BlackBerry Partners Fund, a mobile focused, platform-agnostic fund backed by Research in Motion, Thompson Reuters and others, is now being followed up by a second $150 million fund aimed at doubling down on mobile opportunities. With the new money comes a rebranding for ATP Capital, which managed the BlackBerry Partners Fund: The new entity will be known as Relay Ventures and will operate out of Toronto and Silicon Valley.
The new $150 million fund gives Relay Ventures a lot more money to make bets on mobile computing. The firm is looking at funding all manner of early stage mobile start-ups and has already funded 32 mobile companies to date including Appcelerator, Xobni, Payfone and Local Response out of the previous $150 million BlackBerry Partners Fund, which was launched in 2008. Other previous bets included Buzzd, Pub Nub, Nexage and Pocketgear.
Kevin Talbot, co-managing partner of Relay Ventures, told me the fund, which continues to license the BlackBerry name from RIM, will be looking at funding not just apps, but companies that are leveraging 3G, 4G, sensors and the cloud to create mobile products that work without regard to operating systems and devices. He said the opportunity in mobile is only growing with real-time, always-on Internet access available through smartphones and tablets.
Relay’s growing focus on mobile puts it among the biggest investors on wireless and mobile start-ups. Ridgecrest Capital Partners counted Relay as the third largest investor in mobile in terms of numbers of companies invested over the last three years, behind only Sequoia and Intel Capital. Ridgecrest did not include follow-ons and investments of less than $2 million.
I would expect to see more of these mobile-focused funds and VC firms appear. Kleiner Perkins has launched its own $200 million iFund to back applications, services and components for iOS devices. DCM announced an A-Fund last year to help Android-focused companies. The world is increasingly going mobile and we’re still realizing the opportunity in smartphones and tablets.