Some of the web’s biggest acquisition deals during 2007

As the end of the year approaches us we would like to briefly sum up some of the web’s biggest acquisition deals for the 2007, as we know them. 

All deals will logically be ranked by their sizes and less weight will be put on the time the deal happened through out the year. Deals from all IT industry sectors are considered and put in the list, from Web and Internet to the Mobile industry as well. The size’s criterion for a deal to make the list is to be arguably no less than $100M unless the deal is symbolic in one way or another or either of the companies involved was popular enough at the time the deal took place. Otherwise we think all deals are important, at least for its founders and investors.

Under no doubt the year we will remember with the number of high-profile advertising company acquisitions for large-scale companies like DoubleClick, aQuantive, RightMedia, 24/7 Real Media, among others. Putting all acquisition deals aside, one particular funding deal deserves to be mentioned too Facebook raised $240 million from Microsoft in return of just 1.6% of its equity. The Honk Kong Billionaire Li Ka-shing later joined the club of high-caliber investors in Facebook by putting down $60M for unknown equity position.  

Other remarkable funding deals include: Alibaba.com raised $1.3 Billion from its IPO; Kayak raised $196 Million; Demand Media took $100 Million in Series C; Zillow totaled $87 Million in venture capital funding; Joost announced $45 million funding from Sequoia, Index, CBS & Viacom, among others. 

Yet another noteworthy deal is the Automattic (wordpress.org) turning down a $200 Million Acquisition Offer. 

And the 2007 Web 2.0 Money winner is… Navteq for its deal with Nokia for $8B. Apparently Microsoft has this year lost the crown of being named the deepest pocket buyer.

Nokia Buys Navteq For $8 Billion, Bets Big On Location-Based Services

Nokia (NOK), the Finnish mobile phone giant with nearly a third of the global handset market, has decided to bet big on location based services (LBS), and is buying Chicago-based digital map company NAVTEQ (NVT) for $8.1 billion. That works out to about $78 a share. This is one of Nokia’s largest purchases to date — the Finnish mobile giant has a mixed track record when it comes to acquisitions. This is also the second megabillion dollar buyout in the maps (LBS) space.

SAP Germany makes its biggest deal ever – acquires Business Objects for 4.8B EURO (around ~$6.8 billion)

SAP, the world’s largest maker of business software, has agreed to acquire Business Objects SA for €4.8 billion euros, which was around ~$6.8 billion at the time the acquisition deal was announced. The deal is amongst the largest for 2007 alongside with Oracle’s Hyperion deal for over $3.3B and the Nokia’s Navteq for over $8B. [more]

Microsoft to buy Web ad firm aQuantive for $6 Billion

Microsoft Corp. acquired aQuantive Inc. for about $6 billion, or $66.50 a share, an 85 percent premium to the online advertising company’s closing price at the time the deal was publicly announced. Shares of aQuantive shot to $63.95 in pre-opening trade, following news of the deal. The all-cash deal tops a dramatic consolidation spree across the online advertising market sparked when Google Inc. agreed to buy DoubleClick for $3.1 billion.

Oracle to buy Hyperion in $3.3 Billion cash deal

Oracle Corp. has acquired business intelligence software vendor Hyperion Solutions Corp. for $3.3 billion in cash. Oracle has agreed to pay $52 per share for Hyperion, or about $3.3 billion, a premium of 21% over Hyperion’s closing share price at the time of the deal. Oracle said it will combine Hyperion’s software with its own business intelligence (BI) and analytics tools to offer customers a broad range of performance management capabilities, including planning, budgeting and operational analytics.

Cisco Buys WebEx for $3.2 Billion

Cisco has agreed to acquire WebEx for $3.2 billion in cash. In 2006, WebEx generated nearly $50 million in profit on $380 million in revenue. They have $300 million or so in cash on hand, so the net deal value is $2.9 billion.

