Valley 'who's who' launch social media venture fund

October 21, 2010 7:28:51 PM PDT
You may think too much time is spent on sites like Facebook, but the smart money in Silicon Valley is betting on social media being the next great wave of tech innovation.

"If you can't invent the future, the second best thing you can do is to fund it," said venture capitalist John Doerr at a press event at Facebook headquarters Thursday.

A Silicon Valley who's who is doing exactly that. The founders of Facebook and game maker Zynga, Doerr, and others, are creating a $250 million fund to help foster new social media innovation. They have named it the "sFund" ? "s" for social.

"This probably is the golden age of social apps," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. "We're probably on the leading edge of it."

The ideas can be sites of their own, such as Lockerz, or a game played on Facebook. But Zynga founder Mark Pincus suggested an idea for a travel app.

"It knows my flight is cancelled," described Pincus. "It knows I'm traveling with somebody, and it's already recommending the next option, and it would be sure nice if it also recommended a game I could play in the meantime."

"Over the next few years, we're really going to see the ones that get built from the ground up to be social have a very fundamental advantage over the ones that are just slapping it on top, checking the box, and think that they can move on from there," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

One example of that is Jive, a Palo Alto startup that is creating a social network for the workplace.

"We're talking about using the trend and the wave of social innovation and bringing that to the workplace, such that things and work can get done much, much faster than they currently are able to be done today," said Jive CEO Tony Zingale.

While social sites like Lockerz focus on women 13 to 30, future growth will come from the older population.

"Then there are men and women 55-plus, and they're finding their eighth grade boyfriends and girlfriends, and they're on Facebook," said Lockerz founder and CEO Kathy Savitt. "So I think you'll see more of that growth in those demographics going forward."

The goal is that the sFund could be a stimulus to the local economy in communities such as Palo Alto, which has a long history of incubating startups -- startups that could end up being big players in social networking.


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