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.