Bay Partners, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, is cutting small checks to startups developing apps on Facebook's F8 platform, VentureBeat reports. Sure, Bay is opportunistically trying to ride on top of the frenzy for apps written specifically for Facebook's user base of 29 million. But Bay's initiative, called AppFactory, is small potatoes compared to what we think Facebook backer Jim Breyer, managing partner at venture capital firm Accel Partners, might be up to.
We're told that Accel is looking at investing in Facebook app developers. Naturally. Breyer's $13 million investment in Facebook two years ago was seen by some as a sign of a building bubble. Now with estimates of Facebook's value ranging in the billions of dollars, of course, rival VCs like Bay Partners are jealous.
But Breyer can't possibly be content with just one home-run investment. It stands to reason that he wants to build a keiretsu — a network of startups which partner with each other to build their businesses and boost their common investor's returns. John Doerr and his colleagues at Kleiner Perkins did this in the 1990s, with AOL, Netscape, Amazon.com, Intuit, Excite; Michael Moritz, at Sequoia, likewise, parlayed his firm's investments in Cisco, Yahoo, and Google into other moneymakers. Breyer's only real '90s hit, meanwhile, was RealNetworks — a thin reed on which to lay a keiretsu.
You have to admire the evil genius of the plan, if true: Breyer, a Facebook board member, can cherry-pick only the most successful app developers before rival venture capitalists have even heard of them. And Breyer, too, can guarantee favored startups something no one else can — protection from an abrupt decision by Facebook to block or cripple their apps. That power — implied, never spoken — also would bear a concomitant threat: Startups who don't play along with Accel, and accept the valuation they're given, may suddenly find Facebook an unfriendly place to write software.