Venture capitalist John Doerr makes a big bet on the next wave of the consumer Internet
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Pioneering venture capitalist John Doerr, lionized in Silicon Valley for leading investments in Netscape, Amazon and Google, helped build the consumer Internet. Now he’s making a huge bet on the next round of the Web. It’s also an ambitious bid to put his venture firm back on top.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has established a $250-million fund called the ‘sFund’ to back social entrepreneurs who connect people online no matter where they are. Doerr made the announcement Thursday onstage at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto flanked by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Zynga’s Marc Pincus. He pledged that the fund would find, back and accelerate this next wave of Internet innovation.
Kleiner will put up much of the $250 million, but Amazon, Facebook and Zynga have promised to work with the entrepreneurs that the fund backs. Comcast, Liberty Media and investment bank Allen & Co. also will invest. In an interview, Doerr declined to disclose how much the limited partners would contribute.
The large fund and its prominent investors reflect the dramatic shift in focus in Silicon Valley to a new era of the ‘social Web.’
Zuckerberg said he hoped the new fund would foster a generation of companies that are built with social DNA from the ground up.
‘A complete new consumer behavior and experience is happening right in front of our eyes,’ Pincus said.
‘This probably is the golden age of social apps,’ Bezos said.
That golden age grabbed Doerr’s attention after he had shifted his focus to clean technology and renewable energy, investing hundreds of millions in companies that he bet held the answer to the growing risks of climate change. ‘Clean tech remains enormously exciting,’ Doerr said.
But it was Kleiner Perkins’ investment in social gaming giant Zynga that sparked the renewed interest. Kleiner Perkins missed out on investing in the dominant players on the social Web, Facebook and Twitter. But it did create the $200-million iFund for iPhone developers and backed Zynga.
Doerr said he began working on the fund 90 days ago and called on Bezos, Pincus and Zuckerberg to participate.
He described the fund as a ‘quarter-billion-dollar party,’ but its intention is serious: not to create the next Facebook but to give advice and cash to the entrepreneurs building out the social Web. Some of the areas ripe for investment are healthcare, education, mobile computing and tablets, Doerr said.
‘The third great wave of the Internet is mobile and social together,’ Doerr said. ‘It’s going to be tectonic.’
Asked why Google is not participating in the fund, Doerr, who sits on the Internet search giant’s board, said: ‘Google is still developing their social strategy. Stay tuned.’
-- Jessica Guynn