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Industry News

BlackBerry Partners to Raise $150M Fund for BRIC Markets

28 October 2010

(Bloomberg) October 28, 2010 – BlackBerry Partners Fund, a venture- capital firm backed by Research In Motion Ltd., plans to raise at least $150 million to invest in mobile-phone software developers in markets such as Brazil and India.

BlackBerry Partners announced plans in May for a $100 million fund focused on China, though now the firm has decided instead to raise more capital for it and invest in a broader range of countries including Brazil, India and Russia, said Kevin Talbot, co-managing partner of the firm.

Focusing just on China “would have consumed a tremendous amount of our capital” and limited the fund’s ability to invest outside North America, Talbot said yesterday in an interview in Toronto, where the fund is based. “There’s innovation percolating around the world, and there are five or six key regions where we need to have a presence.”

While the fund may still make U.S. investments, it will seek opportunities in Europe, Latin America and Asia, where software developers are creating applications for local consumers. RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, is counting on sales of cheaper BlackBerry models like the Curve to gain an edge over Apple Inc.’s pricier iPhone overseas and make up for slowing U.S. growth.

Sales outside the U.S. climbed 93 percent last quarter from a year earlier, while U.S. revenue slipped 2.9 percent.

App Developers
Venture-capital firms are investing more in software developers as their applications become increasingly important to consumers when choosing among RIM’s BlackBerry, the iPhone or handsets based on Google Inc.’s Android software. RIM’s App World features more than 10,000 consumer programs, trailing the over 250,000 that can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store and the more than 80,000 that Android offers.

While the firm is named for RIM’s smartphone, BlackBerry Partners is “platform agnostic” and invests in companies that also build apps for iPhones and Android devices to tap those with the greatest potential, Talbot said.

“If you look at WorldMate for example, their application runs on all mobile platforms today,” Talbot said, referring to the mobile trip-planning service that is one of the firm’s investments.

The BlackBerry name continues to attract developers, and the fund can help those startups connect with RIM, Talbot said.

“What we’re able to do is bring these entrepreneurs into one of the leading companies in the mobile space,” he said. “That’s invaluable whether they’re ultimately going to build for the BlackBerry platform or whether it’s for the perspective on the evolution of mobile.”

By Hugo Miller