JLA, RBC to manage $150m BlackBerry venture fund

Research in Motion, RBC and Thomson Reuters have an answer to the recently launched $100m iFund, managed by Kleiner Perkins. The Blackberry fund will be taking an opportunistic approach.

A $150 million (€97 million) BlackBerry Partners Fund will be launched by the personal digital assistant’s designer and manufacturer, Research in Motion, along with the Royal Bank of Canada and business information services company Thomson Reuters.

Blackberry fund: co-managed
by JLA and RBC

The venture capital fund, mandated to invest in smartphone applications and services for the BlackBerry and other mobile platforms, will be co-managed by Canadian venture firm JLA Ventures and the technology-focussed venture arm of the Royal Bank of Canada, RBC Venture Partners.

The plans for the BlackBerry-branded fund come only two months after Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Apple launched a $100 million “iFund”, which only backs companies developing applications and services for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch platforms.

“This is going to be an agnostic platform fund,” Kevin Talbot, RBC Venture managing director and BlackBerry Partners Fund co-managing partner, told PEO. Although the BlackBerry fund would like all portfolio companies to develop BlackBerry-specific applications, it will not be restrictive, said Talbot. Research in Motion currently has more than 850 registered software developers for the BlackBerry.

John Albright, JLA Ventures managing partner and co-managing partner of the BlackBerry Partners Fund, emphasised that the fund will also not be limited by stage of development or by geography. There is an expectation that the fund will be balanced but it does not have mandated allocations and will be “totally opportunistic”.

Aside from the three sponsoring institutions, the fund’s limited partners include a number of individuals and enterprises as well as JLA Ventures, Talbot said.

JLA Ventures closed its most recent fund on $121 million in November 2006. The firm primarily focuses on communications and systems, internet and media, and software and services companies, usually investing between $5 million to $15 million in each portfolio company across all growth stages.

RBC Venture pursues both software and financial services deals. The firm’s second software fund, which manages $150 million on behalf of the RBC, generally makes investments of $4 million to $6 million in North American early stage companies. RBC Venture’s first financial services fund, which manages $100 million on behalf of the RBC, and will go up to $250 million in the future, makes growth equity investments of $10 million to $25 million in technology-enabled financial services businesses.