* Fund managers plan Silicon Valley office in early 2011
* Shies away from affiliate model, eyes global sites
TORONTO (Reuters) - The co-managers of a $150 million venture capital fund backed by Research In Motion will open offices in California’s Silicon Valley and elsewhere as they focus on mobile phone-related investments.
“We’re at the beginning of what will be a transformational decade,” said Kevin Talbot, who co-manages the Toronto-based BlackBerry Partners Fund with John Albright.
“There are 2 billion bank accounts in the world today yet there are 5 billion (mobile phone) subscriber accounts. We see massive numbers, we see huge velocity,” he said, adding that mobile entrepreneurs can now be found globally.
The managers are in discussions with their major investors, which also include Thomson Reuters and Royal Bank of Canada, to launch a second fund, and in early 2011 will open an office in Silicon Valley, where one-third of the fund’s current portfolio companies are based.
The fund entered a joint venture with China Broadband Capital Partners in late May to launch a $100 million affiliate but is moving away from that model to invest directly in China and other countries with “huge domestic consumption opportunities” such as India and Brazil.
“We are pursuing a better, more efficient scalable international strategy instead,” co-manager Albright said.
Within two years the fund expects to open more offices staffed with local managers in China, Europe and Brazil.
“China is high on the priority list and will probably be one of the first,” Albright said.
“We’re very interested in growing companies in those geographies that will serve these massive populations,” Talbot said. “We are seeing pockets of innovation that will leapfrog some of the status quo here in North America. (Mobile) payments is a fantastic example.”
Talbot said the fund aims to allocate between $10 million to $15 million to each company, and seeks a 20 percent ownership stake. It has invested $50 million in 12 companies since launching in 2008. One of those, social gaming company SocialDeck, was bought by Google in August.
Despite its name, the fund is “platform agnostic” and managed independently of its anchor investors, though Talbot said that RIM “brings tremendous value to our portfolio companies.”
The co-managers, JLA Ventures and RBC Venture Partners, have merged their teams and manage a combined total of C$620 million ($607.84 million).
Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Frank McGurty