The sFund, a new $250 million initiative administered by California-based firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to invest in entrepreneurs inventing social applications and services has opened for business. Amazon.com, Facebook, and Zynga, the leading companies defining today’s social and online environment; entertainment and media leaders Comcast and Liberty Media, and Allen & Company LLC, have committed to invest in the sFund and serve as strategic partners. The sFund will provide financing, counsel, and relationship capital for a new generation of entrepreneurs to deliver on the promise of the social web. According the sFund’s FAQ, the fund will invest in projects based outside of the United States.
“We’re at the beginning of a new era for social Internet innovators who are re-imagining and re-inventing a Web of people and places, looking beyond documents and websites,” said KPCB partner John Doerr. “There’s never been a better time than now to start a new social venture.”
The sFund will be led by KPCB partner Bing Gordon, former chief creative officer and longtime executive at Electronic Arts and board director of Amazon.com and Zynga. Gordon said, “Social is just getting started and the opportunities are vast. As in the early days of the Internet, the race is on. Today every business, organization, and entrepreneur should have a social strategy.”
“Social apps are viral, and when they hit, it often happens suddenly, and then they grow explosively. That’s one of the reasons the scalable, elastic, no capex, variable cost nature of Amazon Web Services is ideal for social apps,” said Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “The top three companies that develop for Facebook all use AWS.”
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said, “The Web is being rebuilt around people, and we’re at a point where any app, website, or device can be designed to be social from the ground up. We’re focused on enabling entrepreneurs to build companies that can disrupt their industries.”
Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of Zynga, noted that “Zynga’s successes – such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars – show the speed with which entrepreneurs can transform existing industries and invent entirely new ones through social platforms. Our model demonstrates consumers’ desires to connect with others in new and valuable ways.”
Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation, said, “Social businesses play an increasingly important role in our entertainment and communications products. We’re very pleased to be a part of the sFund and look forward to seeing the great innovations that are generated from its investments.”
All anchor investors in the sFund initiative are prioritizing developer services for entrepreneurs, who will be part of an active ecosystem. The strategic partners launching the sFund each bring unique contributions. Amazon Web Services (AWS) will provide AWS Getting-Started Support for one year, priority access to worldwide Startup Events, and dedicated business and technical support. Facebook will contribute access to its platform teams, beta APIs, and new programs, like Facebook Credits. Zynga will host periodic sessions with sFund companies to focus on management and technical development, including open source collaboration. Comcast Interactive Capital, Comcast’s venture fund, will provide access to Comcast’s resources, teams, and relationships.
Over the past year, there has been unprecedented innovation in social applications. KPCB’s latest social ventures show the breadth of the social opportunity, from seed stage to scale-up, and enterprise to entertainment, including:
* Cafébots — The first company dedicated to Friend Relationship Management. By building applications that are useful, fun, and scalable, consumers will be able to extract more information from and make better use of their social graphs. KPCB led a Series A funding for the company founded by a team of Stanford PhDs.
* Flipboard — The world’s first social magazine, delivering a beautiful, personalized experience of the news, images, and information being shared by your friends across social network feeds on your iPad.
* Jive — Jive’s social software leverages innovations in social to radically change the way work gets done in the enterprise. Jive has over 3,000 customers serving 15 million users. KPCB led a growth stage funding round in July.
* Lockerz — A new social commerce company aimed at ages 13-30 creates a revolutionary new way to shop, play content, and connect. In less than a year, Lockerz has grown to more than 17 million members, offering major discounts on the best fashions, electronics, music, and more.
KPCB will have 10 U.S. partners working on the fund, including Chi-Hua Chien, John Doerr, Eric Feng, Bing Gordon, Lila Ibrahim, Randy Komisar, Aileen Lee, Matt Murphy, Ellen Pao, and Ted Schlein. Another four KPCB partners in Shanghai will extend the sFund’s reach in China.