Facebook Ratchets Up Its Seed Fund


There was a new emphasis on making money at the Facebook Fund’s third annual Demo Day today in Palo Alto, where 25 startups showed off what they’d created after 12 weeks in Facebook’s incubator.

Several people were wearing white T-shirts proclaiming “REVenue is sexy,” and entrepreneurs were encouraged to brag if they’ve been able to make profits or raise money. A few had.

Also, unlike past years, most of the companies do NOT make games. The star of the show, Thread.com —  an application that uses information from Facebook to connect friends of friends who might want to date each other — announced a $1.2 million Series A round from Sequoia Capital, the Founders Fund and several other investors, including Ron Conway and LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman.

Facebook itself is not profitable, but there seemed to be little concern about that. Some of the entrepreneurs weren’t sure yet how they’re going to make money themselves, and others said they feel secure regardless of Facebook’s balance sheet.

Thread.com’s Katherine Woo, a former chief of staff to Meg Whitman who now runs Thread.com’s product development, said there’s been little innovation in dating sites. Also, although Thread.com’s management is focused – for now at least – on working with Facebook’s API (Application Programming Interface) to draw data only from Facebook’s site, the software is not a Facebook App and could conceivably stand on its own.

The Facebook API is good, though, Woo said, because people keep more photos on Facebook than they do on other sites, and photos help when you’re trying to pick out a date.

Facebook’s seed fund is $10 million, with capital contributed by Accel and the Founders Fund and marketing contributed by Facebook. This year investors got equity in the startups rather than making grants, which forced investors to get more involved with the companies, said Facebook’s Cat Lee.

Facebook also no longer had a right of first refusal on the startups, according to the Founders Fund’s Dave McClure, who ran the program for the first time. Anybody could invest, including the mentors who were brought in during the summer to help. “The companies are not so dependent on Facebook,” he said, either financially or technically.

All of the startups were tiny — run by two or three people — but interesting and creative. There was a radio for Facebook, software called Backlight that lets people add context or meaning to things they post on Facebook, and many more. Most enterpreneurs are seeking less than $1 million.

For anyone who wants a look, the presentations are available at Slideshare.net and will be posted later on Facebook’s site.