DoubleClick Acquired by Google For $3.1 Billion In Cash

Google reached an agreement to acquire DoubleClick, the online advertising company, from two private equity firms for $3.1 billion in cash, the companies announced, an amount that was almost double the $1.65 billion in stock that Google paid for YouTube late last year. In the last month for this year the US Federal Trade Commission has granted its approval for Google to purchase DoubleClick.

TomTom Bought Tele Atlas for $2.5 Billion

It took $2.5 Billion dollars for TomTom to buy mapping software company TeleAtlas, this will set the stage for TomTom to be big rival of Garmin across Atlantic. Tele Atlas went public in 2000 on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, and last year, it bought another mapping firm, New Hampshire-based GDT.

Naspers acquires yet another European company – Tradus for roughly $1.8 Billion

Simply put a fallen dot com star with eBay ambitious, once worth more than 2B British pound (around $4B) and collapsed down to £62M at the end of 2000 is now being basically said rescued by the South African media company Naspers that is spending money at breakneck pace. The offered price is £946M (more than $1.8B) based on just £60M annual revenues. [more]

HP acquired Opsware For $1.6 Billion

HP has acquired IT Automation company Opsware for $1.6 billion. Whilst any acquisition of this size is interesting in itself, the back story to Opsware is even more so; Opsware was originally LoudCloud, a Web 1.0 company that took $350 million in funding during the Web 1.0 boom.

AOL acquired TradeDoubler for $900 Million

AOL has acquired Sweden-based TradeDoubler, a performance marketing company, for €695 million in cash, which was about US$900 million at the time the deal took place.

Microsoft acquired Tellme Networks for reportedly $800 Million

Microsoft Corp. has announced it will acquire Tellme Networks, Inc., a leading provider of voice services for everyday life, including nationwide directory assistance, enterprise customer service and voice-enabled mobile search. Although the price remains undisclosed, it is estimated to be upwards of $800 million.

Disney acquires Club Penguin for up to $700 Million

Club Penguin, a social network/virtual world that has been on the market for some time, was acquired by The Walt Disney Company. An earlier deal with Sony fell apart over the Club Penguin’s policy of donating a substantial portion of profits to charity. The company, which launched in October 2005, has 700,000 current paid subscribers and 12 million activated users, primarily in the U.S. and Canada.The WSJ says the purchase price is $350 million in cash. Disney could pay up to another $350 million if certain performance targets are reached over the next couple of years, until 2009.

Yahoo acquired RightMedia for $680 Million in cash and stock

Yahoo has acquired the 80% of advertising network RightMedia that it doesn’t already own for $680 million in cash and Yahoo stock. Yahoo previously bought 20% of the company in a $45 million Series B round of funding announced in October 2006. The company has raised over $50 million to date.

WPP Acquires 24/7 Real Media for $649 Million

Online advertising services firm 24/7 Real Media was acquired by the WPP group for $649 million. The old time internet advertising firm had its origins serving ads for Yahoo! and Netscape in 1994 and was formerly founded the following year as Real Media. After numerous acquisitions it took its current name and grew to have 20 offices in 12 countries, serving over 200 billion advertising impressions every month.

Google bought the web security company Postini for $625M

Google has acquired e-mail security company Postini for $625 million, a move intended to attract more large businesses to Google Apps. More than 1,000 small businesses and universities currently use Google Apps, but ‘there has been a significant amount of interest from large businesses,’ Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google Enterprise, said in a Monday teleconference.

EchoStar Acquires Sling Media for $380 Million

EchoStar Communications Corporation, the parent company for DISH Network, has announced its agreement to acquire Sling Media, creator of the Sling suite, which lets you do things like control your television shows at any time, from their computers or mobile phones, or record and watch TV on your PC or Windows-based mobile phone. The acquisition is for $380 million.

ValueClick acquired comparison shopping operator MeziMedia for up to $352 Million

ValueClick has acquired MeziMedia for up to $352 million, in a deal consisting of $100 million in upfront in cash, with an additional sum of up to $252 million to be paid depending on MeziMedia’s revenue and earnings performance through to 2009.

