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BlackBerry Fund makes first major investments

The BlackBerry Partners Fund, which was created to help start-ups develop smartphone applications, has allocated its first three major investments.

The BlackBerry Partners Fund announced Wednesday its first three major investments.

The $150 million fund was established in May to bankroll software developers creating new applications for smartphones, including Research In Motion's BlackBerry devices. The fund, which considers investments throughout the world, is co-managed by JLA Ventures and RBC Venture Partners.

So far the fund has made only small investments. But now it's picked three established start-ups that will get much bigger chunks of investments.

The three companies are: Buzzd, which uses GPS to provide city guide information and social networking; Digby, which builds "mobile storefronts" for businesses; and WorldMate, which offers travel information like weather as well as provides a currency converter and alerts regarding travel plans directly to phones.

Buzzd will get $3.2 million in what is the company's first round of funding; Digby will get $5.5 million in its second round; and WorldMate will get $8 million for its third round of funding.

The fund's mandate is to find companies to invest in that build software for all smartphones, not just BlackBerry devices. The idea is that smartphones in the future will be powerful portable computers.

Over the past several months, software has become a critical piece of the smartphone story. This summer Apple announced its iPhone 3G and the App Store where users can download third-party applications. Google has since come out with its Android Marketplace for devices running its open-source Android operating system. T-Mobile introduced the first Android phone called the G1, this month.

RIM has also recently announced a new application storefront for third-party applications. And the company has promised new hooks and software tools to make it easier to test and develop applications for the many different versions of its product. In fact, the company has recently added three new devices to its lineup: the 3G BlackBerry Bold, the Pearl Flip and the touch-screen BlackBerry Storm.