WMA ventures into digital media

Pacts with Silicon Valley duo on SoCal start-up fund

WMA and Silicon Valley venture capital firms Accel and Venrock announced a new digital media investment fund Monday, with AT&T signed on as a limited partner.

Richard Wolpert, formerly president of Disney Online and chief strategy officer at Real Networks, will manage the fund.

Paul Bricault, senior vp and head of the consulting department at WMA, said that areas of interest for the fund — which will concentrate on seed-stage companies — will span the digital media landscape and include the wireless field, advertising applications, video games and social networking. Although WMA chairman and CEO Jim Wiatt stressed that the consortium will have no "borders," the fund will focus on new-media startups in Southern California.

"There's certainly an overweight of capital from Northern California to Southern California," Bricault said, though he noted that the Los Angeles area does have its share of investors. "We just felt there's an opportunity to have another player in the game that has a different focus and brings a collective skill set to the table."

AT&T is not a name typically associated with talent agencies and venture capital circles, but Wiatt said his company shares a focus with the teleco.

"Their interests align with ours," Wiatt said. "They're looking for companies they can be involved in from the beginning and to get in early on deals."

Bricault added that AT&T could bring "insight" from the wireless world along with "access" to its platform.

Accel has provided funding for Facebook, Real Networks, Web video platform Brightcove and WalMart.com. Venrock, originally established as the venture capital arm of the Rockefeller family, has invested in Apple, Intel and DoubleClick along with pharmaceutical and energy companies.