Yahoo Acquires Zimbra For $350 Million in Cash

Yahoo has acquired the open source online/offline office suite Zimbra. The price: $350 million, in cash, confirmed. Zimbra gained wide exposure at the 2005 Web 2.0 Conference. Recently they has also launched an offline functionality.

Business.com Sells for $350 Million

Business.com has closed another chapter in its long journey from a $7.5 million domain name bought on a hope and a prayer, selling to RH Donnelley for $350 million (WSJ reporting up to $360 million). RH Donnelley beat out Dow Jones and the New York Times during the bidding.

AOL acquired online advertising company Quigo for $350 Million

AOL announced plans to buy Quigo and its services for matching ads to the content of Web pages. The acquisition follows AOL’s September purchase of Tacoda, a leader in behavioral-targeting technology, and comes as AOL tries to boost its online advertising revenue to offset declines in Internet access subscriptions.

eBay bought StubHub For $310 Million

eBay has acquired the San Francisco-based StubHub for $285 million plus the cash on StubHub’s books, which is about $25 million.

Yahoo! Agreed to acquire BlueLithium for approximately $300 Million in cash

Yahoo! Inc. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire BlueLithium, one of the largest and fastest growing online global ad networks that offers an array of direct response products and capabilities for advertisers and publishers. Under the terms of the agreement, Yahoo! will acquire BlueLithium for approximately $300 million in cash.

CBS to buy social network Last.fm for $280 Million

CBS is known to have paid $280 million for the Last.fm site, which caters to music fans. CBS Corp bought the popular social networking website organized around musical tastes for $280 million, combining a traditional broadcast giant with an early leader in online radio. Last.fm, claims more than 15 million monthly users, including more than 4 million in the U.S.

AOL Acquired Tacoda, a behavior targeting advertising company for reportedly $275 Million

AOL has announced the acquisition of New York-based Tacoda earlier this year, a behavior targeting advertising company that was founded in 2001. The deal size, which we haven’t had confirmed, is likely far smaller than Microsoft’s $6 billion for aQuantive , Yahoo’s $680 million for RightMedia , or Google’s $3.1 billion for DoubleClick. The price might be low enough that it isn’t being disclosed at all.Jack Myers Media Business Report has confirmed the $275 million price tag

MySpace to acquire Photobucket For $250 Million

MySpace has acquired Photobucket for $250 million in cash. There is also an earn-out for up to an additional $50 million. Oddly enough MySapce has dropped Photobucket off its social networking platform. The dispute that led to the Photobucket videos being blocked on MySpace letter also led to acquisition discussions, and the block was removed. They have hired Lehman Brothers to help sell the company. They were looking for $300 million or more, but may have had few bidders other than MySpace.

Hitwise Acquired by Experian for $240M

Hitwise, the company that performs analysis of log files from 25 million worldwide ISP accounts to provide relative market share graphs for web properties, has been acquired by Experian for $240 million.

$200+ Million for Fandango

Comcast paid $200 million or perhaps a bit more. Fandango revenue is said to be in the $50m/year range, split roughly evenly between ticket sales and advertising. Wachovia Securities analyst Jeff Wlodarczak estimated the multiple-system operator paid $200 million for Fandango, whose backers include seven of the 10 largest U.S. movie exhibitors.

Intuit Acquires Homestead for $170 Million

Small business website creation service Homestead, started out in the web 1.0 era, announced tonight that it has been acquired by Intuit for $170m. In addition to Intuit’s personal and small business accounting software, and the company’s partnership with Google to integrate services like Maps listing and AdSense buys, Intuit customers will now presumably be able to put up websites quickly and easily with Homestead. [more]

Naspers Acquired Polish based IM Company Gadu Gadu (chit-chat) for reportedly $155 Million

South Africa’s biggest media group Naspers Ltd offered to buy all outstanding shares in Polish Internet firm Gadu Gadu S.A. ( GADU.WA ), a Polish IM service, for 23.50 zlotys ($8.77) per share. The current majority shareholder of Gadu Gadu has agreed to tender its 55% shareholding in the public tender offer. The price is $155M. [more

Studivz, a Germany Facebook clone, went for $132 Million

German Facebook clone Studivz has been sold to one of its investors, Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, a German publishing group, for €100 million (about $132 million). Other investors of Studivz include the Samwer brothers, founders of ringtone company Jamba (sold for €270M) and Alando (sold to eBay for €43M in 1999).

