Thursday, October 21, 2010

Amazon, Kleiner Perkins and Facebook Start $250 Million Social Innovation Fund

Social InnovationIt is always great when you see companies doing their part to help out their business in a way that isn't increasing prices or trying to put the competition out of business. When a company or companies start up something to help out a market out of sheer generosity, it really is something special.

On the stage at Facebook's Palo Alto headquarters, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner John Doerr announced sFund, a staggering $250 million fund to back social innovation.

The sFund is a collaboration between Kleiner Perkins , Facebook, Zynga, Amazon, Comcast, Liberty Media and Allen & Company. Every single one of these seven companies is an investment partner in the fund.

According to Doerr, "If you can't invent the future, the second best thing to do is fund it."

Together Kleiner Perkins, Facebook, Zynga, Amazon, Comcast, Liberty Media and Allen & Company will provide financing, advice and "relationship capital". Amazon will offer up one year of Amazon Web Services to the entrepreneurs.

Facebook will provide early access to its platform and APIs. Zynga plans to host sessions for sFund companies for advice on technology and business management, and Comcast will make available its resources and relationships.

During the press conference, four specific startups were mentioned by name, one of which was Flipboard, the acclaimed iPad application for social news consumption. The other three startups were said to be Cafebots, Jive Software and Lockerz. Cafebots is the only sFund project the partners have invested in to date.

Facebook has already shown a vested interest in social innovation. The world's largest social networking company recently partnered with Y Combinator to inspire the next wave of social innovation around Facebook.

For those of you who didn't know, Kleiner Perkins is the same firm that started the $100 million iFund. The iFund helped to finance the iPhone application development. The fund was later doubled to $200 million to spur app development and innovation on the iPad.
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Thursday, October 07, 2010

New Group System for Facebook

FacebookDo you just feel the dire need to let all your closest Facebook friends how your most recent trip to the snack machine went? Do you also want to do this without bugging the other 300 people on your friends list? Well, then the newly revamped Groups feature on Facebook is the perfect app for you.

Unveiled at the headquarters of Facebook in Palo Alto, California on Wednesday, the new Groups feature allows you to create a virtual social "space" for a subset group of your friends on Facebook which can include anywhere from a few to a few hundred friends.

According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the new groups will be set to "closed" by default. Creating a new group is a simple matter of adding selected friends who, in turn, can add some of their friends to your virtual Facebook community. But don't fret about strangers invading your community. Anybody who gets added by another person will have their name as well as the name of the person who added them via an information panel.

Now you may be asking yourself what you can do once you have created a Facebook Group. Well there are the obvious things like posting group-specific updates or writing on the wall or sharing pics and videos.

You can also do a lot of other cooler, more interesting things like creating and editing group documents or engaging in real-time group chats, which is a first for Facebook. Users can also send an e-mail to the entire group using a custom e-mail address.

The new Facebook Groups rolled out yesterday and replaced the current public Groups functionality that you could previously restrict only to a Facebook network. On the flip side, existing groups will continue to exist as well as the Friends List that you can create from the left-hand tool bar.

What all this basically means is the same kind of virtual workspace you might find on an office intranet or the failed Google Wave, for example. Instead of collaborating on projects, Facebook users will be using Groups to collaborate, socially that is.

Zuckerberg said that Groups was revamped in order to address what he called the "biggest problem in social networking". This is mainly trying to organize all your various friends on Facebook into certain, specific social groups. The current Facebook Friends List feature was intended to assist users in creating such groups. However, only about 5% of Facebook users have actually created a Friends List.

An additional option was to create an algorithm which would automatically herd your friends into groups. However, such a technical solution could easily make some huge mistakes. Or it could quite possibly work all too well.

According to Zuckerberg, "Allowing Facebook users to create their own groups, with new members able to add their own friends, seemed like the most appropriate solution."

The real question is whether or not Facebook users will take to the new feature. It is a good thing to see that the Groups list will be set to "closed" by default, but the fact that any group member can add somebody to the group could cause some problems. However, the thought of creating a small group of close friends is cool, especially when you want to share something that may be too much for the four billion friends you have on Facebook.
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