Interview: Jean-David Begin, BlackBerry Partner Fund: Cautiously Moving Toward 20 Investments


imageTwo weeks ago we talked to Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers’ iFund Manager Matt Murphy about his thoughts on investing in companies building applications for the iPhone. At CTIA, we caught up with BlackBerry Partner’s Fund investment team member Jean-David Begin, who was busy traveling between Palo Alto and the convention floor with two other members to meet with a host of potential investments. The BlackBerry Fund was announced earlier this year just after the iFund, and is designed to invest in applications using the BlackBerry platform, as well as a host of other mobile products and services for various platforms. To be clear, the fund is an independent entity, not an investment arm of BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, so Begin has no inside information as to what RIM may or may not be doing. He shared his opinions on the hot sectors in mobile, his desire for cash-efficient companies with a chance of IPO exits, how some mobile companies are overvalued and unreleased Android’s need to prove itself. Some highlights from our conversation:

Tell me about the BlackBerry Partners Fund: “It



I think that is is great. The App store has a lot to do with that success, but the BlackBerry doesn’t have one. Is that something you are looking at? :“There’s a clear difference between what we do and what RIM does, and from that perspective RIM keeps these strategic decisions close to their chest as they should…Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has clearly demonstrated that it’s absolutely core to the business, and from that perspective, we are looking at ideas in this area, but it’s not a big leap that most of the handset vendors are probably doing something similar. From that perspective, you can ask yourself, what is their sustainable competitive advantage in a world where these types of platforms are offered by service providers? I tend to think that it shouldn’t be too long if you are an independent player in the space that you will get surrounded by people with a much bigger reach.”

Michal Crabe

What else is hot?: “We’ve probably seen 50 social networking companies, and then there’s location. The frontier between all of those are blurred: we first defined LBS as a category and then we figured out it is a feature in most apps. Definitely social networks, and then advertising networks, and then content mobilization, meaning companies that take content from TV and publishers and bring it to mobile.

This answer was priceless.

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