Feedburner goes to Google for $100 Million

Feedburner was acquired by Google for around $100 million. The deal is all cash and mostly upfront, according to sources, although the founders will be locked in for a couple of years.

Answers.com has purchased Dictionary.com for reportedly $100 Million

Question and answer reference site Answers.com has acquired Dictionary.com’s parent company, Lexico Publishing, for $100 million in cash. Lexico can really serve all your lexical needs because it also owns Thesaurus.com and Reference.com.

Yahoo Acquires Rivals for $100 Million

Yahoo has acquired college sports site Rivals.com, reported the Associated Press in a story earlier this year. The price is not being disclosed, although the rumor is that the deal was closed for around $100 million. Rumors of talks first surfaced in April 2007.

UGO Acquired By Hearst for reportedly $100 Million

Hearst has acquired New-York based UGO. Forbes reported the price should be around $100 million. UGO is a popular new media site that was founded in 1997 and, according to Forbes, is generating around $30 million/year in revenue. UGO media is yet another web 1.0 veteran and survivor.

Fotolog Acquired by Hi Media, French Ad Network for $90 Million
 
New York-based Fotolog been acquired by Hi Media, a Paris-based interactive media company for roughly $90 million – a combination of cash and stock, according to well-placed sources. 

Online Backup Startup Mozy Acquired By EMC For $76 Million

Online storage startup Mozy, headquartered in Utah, has been acquired by EMC Corporation, a public storage company with a nearly $40 billion market cap. EMC paid $76 million for the company, according to two sources close to the deal.

eBay Acquiring StumbleUpon for $75 Million

The startup StumbleUpon has been rumored to be in acquisition discussions since at least last November (2006). The small company had reportedly talks with Google, AOL and eBay as potential suitors. At the end of the day the start-up got acquired by eBay. The price was $75 million, which is symbolic with the fact the site had only 1.5m unique visitors per month at the time the deal took place. The company was rumored to be cash-positive.

General Atlantic Has Acquired Domain Name Pioneer Network Solutions

General Atlantic has acquired Network Solutions from Najafi Companies. Network Solutions was founded decades ago in 1973 and had a monopoly on domain name registration for years which led Verisign to pay billions to buy it. Najafi Companies purchased NS from VeriSign in November 2003 for just $100M. No financial terms were disclosed for the deal and no price tag is publicly available, although we believe it is way over $100M, but NS made our list due to its mythical role for the Internet’s development. That deal is symbolic for the Internet. 

MSNBC made its first acquisition in its 11-year history, acquired Newsvine

In a recent deal the citizen journalism startup Newsvine has been acquired by MSNBC, the Microsoft/NBC joint venture, for an undisclosed sum. Newsvine will continue operating independently, just as it has been since launching in March of 2006. The acquired company also indicated there would be little change in the features of the site.  We think the price tag for the Newsvine is anywhere in the $50/$75M range, but this is not confirmed. [more]

Google to buy Adscape for $23 Million

After some rumors of a deal earlier this year, Google has expanded its advertising reach by moving into video game advertising with their $23 million acquisition of Adscape.

Disney buys Chinese mobile content provider Enorbus for around $20 Million

Disney has bought Chinese mobile gaming company Enorbus , for around $20 million, MocoNews.net has learned. Financial backers in the company included Carlyle and Qualcomm Ventures.

BBC Worldwide Acquires Lonely Planet

BBC Worldwide, the international arm of BBC, has acquired Lonely Planet, the Australia-based travel information group. The amount of the deal was not disclosed, but Lonely Planet founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler get to keep a 25% share in the company. We truly believe this deal is in the $100M range, but since no confirmation was found on Web and therefore we cannot put a price tag for the sake of the list. Even though a global brand their site is getting just 4M unique visitors per month.

