Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers today tried to reassert itself as a powerhouse and relevant venture capital firm by rounding up Facebook, Zynga and Amazon to announce a $250-million fund for social web startups, called the sFund. This comes on the heels of the VC firm’s $200 million iFund for iOS companies, which has had recent success like the $400 million purchase of portfolio company Ngmoco.
At an announcement at Facebook’s Palo Alto, Calif.-based headquarters today, Kleiner partner John Doerr called the fund “a quarter of a billion dollar party.” He won on-stage testimonials from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Zynga CEO Mark Pincus.
After backing Internet heavyweights like Amazon and Google, Kleiner missed opportunities like Facebook and YouTube and garnered skepticism about its sheen as one of the top, and most relevant, VC firms. This is a move to counter that perception (and reality). The firm clearly counts Zynga as a big win, and trumpets the fact that it’s the fastest-growing company it has ever invested in. Kleiner partner Bing Gordon, who led the firm’s investment in Zynga, will head up the sFund.
Kleiner gave examples of promising social startups it has already backed in addition to Zynga: Jive Software (enterprise social web), Lockerz (online shopping incentives for young people), CafeBots (a “Friend Relationship Management” app builder) and Flipboard (the social magazine app for the iPad). CafeBots is the only disclosed investment that’s actually part of the sFund; the others were made previous to its existence.
Investors in the sFund include Amazon, Facebook, Zynga, Kleiner Perkins, Comcast Interactive Capital, Allen & Company and Liberty Media.
Kleiner’s Gordon said the future of the social web is still ahead of us; he predicted social activity and engagement will continue to rise dramatically, and teased entrepreneurs with the opportunity to be a CEO within Kleiner’s fold, where it has access to Bezos, Zuckerberg, Pincus and others.
Bezos joked that he hoped most of the $250 million would be spent on Amazon Web Services, and said Amazon was today introducing a new tier for startups that would allow them to try AWS for free.
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