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BlackBerry maker launches mobile VC fund

Research In Motion, maker of the popular BlackBerry, joins forces with venture capitalists and Thomson Reuters to launch the $150 million fund focused on mobile apps and services.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is working with three other companies to launch a $150 million venture capital fund that will invest in companies developing new applications and services for mobile devices.

Electronic publisher Thomson Reuters and venture capital firms JLA Ventures and RBC Venture Partners have joined RIM to establish the fund. RIM said the fund won't be restricted to investing in BlackBerry-specific applications. It will also invest in start-ups as well as relatively mature software developers.

Specifically, investments will focus on services and applications such as mobile payments, advertising, retailing, and banking. It also will support companies developing applications for social networking, navigation and mapping, media and entertainment, lifestyle and personal productivity applications, and enterprise applications.

The fund will be co-managed by Canadian firm JLA Ventures and RBC Venture Partners.

The venture fund is part of RIM's bigger strategy. For one, the company wants to move more computer users from desktops to handheld devices. Earlier this month, it announced a partnership with enterprise software firm SAP to integrate all of the company's corporate software onto BlackBerrys.

The fund will also help the second prong in RIM's overall strategy, which is to expand its user base to the mass market. The company makes the bulk of its revenue from corporate customers, but over the past 18 months it has also targeted consumers with new devices and partnerships with companies like Facebook. The new venture fund should help spur more innovation among developers.

"The mobile world has evolved well beyond phone calls and simple messaging to become an empowering and liberating platform that connects people to everything that matters most to them," Jim Balsillie, co-chief executive officer at RIM, said in a statement. "And the BlackBerry Partners Fund is being formed to help fuel innovation and activity in the mobile ecosystem."

Thomson Reuters is one of the world's largest electronic news publishers, providing information to lawyers, doctors, and financial professionals. Many of its customers are already BlackBerry users. The company sees mobile devices and applications as a critical piece of its own strategy.

"Thomson Reuters is committed to supporting the development of next-generation mobile applications that will provide our professional and business customers with anywhere, anytime capabilities," Devin Wenig, CEO of the Markets Division of Thomson Reuters, said in a statement. "The ability to make business-critical decisions with intelligent information available on mobile devices will give our customers a clear competitive advantage."