AOL Acquires ADTECH AG

AOL has acquired a controlling interest in ADTECH AG, a leading international online ad-serving company based in Frankfurt, Germany. The acquisition provides AOL with an advanced ad-serving platform that includes an array of ad management and delivery applications enabling website publishers to manage traffic and report on their online advertising campaigns. No details about the acquisition price were found on Web but we would suspect a large-scale deal and rank it very high. 

Amazon Acquires dpreview.com

Amazon have announced the acquisition of the digital camera information and review site dpreview.com. UK based dpreview.com was founded in 1998 by Phil Askey as a site that publishes “unbiased reviews and original content regarding the latest in digital cameras. Dpreview.com has in excess of 7 million unique viewers monthly. The value of the deal was not disclosed but we believe the purchase price should be in the $100M range (not confirmed).

HP Acquired Tabblo

HP announced the acquisition of Cambridge, Massachusetts based Photo printing site Tabblo this morning. The price was not disclosed.

eBay Gets Stake in Turkish Auction Market

eBay announced yesterday that it has acquired a minority stake in Turkish-based GittiGidiyor.com, an online marketplace structured in a similar manner to eBay. GittiGidiyor reportedly has more than 400,000 listings and 17 million users, which is a considerable percentage of the Turkish population. With the stake in GittiGidiyor, eBay now has the opportunity to enter the Turkish market via a system that’s already similar to theirs in functionality and purpose. Istanbul-based GittiGidiyor.com was founded in 2000. GittiGidiyor is Turkish for Going, Going, Gone. Terms of the deals were not found publicly available. Looking at the size of the Turkish site and the buying habits and history of eBay, the price should be considerably high, at least for the region.

Microsoft Acquiring ScreenTonic for Mobile Ad Platform

Microsoft is acquiring ScreenTonic, a local-based ads delivery platform for mobile devices, for an undisclosed amount. Paris-based ScreenTonic was founded in 2001, and has created the Stamp platform to deliver text or banner links on portals, text message ads and mobile web page ads, that vary depending on the recipients’ geographical location in a so called geo-targeting approach. 

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Fashion Fix for Facebook users

Developing Facebook applications and taping into their millions of registered users appears to be yet another marketing instrument employed even sometimes by brick and mortar retailers like the UK’s TopShop.  

The new Topshop Fashion Fix which has recently been launched on Facebook allows users to see the newest must-have pieces for the season from their Facebook profile. Facebook users can view items in detail and stamp a “love it or lose it” comment for their friends to see. Pieces can be shared and passed to other Facebook friends to talk about the latest styles, plan outfits or simply arrange shopping trips.

The Topshop Fashion Fix application was created and produced by a digital agency called Poke, and developed in collaboration with the Topshop internal web team.

Poke is a six year old creative agency for the digital age. Poke has built a reputation for engaging, challenging design communications work with a select group of high profile clients. Poke is the only UK-based agency to have been awarded the digital industry’s equivalent of the ‘Oscars’ – New York’s Webby Awards – three years in a row (2005-2007). Poke opened a US office in New York in April of this year.

Poke has worked with Topshop since 2003 conceiving and delivering a number of successful online projects, including the design of their e-commerce store, the Kate Moss collection and the Topshop video podcast.

The launch of the Kate Moss fashion line for TopShop accounted for a surge in traffic to parent company Arcadia Group’s website, which enjoyed a 17% boost in unique users.

As an added incentive for Facebookers eager to try out the new application, during the run-up to Christmas, Fashion Fix users can play a weekly game of “Snap” on Facebook to win anything from 10%-off at Topshop.com to a year’s supply of shoes.

With thousands of groups already networking about Topshop and swapping ideas about what they’re about to buy, this application ensures that they’re the first to see what’s new in-store. The Fashion Fixes’ sharing and commenting features also allows them to have lots of fun in the process – and makes sure that their friends know exactly what they’re planning to wear at the weekend.
More about Topshop.com

With daily updates and over 3000 different items to shop at any one time, Topshop.com is one of the UK’s biggest online retailers with an exciting and dynamic site to reflect the brand’s image as an innovative fashion authority.

