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Summary:

What used to be the purview of corporate and business development departments is now being replaced by venture capital. A fund to foster Facebook apps, the iFund to jump start the iPhone app revolution or the rumored $150 million fund to give Blackberry apps a boost […]

What used to be the purview of corporate and business development departments is now being replaced by venture capital. A fund to foster Facebook apps, the iFund to jump start the iPhone app revolution or the rumored $150 million fund to give Blackberry apps a boost – the increasing number of platform funds doesn’t ensure success. Remember the Java Fund, or the RSS Fund.

The news of the Blackberry Fund was first reported by Venturebeat, but that post has been taken down, so I am not sure if this is even happening or not. If it is indeed true, then it is clear that iPhone has delivered a swift kick in the pants to the Canadian company, and getting it to innovate faster. I don’t think an investment vehicle is the answer. Many developers I have talked to often complain about the challenges of working with Research In Motion (RIM.)

If Team Blackberry is looking to encourage development for their platform, then they should make it easier for folks to develop for their platform. One hair ball that comes with this so called Blackberry Fund: can a company that takes an investment from Research In Motion develop apps for iPhone or Google’s Android?

Simon Brocklehurst does a great job of deconstructing the Blackberry & iFunds, and I encourage you to read his analysis. “All the opportunities, though, probably need Apple and RIM to deliver significant growth in device sales, from where they are now,” he writes, in what is clearly an understatement. Brocklehurst points out that there is a whole lot of other platforms, and the developer are going to gravitate towards the largest market opportunities.

In comparison to the Blackberry Fund and the iFund, I like the approach taken by Google to foster an apps ecosystem for its Android platform. Instead of taking an equity in exchange of funding, Google is basically giving prize monies to winners of a developer contest. Fifty round one winners get $25,000 and go on to the next level. According to a Google Android blog post, the name of the winners are going to be announced shortly. Of course, I have been talking to other Android developers and will write about them some time soon.

  1. I would be very interested in your analysis of what key developers think about the various opportunities in the mobile app dev space. I see these funds and contests as good moves by the respective camps to drive mind share to their platforms but in the end the platform, tools, and ecosystem have to stand, evolve, and grow on their own.

    I spent a few years as a Macintosh consumer software developer (multimedia tools) and a few years as a mobile infrastructure developer (content provisioning). During my time as a Mac developer I was frustrated by how Steve Jobs did not give a crap about the smaller developers and would crush their worlds without a thought. During my time as a mobile developer I was frustrated with how the carriers stifled innovation through their need to control what software got installed on their phones.

    Those experiences had a profound effect on my perspective as a developer/entrepreneur. While consumers and pundits are drooling over the iPhone I am happy to sit on the sidelines for a little while and watch all those foolish iPhone developers learn Objective-C and lock themselves into a dead end path. I however am going to be cheering on the Open Handset Alliance in their efforts to end the dominance of the Open Mobile Alliance. Android is the only game changer as far as I can see.

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  2. The ZunePhone Halographic will render EVERYTHING else obsolete!

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  3. What I kind want to know is do people actually buy apps for there phone like that, or is this more of a please make more junk for our phones so that we can say people make junk for our phones. I ask this because I have bought two apps for my phone and they usually aren’t worth it. (I use a blackberry 8830) And most of they people that I know with smart phones only use CRM type apps, out side of that I don’t see a whole need for hundreds more useless apps on Handango. I could be wrong but I don’t see this as a big deal we might get a few good games out of it I guess, but brick breaker is all I need!

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  4. [...] the possibilities of a $150mil BlackBerry fund, it gets me thinking about why does RIM (or Apple, or FaceBook, or MySpace) have to put up so much [...]

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  5. @ Carl H,

    It will depend on what kind of apps are going to be made available. A Skype app, or a Twitter app on any platform might be snapped up, and same goes for say a Last.fm app. I really do have doubts about people paying money for apps. Sure there will be some special case apps that people would buy – like a better email or IM client, but it really has to be good.

    I have a lot of phones but there are three or four apps that I can’t live without. Truphone is one. Whisher and Devicescape are the other two. Jaiku and Fring are the others. All are free. Proves your point…

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  6. Still I feel it would be hard for RIM and Android to beat the iPhone in apps development.

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  7. Hi Om,
    To answer your direct question, it is a VC Fund with no restrictions on the mobile target. We’d want the RIM devices to be on a roadmap but we can (and will) invest in anything regardless of the platform it started on. I am sitting here in Orlando as I type this, having just finished a meeting with a cool iPhone developer who has an amazing little enterprise tracking application. Coming to other platforms and I’m looking at it. It is about the opportunities first.

    Thanks,

    Rick Segal

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  8. The fund will be used to invest in both applications and services for the BlackBerry platform, but it won’t be exclusively to support the Blackberry.

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  9. [...] a good time to be a mobile app developer .. there’s money already being pledged for the BlackBerry platform (US$150 Mil) , Google Android platform (US$10 Mil), and the iPhone platform (US$100 Mil). I can see [...]

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  10. [...] for developer attention with Apple, Google, Palm and Symbian to find toehold with the developers. The company had launched a special VC fund to help find and grow apps for its platform. (Related posts: Watch the Future of mobile apps and [...]

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