We’re hearing from multiple sources that there’s a new fund coming out of Betaworks, and Twitter is chipping money into it.
Twitter is investing at least $10 million in the new fund, according to one source. We don’t know the total size of the venture. In the past, Betaworks has focused on smaller seed investments and has stayed away from outsized funds. Another previous one, for example, was $8 million. We weren’t able to learn if there are any additional participants.
There’s already a connection between Betaworks and Twitter. Betaworks previously invested in two companies that were acquired by Twitter: TweetDeck and Summize. Twitter acquired Summize in 2008, in which Borthwick was an investor through Betaworks. Twitter bought TweetDeck, also backed by Betaworks, for $40 million in 2011. It also counted itself a Twitter investor.
We don’t know if this is a new Betaworks fund, or a new separate fund altogether.
Getting into a fund with Betaworks makes sense for Twitter given the firm’s track record of supplying Twitter with some decent acquisitions and funding companies in that part of the Twitter “ecosystem,” expanding how the product is used. While TweetDeck hasn’t necessarily been a huge grab for scale, it’s adored by Twitter power users and businesses for managing their Twitter presence — something that could keep its most active (and loudest) user base satisfied as it makes changes to the classic Twitter experience. TweetDeck, for example, still returns Tweets in reverse time order, while the new Twitter timeline includes an algorithmic touch to surface tweets that aren’t necessarily in time order.
There’s another aspect here as well. Twitter and Betaworks can target companies that will be closely tied to Twitter’s services. That would help Twitter keep a close tie with startups that could potentially compete with it or cannibalize it down the line.
For Betaworks, there’s a benefit to getting into a new fund that includes Twitter. By default, it gives those startups in the portfolio more exit options: Twitter will already hold a stake and might consider additional investment — or an acquisition.
Betaworks has had a decent string of success lately, tapping into viral services that have found sticky usage on social platforms. Giphy — recently funded at a $300 million valuation — has popular integrations with both Slack and Twitter. It’s also an investor in Howdy, one of the first bots launching on the Slack platform, which also picked up a new investment from Slack’s bot fund.
Twitter already has its own investment fund — Twitter Ventures — which was previously led by Mike Gupta and has made a handful of strategic investments in startups developing services that work directly with Twitter. It’s not clear how a Betaworks partnership would work with that existing entity.
Twitter partnering with another group on a new fund may be a first for the company, but it’s not unprecedented. Many larger business have investment arms that tap into startup incubators as a way of growing their exposure to new tech and talent and to widen their platforms. TechStars worked, until recently, with Disney and still partners with a lot of other larger companies. Funds like this help larger companies get to the front of the line when they want to acquire companies, and gives them insight into tools that might naturally fit into their portfolio of services.
Coincidentally, this week Google also confirmed its own startup fund and incubator — although its effort, Lab 120, is aimed at offering a developer space to its own employees.