Topshop.com is Topshop’s second biggest store and a leader in the digital market place. Communicating to it’s customers via the weekly ‘Style Notes’ email (a magazine-like reminder of news with 350,000 subscribers), two RSS feeds (the ‘Style Blog’ and ‘Daily Fix’), their cute desktop ‘widget’ and video podcasts (including 9 London Fashion Week catwalk movies published within 24 hours of the shows), Topshop engages with their young and dynamic audience in ways that they understand.

Topshop was established in 1964 within a Sheffield department store called Peter Robinson, however, a year later, the same store allocated Topshop space in the basement of its Oxford Circus store in London. In 1974, Topshop was taken out of Peter Robinson and set up as a standalone retailer.

When Jane Shepherdson became Brand Director in 1999 her vision was to establish the brand as a fashion authority. Since then, Topshop has gone onto become one of fashion’s major success stories with over 309 fashion stores nationwide, including the world’s largest fashion store at Oxford Circus, which attracts over 200,000 shoppers each week!

In September 2005 Topshop showed its in-house design collection Unique (created in 2001) as part of the official London Fashion Week schedule and subsequently forged exclusive partnerships with international boutiques ‘Opening Ceremony’ in New York, ‘Colette’ in Paris and Tokyo’s ’10 Corso Como Comme des Garcons’. During summer 2006 ‘Barneys’ in the US began retailing Topshop’s best selling Baxter jean in its flagship stores.

Plans to expand internationally are also underway with stores in Moscow and St. Petersburg due to open in 2008.

The story was initially picked up from EPR Network.

More

http://www.topshop.com/
http://apps.facebook.com/topshopfashionfix/
http://www.topshopfashionfix.com/
http://express-press-release.com/44/Topshop%20has%20now%20launched%20on%20Facebook.php
http://www.topshop.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/TopCategoriesDisplay?storeId=12556&catalogId=19551
http://express-press-release.com/44/docs/Topshop%20has%20now%20launched%20on%20Facebook.doc
http://express-press-release.com/44/pdf/Topshop%20has%20now%20launched%20on%20Facebook.pdf
http://express-press-release.com/44/print/Topshop%20has%20now%20launched%20on%20Facebook.html
http://www.topshoppodcast.com/
http://blog.express-press-release.com/2007/12/12/topshop-has-now-launched-on-facebook/
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/jun/27/digitalmedia.facebook
http://express-press-release.com/Industries/Apparel-Fashion-press-releases.php
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattiasgunneras/2057868910/

Naspers acquires yet another European company – Tradus

Simply put a fallen dot com star with eBay ambitious, once worth more than 2B British pound (around $4B) and collapsed down to £62M at the end of 2000 is now being basically said rescued by a South African media company that is spending money at breakneck pace. The offered price is £946M (more than $1.8B) based on just £60M annual revenues.

A month after Naspers acquired the Polish chat site Gadu Gadu for roughly $155M the media company from RSA is now making a major acquisition step in Europe. Naspers bid to buy the European online auction site Tradus for £946M. Naspers valued Tradus at nearly $2 Billion, which is 26.7% higher than the average share price during Naspers’ most recent half-year.

Some analysts compared the Naspers deal with the deal of eBay for Skype in 2005 – in other words overpaying for the purpose of its own expansion. With this deal Naspers said it is going to switch focus from operations on only ad-supported Web businesses to transaction-based e-commerce services.

In focusing on Internet expansion, Naspers has established a new company called MIH Internet, which operates under its Myriad International Holdings division. This makes sense for MIH to handle the acquisition of Tradus, as MIH already dabbles in emerging markets on a global scale, including M-Web and Tencent, among others.

