google for nearly 17 years, starting as the company's first communications director.

GV, founded in 2009, pioneered a new style of corporate venture capital, making big bets on bleeding-edge technology such as commercial drones and 3D printing, and new business models such as ride-services company Uber and genetics testing firm 23andMe.

Unlike many corporate venture arms, GV rarely invests in a startup that is acquired by its corporate affiliate. Just six of GV's 320 or so investments have been acquired by Google, a spokeswoman said.

It has roughly $1.4 billion under management, with many companies now worth several billions of dollars. Its investment in online retailer paid off this week when Wal-Mart announced it would acquire the company for about $3 billion. It has also had its share of failures, such as messaging app Secret's demise last year.

But GV has slowed its pace of investments dramatically over the last year and a half. The firm made just 34 investments in 2015 compared to 63 in 2014, a 46 percent drop, according to venture capital database CB Insights.

Maris had been vocal in encouraging richly valued startups to go public rather than continuing to exploit the booming private markets, and depriving employees and early investors the chance to cash out their shares.

Alphabet has added other investment vehicles since GV. Google Capital, a growth-stage investment fund, launched in 2014, and Google began making investments from its balance sheet over the last couple of years.

However, GV's pace of investments still outpaced the others, according to CB Insights.

Maris's exit is the latest in a string of high-profile departures from Alphabet. Chris Urmson, chief technical officer for its self-driving car project, left last week, while Anthony Levandowski, product manager for the program, left earlier this year to co-found a startup.

Tony Fadell, a well-known Silicon Valley executive who was once expected to play a central role in Alphabet's hardware efforts, stepped down as chief executive of its Nest unit in June.

(Reporting by Heather Somerville in San Francisco and Shalini Nagarajan in Bengaluru.; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier, Bernard Orr)