This week, investment firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers (KPCB) teamed up with Facebook,, and Zynga to create a $250 million fund for social networking start-ups. The fund, to be called "sFund" will focus on start-ups and businesses that fundamentally change the overall functionality of social networking, improving upon the standard in macro yet tangible ways -- not ideas that are add-ons or only improve some small part of social network usability.
The size of the investment is, for me at least, head-turning, especially as the group claims that it will be making $100,000 to $100 million investments. BUT, at the same time, it's a fairly measly sum for Facebook (valued at $14 bill) and(valued at $75 bill), and Zynga (valued at $4/5 billion). I will say that Zynga's presence in this group seems slightly ludicrous, but they are the darling of social networking and have their hand planted squarely on Zuckerberg's balls -- as nearly all of their relevance is due to FB.
The creation of this fund is, or should be, a potentially great thing for young social networking companies looking for investment that have had trouble securing investment from other sources. Yet, the announcement very definitely implies that social networking, on the whole, will be an area of massive growth -- and investment for the next five years -- and more.
On the other hand, angel investor, Chris Dixon, who was recently named BusinessWeek's top angel investor (surprisingly ahead of many giants of the biz), has been railing against the sFund, saying (among other things) that this investment fund is about 5 years too late in the game and is, essentially, financially meaningless to a company likeand that KPCB has been largely irrelevant to start-ups for quite some time.
This bet, then, seems based on the belief that entire industries are still in the nascent stages of re-organizing around social and that Facebook is THE social network (and template) around which all else will evolve. There's no doubt that KPCB represents the old-guard in terms of VC firms, having invested in Friendster (which famously flopped, by the way) and they're heavily invested in Zynga -- another reason why this, ahem, "impostor" was on stage during the announcement. Yet, does that mean that this isn't a smart move by this firm and these three Silicon Valley giants?
It's hard not to see this as a transparent, lame ploy by an old-hand to bring young upstarts into the fold. "Hey, we still got it!" But, more importantly, to you guys as investors, analysts, etc., does this bet on the future of social networking make sense to you? Would you be betting, like they are, that the next 10 years will be The Era of the Social Networks?