The first check he wrote to an entrepreneur turned him into a billionaire and a lead character in a Hollywood blockbuster.
Now Eduardo Saverin, the Facebook co-founder and onetime friend of Mark Zuckerberg who has shunned the spotlight for the last several years, is writing a much bigger check in hopes of planting a seed that will blossom into another Internet wonder.
On Thursday, Qwiki, a Silicon Valley start-up, announced that Mr. Saverin was the lead investor in an $8 million round of financing. The company, whose Web service responds to search queries with interactive multimedia presentations rather than links, recently received a top award at an Internet conference.
In a telephone interview earlier this week from Singapore, where he is living, Mr. Saverin said he was excited about Qwiki.
“I am in a situation today where I can do what I love, which is help other entrepreneurs,” Mr. Saverin said. “Facebook has been a big thing and will be a big thing. Qwiki is early stage, but they are on the path to be a game changer.”
Mr. Saverin declined to say how much he invested in Qwiki. The company also declined to give details of the financing.
Mr. Saverin is one of the handful of Harvard students who became embroiled in a series of disputes over the founding of Facebook and whose stories were dramatized in the film “The Social Network,” which on Sunday won the Golden Globe for best drama. Unlike Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, whose fight with Mr. Zuckerberg has remained in the headlines, Mr. Saverin has kept a low profile. And unlike the Winklevosses, whose ownership claim over Facebook has never been recognized, Mr. Saverin was a founder of Facebook and its first business manager. He was later sidelined, but remains one of the primary shareholders with an ownership stake of about 5 percent, valued at roughly $2.5 billion.
Mr. Saverin was not willing to talk about Facebook, the movie that made him something of a celebrity or even much about his current life. He said he has been making a number of angel investments, adding, “I would love to focus on Qwiki.”
He said he first heard of Qwiki when he watched the company win a top awardat TechCrunch’s “disrupt” conference recently. He later contacted the founders, Doug Imbruce and Louis Monier, and became involved in the company.
Qwiki’s basic technology turns a collection of data about a topic into interactive multimedia presentations. The company applied the technology to a service that works like a search engine. If you type “San Francisco,” it will return an short audiovisual presentation about the city that includes basic facts and sights. Mr. Monier, the founder of the AltaVista search engine, and Mr. Imbruce said they plan to apply the technology to other uses in the future. Including an earlier financing round from angel investors, Qwiki has raised $9.5 million.
Qwiki has other notable investors. They include Jawed Karim, the little-known “third” founder of YouTube, and Pejman Nozad, a Silicon Valley angel investor.
Copyright 2011 by The New York Times