Earlier this month I asked what happened to the 150 million dollar BlackBerry Partners Fund. Rick Segal of JLA Ventures responded letting me know that the fund is live and kicking. They are actively pursuing new venture opportunities in the mobile space.
Rick was kind enough to send in a guest post letting us know what the fund is currently doing and its plans for the future. If you are a developer this is highly recommended reading. If your interested in more you should read Rick’s VC blog at ricksegal.typepad.com or email him at rick(at)jlaventures.com.
Without further ado I will hand the mike over to Rick…
The Blackberry Partners Fund (BPF) is up and running. We have great set of LPs and JLA Ventures is delighted to be working with a group of super professionals from the Royal Bank of Canada. Kevin Tablot, who leads the RBC group, is an uber-geek who makes me look like a luddite. Carries multiple devices, two laptops, etc, etc.
I point this out so you know that the team of professionals crawling all over the mobile opportunities is not made up of a bunch of suits pushing numbers on a spreadsheet. In fact, as I type this, it’s 4a in Israel and I’m getting ready to start my day with some amazing mobile start-ups here while Kevin is on the other side of the world (California) chasing a few deals. In between, my JLA partners and the RBC gang are doing meetings, skyping with some start-ups in Australia.
We are brand new and are super excited about the initiative that JLA and RBC co-manage. All of us are pumped about the space and pumped about the developers we are getting to meet.
The BPF is a traditional Venture Capital Fund. I say traditional to get some of the mis-information out of the way. We have a set of limited partners who expect VC level returns and are expecting all of us to perform at those levels. We are not handing out grants, doing non-profits, etc, etc. It means when you submit a business plan to us, it really has to be a business. and has to be targeted at the mobility space.
The mobility space is broadly defined, as you would expect, so we don’t miss opportunities. So rather than give you some corporate-speak on what that means, stick with the obvious. If you have a web site which is the core of what you do and it can be viewed on a mobile device, not likely for us. If you have a mobile service, game, application, etc, which has a web site that you can view on your desktop for administration or other reasons, different issue. Have a better way to do something by using your mobile device, that’s us. Have a management product to make the deployment of all these toys easier? We’re looking at them all, trying to see if there is a great business in here. So, it’s broad by design and I’m hopeful this gives people a wide space to think about opportunities and possible solutions which can be funded.
People have asked if we are ‘part of RIM’ and the simple answer is no. RIM is a Limited Partner in the fund. The other anchor LPs are Thomson Reuters and RBC. We (JLA) are also a Limited Partner in the sense that we’ve allocated a portion of our current fund to this initiative. We believe this is a strength for the fund and for those companies who are going to be in the portfolio. No, we aren’t getting any super secrets, advance knowledge or source code from RIM (or early new/stocks from TR or free checking from RBC). What we are getting is direct, unfiltered, feedback and insight into what’s happening within the particular worlds of these LPs which helps us and, we hope, you. The LPs have a cash interest and they spend serious time with us which, again, helps you.
For example, we looked at a mobile payment device recently. We were able to sit down with the RBC guys responsible for direct debit, credit cards, etc, and get information that was super helpful in our evaluation but also were able to give the entrepreneur guidance and contacts as well. Having spent years doing developer relations with Microsoft, I have a soft spot for the work being done at RIM with respect to developer relations. Unless you’ve lived it, you can’t imagine how hard working with 1000s of developers really is. Knowing exactly how the system works at MSFT, RIM plus the bonus of the long standing Google relationships of Kevin, Rob, Dave, and yours truly, we ‘get’ the whole technical space and can help with issues that come up. We think all of this knowledge/experience/contacts stuff makes us a good partner for you to do business with.
We’re asked about size and stage. We are stage agnostic which means napkin to pre-IPO. We have no set limits on deal size and we love partners to join us in deals. We have a worldwide mandate. Simple. Bring it on and let’s talk about it.
The big one: We will fund other platforms? Yup. Our mandate is mobile. Our collective belief is that you are a business trying to make money and being a device or platform snob isn’t good business. Yes, we want to see a Blackberry implementation or the device on the roadmap but no, it doesn’t have to be ‘day one.’
One final point. You hear all the time this VC talk about ‘it is the people’ and, for the most part, it is true. The people make the difference in any business. The reverse is also true. A successful relationship with a VC also depends on the people. We think we’ve pulled together a great team with diverse backgrounds all of whom love technology and get excited just at the possibility of something new coming in the door. Hopefully, when you meet, Rob, Kevin, JD, Taf, or any of the rest of us, you’ll be pleased with the interaction.
Write, call, or drop by as we’re open for business.
Rick Segal is a partner at JLA Ventures and one of the co-managers of the Blackberry Partners Fund. His VC focused blog is at http://ricksegal.typepad.com
You can contact the whole BlackBerry Partners Fund team at [email protected]