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At last: VCs turn focus to Android apps

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For years, owners of Android(s GOOG) phones have generally gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to having great apps. Many of the most buzzed-about mobile apps launch on iPhone(s AAPL) first, and come to Android much later. Instagram, for instance, still has yet to debut in the Android market. But with Android device sales now making up almost half of all smartphone shipments in the United States, tech industry leaders are finally starting to see that the Android platform should be treated as more than just an afterthought.

Exhibit A: Venture capital firm DCM announced Thursday the first class of seven startups in its Android-focused fund, or “A-Fund.” The A-Fund is aimed at funding companies who focus on developing technologies and products for the Android ecosystem. The A-Fund is “stage-agnostic,” DCM says, meaning that it will back startups at all stages of growth from inception to full-fledged company.

A wide-open market

And DCM is not the only venture fund turning its attention to Android in a serious way. Kleiner Perkins partner Bing Gordon said in an on-stage conversation at Facebook’s f8 developer conference last month that even though developing apps for Apple’s iOS devices can be a cleaner experience, there’s a big market opportunity for serious Android developers:

“The world needs crazy people who are willing to try to define a curated Android experience, because it doesn’t seem that Google is going to do it. And there’s an awful lot of users out there.”

Larger companies have started to get savvy to the need for Android apps — notably, Yahoo’s Flickr (s yhoo) division recently launched its new Instagram-like shoot-and-share mobile app on Android, not on iPhone. My colleague Ryan Kim highlighted how some innovative apps are starting on Android first now instead of iOS. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s looking like Android users may finally start to get the kind of top-rate apps iPhone users have enjoyed for years.

Here’s a list of the A-Fund’s new portfolio companies, and short descriptions of what they do:

  • Appia. Creators of a white-label mobile app store platform currently processing over one million downloads per day for operators, handset manufacturers, and other partners.
  • Billing Revolution. A mobile payments company that enables easy, fast, and secure payment transactions through their PCI-compliant Single-Click Checkout platform.
  • PapayaMobile. The leading Android mobile social gaming network in China and the U.S. with over 30 million users.
  • Happy Elements. A social game developer with the largest footprint on Facebook’s non-English market with 2.5 million active daily users, the second and third most popular games on Mixi in Japan, as well as the most popular game on Kaixin001 in China.
  • Kanbox. China’s leading cloud storage and sharing service provider.
  • Loki Studios. A company revolutionizing mobile gaming with location and environment-aware smartphone games, starting with their flagship monster battle game, Geomon.
  • Kakao Corp. Developer of KakaoTalk, an intuitive, cross-platform mobile messaging application with over 25 million users worldwide.

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