Twelve weeks after the start of Facebook’s new incubator-style fbFund program, the 18 startups in this year’s class showed off the fruits of their labor to VCs and Facebook execs in a bid to get more funding at today’s fbFund Demo Day. In addition to participating in the 10-week Y Combinator-like fbFund Rev program headed by Dave McClure, Facebook and its two venture investors, Founders Fund and Accel Partners, have already made equity investments in the startups. Previously, fbFund’s model included the distribution of grants ranging from $25,000-$250,000.
Five fbFund startups are already breaking even and an additional three of them are on track to do so by the end of this year. This shows that Facebook is “not just about growth and distribution, but it’s also about making money,” said McClure.
But which of the 18 startups will really be the next big thing on the Facebook platform and Facebook Connect? In January, wedding site network The Knot acquired former fbFund winner WedSnap — but that’s an anomaly when it comes to fbFund finalists. As we see firsthand all the time here in the Valley, not every good idea is met with success. We were able to speak to a few of the fbFund startups earlier this summer; below are the ones that piqued our interest, along with what some of the VCs at today’s Demo Day thought of them.
Summary: The site puts together potential dating matches for you by leveraging Facebook’s social graph. Using Thread, you can view your Facebook friends’ single friends’ profiles — and ask your mutual friends to introduce you.
Notable: In terms of funding, Thread.com is off to a good start. The startup said today that it’s received $1.2 million in funding from Sequoia Capital, First Round Capital, Founders Fund and Ron Conway.
One VC’s Take: “It’s like LinkedIn for dating; it makes perfect sense,” said K9 Ventures’ Manu Kumar. “I’m surprised the incumbents (in the dating space) haven’t done this already.”
Summary: Gameyola’s Facebook app hosts developers’ Flash games and helps to monetize them by providing virtual goods for players to buy.
Notable: Social gaming companies Zynga and Playfish have enjoyed lucrative success on Facebook, proving people will pony up wads of cash for virtual goods to give themselves a better chance of winning social games. And Gameyola’s co-founder Nicolas Kokkalis already developed a popular application on Facebook, Best Match.
One VC’s Take: “I’m skeptical,” said Eric Tilenius of Tilenius Investments. “It’s potentially a lucrative space, but a casual game has to be specifically designed for a social environment.” Zynga and Playfish are successful because the two social gaming companies design their games from the ground up for social networks, according to Tilenius, and he isn’t sure whether the process of hosting games and monetizing them can be done under the same roof.
Summary: DropPlay launched its eponymous music service site earlier this year, but developed and released a Facebook app it’s been working on during the fbFund program called Friend Radio. Using the information people list in the music section of their profiles, Friend Radio shows you songs from artists your Facebook friends say they like. It also provides a link that directs you to iTunes in case you want to purchase the song. “Ever since the mix tape, friends have been the best way to explore new music,” said DropPlay CEO Chris Turitzen.
Notable: Music applications are hot right now. Look no further than MySpace’s purchase of iLike and the buzz around Spotify’s upcoming iPhone app for proof. Two months since Friend Radio’s inception, it has 20,000 active users.
One VC’s Take: “It seemed cool; I’m going to try it out,” said Venrock’s Dev Khare, a Pandora fan, though he noted that the interactive radio space is crowded, which could present a problem for the startup.
Summary: RentMineOnline’s site lets property managers and residents refer a property to others over social networks such as Twitter, MySpace and of course, Facebook. Gift cards and other cash rewards are used as incentives. People can log into the site using Facebook Connect.
Notable: Though referring property isn’t exactly a hot app trend, RentMineOnline CEO Ed Spiegel said the year-old company has been profitable for the last five months, so the site is clearly gaining traction.
One VC’s Take: “It’s great to do referrals through social networks since it’s normally done through a blind process,” said Union Square Ventures’ Andrew Parker. “RentMeMine’s (financial) trajectory looks terrific.”