Adobe draws on $100M for new investment program

Adobe Systems Inc. launched a $100 million initiative to invest in startups that will spur development around its software applications, specifically its Apollo development platform. Apollo, which is expected to be launched next year, allows users to run Web 2.0 applications while not connected to the Internet.

Adobe will invest the $100 million over three to five years, the company announced at its developer conference in Las Vegas last month.

Adobe is careful to point out that it is creating an investment program instead of a fund, which Paul Weiskopf, vice president of corporate development, says “establishes an expectation or requirement to put the money to work.”

The $100 million should be viewed as “…an indication of our commitment rather than a dollar amount that must be put to work,” Weiskopf says. The company plans to hire a handful of executives to help invest the money.

The company last year ended its long-standing engagement with Granite Ventures, a firm that spun out of Hambrecht and Quist in 1998 and which had managed funds for Adobe and Texas Instruments for several years.

“We’re not looking to make new commitments as an LP,” says Weiskopf. “We’re pleased with our relationship with Granite and will continue to invest along side them as part of this more directed approach.” The company was not a limited partner in Granite Ventures II, a $350 million fund raised during the summer of 2005.

Adobe is still working with Granite though. The two backed Bunchball, a social gaming startup, in a $2 million Series A round. Its games are designed in Adobe Flash and it is looking for engineers to write for Apollo.

Adobe becomes the latest of several companies that are trying to lure developers by aiding startups. SAP launched a $125 million fund in May for startups fueling an ecosystem around its NetWeaver platform. SAP’s fund complements rather than replaces its venture arm, SAP Ventures. IBM launched a program in 2005 that doesn’t give money to startups, but works with VCs to support companies working in “open standards.” As part of its venture program, Big Blue opened its sizeable patent portfolio and has cut generous licensing deals to startups it decides to help. —Alexander Haislip