Smartphone Start-Ups Have a Friend in This Fund
By LAURA M. HOLSON August 22, 2008
MENLO PARK, Calif. - Matt Murphy eats at expensive steakhouses, likes to watch his kids play soccer and is a loyal fan of Peet's Coffee and Tea. And if he has his way, mobile phone users will know as much about each other as readers now know about him.
Mr. Murphy is a venture capitalist overseeing the iFund, a $100 million investment fund created earlier this year by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to invest in start-ups specializing in iPhone applications. One is Whrrl, a mobile location-based service where users can be tracked on their iPhone by friends, who can also critique and share their favorite restaurants or events.
Kleiner is hoping to tap into the popularity of the Apple iPhone, whose owners have already downloaded 60 million applications from Apple's App Store. So far this year, Mr. Murphy and his partners at Kleiner have received 2,500 business plans for potential iPhone application start-ups and they have invested in four.
Mr. Murphy, 41, has for the last seven years focused on finding hot mobile start-ups. But until the iPhone emerged, it had not been easy. Much of the control over what is on a cellphone has been in the hands of the wireless carriers, not entrepreneurs. The iPhone, of course, and other smartphones on the horizon like the T-Mobile Dream, powered by Google's new Android operating system, are sparking creativity among software developers.