BlackBerry fund rings up first deals

BlackBerry Partners Fund has announced the first investments from a $150 million fund launched in May to focus on applications for the BlackBerry smartphone and other mobile platforms.

Backing for the fund comes from Blackberry maker Research In Motion, the Royal Bank of Canada and Thomson Reuters, publisher of VCJ. The fund is managed by JLA Ventures and RBC Venture Partners.

The Toronto-based fund took stakes in three companies that raised funding rounds totaling $16.7 million. The largest infusion went to WorldMate, a provider of applications for planning and managing travel on mobile devices. The company raised an $8 million Series C round from BlackBerry, Motorola Ventures and AMC Communications.

BlackBerry Partners also led a $5.5 million Series B round for Digby, a mobile commerce service that runs on its smartphones.

The fund also took part in a $3.2 million Series A round for Buzzd, a location-aware city guide and social networking tool for mobiles. Co-investors in the round included Greycroft Partners, Monitor Ventures and Qualcomm Ventures. Part of the funding will go toward developing a client version of the application for BlackBerry devices.

Kevin Talbot, co-managing partner of the BlackBerry Partners Fund, says that he and his investment partners evaluated more than 3,000 potential investments before settling on the first three deals. The fund plans to make in excess of 20 investments over the next several years, he adds.

While overall venture investment in technology and telecommunications is down from year-ago levels, Talbot says that he sees some silver lining in the possibility of getting compelling valuations.

“For venture funds that have capital available, like ours, down markets present a buying opportunity,” he says.

Talbot adds that he’s optimistic about the smartphone sector, which has been showing sharp growth even as the broader economy is contracting.

New initiative

For venture funds that have capital available, like ours, down markets present a buying opportunity.

Kevin Talbot

Separately, BlackBerry Partners launched its Jump Start Financing Initiative. The effort will provide capital infusions of up to $250,000 in the form of convertible debentures.

The initial recipients of funding from Jump Start are three companies that won a competition among Blackberry application developers: Strands, a developer of a music discovery service for mobile devices, Nobex Technologies, which lets users easily buy songs that they’re listening to on Blackberry’s radio stations, and Multiplied Media Corp., which created a free local search tool called Poynt. Each of the companies received a $150,000 investment from the Blackberry fund.

BlackBerry Partners also announced that Marc Faucher and Matt Golden have joined its investment team. Faucher previously was with Summerhill Venture Partners, while Golden part of the founding team at Tira Wireless. —Joanna Glasner and Alastair GoldfisherDEALWATCH: Five recent investments by BlackBerry Partners Fund

Buzzd_Location-aware city guide for mobile devices.

Digby_Mobile commerce service.

Nobex Technologies_Lets users buy songs played on Blackberry radio.

Strands_Music discovery service for mobile devices.

WorldMate_Travel planning apps for mobile devices.

Source: BlackBerry Partners Fund