Taking Android beyond apps

John C. Tanner
Telecom Asia

Most Innovative Telecom Project

 KDDI for The A-Fund

Last year's winner:Singapore NBN
Project:The A-Fund
Founding partners:DCM, KDDI, Gree, Tencent
Goal:Support startups to enhance and extend the Android ecosystem
Key stats:$100 million in funding, eight startups signed
The Android OS is the fast-rising star of the smartphone scene, with impressive growth numbers and a vast opportunity for developers. But for Pacific Rim technology venture capital firm DCM, Android's potential as a mobile OS goes far beyond simply developing apps to fill up Android Marketplace. David Chao, DCM's co-founder and general partner, has described the rise of Android as "a rare and massive opportunity - one that comes only once in a major tech cycle."
 
And so, in April 2011, DCM launched the "Android Fund" (or A-Fund), the first VC fund aimed squarely at companies developing Android-based apps and services. The goal: seek out the most promising companies enhancing and extending the Android ecosystem - in mobile and beyond - including applications, services and enabling technologies, and create a strong network of top-tier startups that would have access to the necessary resources, expertise, business development support, relationships and business opportunities to take their products to market globally and help Android realize its full potential as a mobile ecosystem.
 
While the A-Fund is global in scope, it is decidedly rooted in Asia Pacific - key partners in the fund represent Japan (operator KDDI, mobile gaming social network Gree, hosting and payments company GMO), China (integrated internet service provider Tencent) and Korea (media and entertainment conglomerate NHN).
 
KDDI's involvement in the A-Fund came about primarily as the result of a shared genuine excitement about Android's potential with DCM and Gree, says Daisuke Mitani, assistant manager of the corporate strategy department at KDDI.
 
"Even prior to the establishment of the A-Fund, KDDI, DCM and Gree had shared the perspective that the Android platform would transform the tech industry dramatically," Mitani says. "Through these discussions, we concluded that it will be important to leverage ideas and technologies of the start-up community, and decided to partner with a venture capital firm to accelerate and enhance this opportunity."
 
KDDI's role in the fund for start-ups includes "consultation for entering the Japanese market, direct investment and strategic partnerships", Mitani adds.

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