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BlackBerry Fund Shows Signs of Life

In March, Apple launched the iFund, a $100 million iPhone developers fund managed by the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

The iFund has announced at least two investments, the first of which was in the mobile social networking company Pelago.

Last month, it invested in the gaming startup ngmoco, which has former Electronic Arts executive Neil Young as its CEO.

Both RIM and Apple already have a framework in place to help distribute applications for their phones. But the developers fund is the first time the two companies are backing efforts to offer monetary support to software makers to spur innovation for their platforms.

The battle of the funds is also significant because most industry watchers see the availability of attractive applications as a sales driver for a device and ultimately the reason why a phone will retain users.

BlackBerry Partners Fund's Talbot says the unexpectedly large response from developers to the fund threw operations out of gear but says it is now back on track.

"Since the fund was announced, we have been deluged with opportunities," he says. "We have lagged a little bit behind because of that."

So far, the BlackBerry Partners Fund has reviewed more than 1,500 investment opportunities, and it says it hopes to announce its picks soon. "It is clearly a very exciting and dynamic market," says Talbot.

Most of the funds' investments are likely to be in North America, with a few in Canada, Europe and Israel.
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