BlackBerry Partners Fund announce first funded companies
After several false starts, it finally looks like mobile application development has real momentum. Although the iPhone and Android have received a lot of attention in regards to third-party applications, they aren't the only game in town. Approximately 19 million people have BlackBerry devices and as more and more consumers continue to adopt BlackBerry based smartphones, this is certainly a market with plenty of untapped potential. Back in May, JLA Ventures and RBC Venture Partners announced the creation of the BlackBerry Partners Fund -- a $150 million venture capital fund focussed on applications and services for the BlackBerry platform. Today, the BlackBerry Partners Fund is announcing its first three investments.
The companies receiving funding are buzzd, Digby and WorldMate. I had the opportunity to speak with Kevin Talbot, the Co-Managing Partner of the fund and Nihal Mehta, the CEO of buzzd earlier this week, and both are really excited abut the future of BlackBerry's role in the mobile application space and the opportunities the Fund can help propel.
Buzzd, is a service that strives to answer the question, "what's going on around me right now?" Applications are already available for the iPhone and Android, but the BlackBerry application, due out early next year, will take advantage of location awareness tools built into the BlackBerry, as well as the address book, to help users find local events and connect with their friends even more easily. If you haven't used buzzd, its a great way to find out what is going on in your neighborhood. I have also had success using it while out of town, as it makes traversing a different area much easier.
Nihal told me that the BlackBerry as a platform is great to develop on and that the team is really excited about the advances and special features they can bring to buzzd experience for BlackBerry users.
Digby, is a company that is taking a unique a unique approach to mobile shopping. Instead of just buying digital goods online, Digby lets you browse more than 24 retail outlets, like Barnes and Noble, Best Buy and 1-800 Flowers and shop directly from your phone. Utilizing your BlackBerry's address book, you can send items directly to someone else (say, flowers or chocolates for that birthday or anniversary you almost forget) and using the BlackBerry's Wallet application, you can pay for your purchases securely. The BlackBerry Partners Fund wants to help take Digby to the next level. Personally, I think something like Digby is ingenious. As we start to use phones more and more as extensions of our lives, shopping for real products is going to be a natural evolution.
WorldMate, based in Israel, describes itself as a "traveler's guardian angel." WorldMate Live is perfect for the frequent (or even infrequent) traveler, as it sends automatic real-time itinerary updates to your phone about flight delays or cancellations, weather reports, travel directions, currency converters, world maps and more. You can even book hotels directly from your phone. WorldMate even converts clothing sizes if you are visiting a country that has vastly different sizing protocols.
As a BlackBerry user, I'm really excited about the BlackBerry Partners Fund and its first round of investments. Hopefully this will help encourage other developers to reach out to the platform, which is no longer just about the enterprise market.