Q&A: Kleiner’s Matt Murphy on the iFund

Matt Murphy is Kleiner Perkins’ point person on its newly expanded $200 million iFund, but he couldn’t attend today’s re-launch event in Menlo Park, Calif., as he had a prior engagement in Bora Bora. (Tough life.) We spoke to Murphy about the iFund’s close relationship with Apple, its approach to competing mobile platforms including the mobile web, what iPad apps he’s most excited to invest in — and what has already been done to death.

GigaOM: So you’ve used an iPad, I’m sure. What struck you about how it’s a different experience?

Matt Murphy: I think it’s the way you can seamlessly and quickly move between content and sites. It’s that much more graceful; it doesn’t feel like a choppy web experience. Because of that I think it’ll give you a new type of browsing and a new type of engaging with content that will be more immersive, a better and longer experience for the user.

GigaOM: What specific assistance does Apple offer iFund portfolio companies?

Murphy: It’s a range of things — everything from being willing to sit down and go through wire frames and your UI and working with the SDK at technical level. Simple things like thinking about what to call your app or what your icon should look like. And then just in terms of accessiblity and help, they give us consumer insights in terms of what’s state of the art.

There’s always a two-way dialogue — “I’m hearing from five of our companies that they’re having increasingly significant issues, so here are a few suggestions.” There’s lot of back-and-forth on what companies we’re both seeing; there’s constant sharing about what bigger things might emerge.

GigaOM: Have you invested in any companies that you learned about from Apple?

Murphy: Shazam. They first mentioned Shazam to us almost a year and a half ago, and we committed to invest about last May. It was obvious that it was a hit app but I think Apple had some insights into where it was going. They said it’s a really good team and has some good plans.

GigaOM: Most of the companies presenting from the iFund today were founded recently, but some, like Cooliris, weren’t conceived of with the iPhone in mind. How important is the centerpiece of the Apple platform to the iFund companies?

Murphy: In almost all cases it is very central to them; they feel like it’s their main beachhead of innovation in mobile. For example, in Zynga’s business the majority is on Facebook but they realize mobile will be huge over time. Just like Mixi in Japan, the No. 2 leading social network started out 90 percent Internet, 10 percent mobile and now it’s completely flipped. I think a lot of companies recognize that where users are engaging is in flux and they need to be in mobile. We think most of the innovation in mobile will be started on the iPhone. We think the iPad is an extension of that.

GigaOM: Are you encouraging developers to think about HTML 5 web apps and other alternatives to dedicated apps to get more adoption across fragmenting mobile platforms?

Murphy: I think about this a lot. My sense is that certainly in the U.S embedded apps are the way to go, especially as you look at platforms like iPhone and Android. I think a whole other set of platforms are best addressed by HTML 5. I look at it as accelerating the amount of web content and media content that can get onto mobile, and that’s additive. I don’t think in the near term I would do HTML 5 on the iPhone instead of an embedded app because apps are too powerful and too good right now, as well as too close to how people purchase and consume. But I think people are going to have a dual strategy to get more coverage.

GigaOM: What are some of the opportunities that you’re most excited about for the iPad? John Doerr had mentioned health care and education, and there’s all this excitement in the media industry around re-envisioning the consumption experience.

Murphy: We’re looking for the de novo experience that might happen on health care and education, which we think could be broad-based and drive a ton of revenue. In general we’re looking for immersive experiences. Right now I think we’ve got gaming pretty well covered between ngmoco and Zynga and Pinger, and even MyTown with real-world social games. What we’re looking for is more diversity of experience, things that are suited to people sitting there for an hour or two, not five minutes.

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