Tradus, previously known as QXL Ricardo, has backed an £18-a-share offer from Africa’s largest media company, the owner of the Daily Sun newspaper and the pay-TV firm Multichoice, as part of its strategy for Internet expansion. The deal represents a 19 per cent premium on Tradus’s price of 1,510p a share, when the company first announced it was in takeover discussions on 6 November, and comes amid a renewed interest in online companies.

Tradus conducts online auctions across 12 European countries, mostly Eastern Europe. It was founded by a former Financial Times journalist, Tim Jackson, in 1997 and, after listing on the stock market in 1999, its value soared to £2 Billion in early 2000 on hopes it would become the European eBay. But just eight months later, it was worth only £62M as Internet stocks crashed.

Cobus Stofberg, Naspers’ chief executive, said: “The operations of the Naspers Group and Tradus complement each other perfectly, and significant advantages can be obtained by aligning Tradus’s businesses with Naspers’ other internet investments in Central and Eastern Europe.”

The deal, due to be completed by March, requires approval from Tradus shareholders, but the board has recommended investors accept the offer. Shares in the FTSE 250-listed group rose 12 per cent to £18.15.

Tradus was the subject of a failed takeover battle in 2005 between members of its management team and the consortium Florissant, backed by the UK private equity firm Novator.

Tradus’s pre-tax profits rose 28 per cent to £7.7M on revenues of £30.6M in the six months to the end of September.

An extremely positive deal for Tradus’ shareholders, the purchase is less obviously so for Naspers’. It earns three-quarters of its revenues in South Africa but is expanding at breakneck pace in China, Russia and other emerging markets. Tradus will complement its geographic reach, with a market-leading business in Poland. The lack, though, of operational overlap means no synergies are expected. And there must be suspicion that Naspers is overly keen to spend its $1.5Billion cash pile, two-thirds of which is offshore and must be spent before the year end or repatriated.

Admittedly, others share its optimism over Tradus’ prospects. Citi, even in these difficult days, is providing £700M of bridging finance. But Naspers’ shareholders seem warier this time around. The shares fell slightly after the deal was announced, suggesting a fear that the days of overpaying for internet companies with uncertain future revenues are not necessarily over.

In September 2007 QXL Ricardo (Tradus) has bought a 30 percent stake in Molotok.ru, an online auction site in Russia, for a relatively small sum of $1.5 million. The remaining 70 percent of the site is be owned by Russian portal Mail.ru

The company was known to be in deal talks, and there had been speculation that eBay and Alibaba.com were both interested in acquiring the Eastern Europe-focused site.

More about Tradus

Tradus provides online consumer trading platforms and related internet services in eleven European countries. These platforms connect buyers and sellers 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a safe, efficient, and entertaining environment. A wide selection of merchandise and services is available on our sites, ranging from consumer electronics and collectibles to clothing, lifestyle products, cars, car parts and real estate.

Tradus plc, formerly QXL Ricardo PLC, was established in September 1997 and its shares have been quoted on the London Stock Exchange since October 1999. Although the corporate headquarters are in London, most of the operations are located in our key countries across Europe, with the majority of staff being based in Poznan, Poland where our largest business is based. At the end of March 2007 there were over 400 employees in the Group, most of whom are dedicated customer service staff ensuring that the needs of our growing member base are met.

About Naspers

Naspers is a multinational media company with principal operations in electronic media (including pay-television, internet and instant-messaging subscriber platforms and the provision of related technologies) and print media (including the publishing, distribution and printing of magazines, newspapers and books, and the provision of private education services). Naspers’ most significant operations are located in South Africa, where it generates approximately 76.4% of its revenues, with other operations located elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, Greece, Cyprus, the Netherlands, the United States, Thailand and China. Naspers creates media content, builds brand names around it, and manages the platforms distributing the content. Naspers delivers its content in a variety of forms and through a variety of channels, including television platforms, internet services, newspapers, magazines and books. Many of Naspers’ businesses hold leading market positions, and Naspers capitalises on these strong positions when expanding into new markets.

As a side note early this year Naspers announced voluntary delisting from NASDAQ and instead Naspers Limited Received Listing Approval for London Stock Exchange. Naspers is listed on the stock exchange in Johannesburg and up to date stock quote can be found over here: http://stocks.us.reuters.com/stocks/overview.asp?symbol=NPNJn.J

With the current acquisition Naspers is hoping to expand its instant messaging services beyond what it already owns in the sector. Naspers operates local IM/online services in Russia (Mail.ru), China (Tencent) and Thailand (M-Web/Sanook).

The company is headquartered in Cape Town, RSA. 

More

http://www.qxl.com/
http://www.qxl.com/investor_centre
http://www.naspers.com/English/home.asp
http://news.independent.co.uk/business/news/article3263632.ece
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/1/da97695c-ad4b-11dc-9386-0000779fd2ac.html
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-tradus-auction-site-agrees-2-billion-takeover-by-south-africas-naspers/
http://mashable.com/2007/12/18/naspers-acquires-tradus/
http://www.paidcontent.co.uk/entry/419-online-auctioneer-qxl-ricardo-to-sell-to-naspers-for-up-to-800-report/
http://www.paidcontent.co.uk/entry/eurpean-company-qxl-ricardo-takes-30-percent-stake-in-russian-auction-site
http://web2innovations.com/money/2007/12/23/naspers-acquired-polish-based-im-company-gadu-gadu-chit-chat/
http://www.telecom.paper.nl/site/news_ta.asp?type=abstract&id=196998&nr=
http://www.tradus.com/news-item?item=56416543336883
 http://biz.yahoo.com/ic/56/56312.html

Oddly WalMart jumps into the search engine marketing business, joins Kenshoo & Fathomonline

In a recent announcement the company seems to be entering the SEM (search engine marketing) business and are offering services to users willing to advertise on Google AdWords through AdSense.

An interesting questions popped up into my mind, does that involve any strategic agreement with Google for reselling their AdWords packages across the country in the brick and mortar stores of Sam’s Club. Does Google have initiated that strategy or it is an idea of Sam’s Club management to offer more services to their more than 47 million members nationwide. Is AdWords becoming a product that you can find in your local stores, groceries and the mall next to you? 

Does that move affect the most recent Sequoia funding for the SEM Firm Kenshoo? Or it legitimates the market and makes the SEM services wider known and popular. Here one can question the Internet experience of an old brick and mortar business like Sam’s Club but no one should underestimate the huge distribution channel Sam’s Club represents for … Google. Nonetheless, retailing SEM services is something new on the market and under no doubt the Sam’s Club’s target users are quite different from the target clients Kenshoo and Fathom Online are running after, which leaves space for all companies involved. 

The best guess is that with AdSense program, WalMart wants to help newbie wares sellers on the internet with their online advertising needs. Your Sam’s branded advertisement can be yours for as low as $100 a month. On the other hand $100 for SEM services on Google is an amount not enough to build and run a decent marketing campaign.

More About Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club is a membership-only warehouse club owned and operated by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Becoming a Member at Sam’s Club can either be done online or at your nearest Sam’s Club location.

There are three types of Memberships to choose from:

  • Advantage Membership, which offers two Membership cards for you and a household member.
  • Business Membership, which is available at a slightly lower cost and provides a company Membership card plus two personal Membership cards.
  • PLUS Membership (either Advantage PLUS or Business PLUS), which provides extra benefits above and beyond either of the other Membership types.

You can also shop online at any time for home delivery or Click ‘n’ Pull(r).
 
Sam’s Club Memberships provide the opportunity to save on a complete line of products such as quality jewelry, designer goods, sunglasses, crystal and collectibles, high end electronics, floral, apparel, organic foods and choice meats.

In addition to affordable luxuries and exciting treasure hunt items, Members also enjoy services including — healthcare, business, financial and personal.  Examples include health insurance, web site development and maintenance, cost effective merchant credit card processing services and auto, boat & RV and travel programs.

A typical Sam’s Club stands between 110,000 and 130,000 square feet. Most locations feature Pharmacy, Tire and Battery, Photo, Bakery, Optical, Café and Floral departments. The Sam’s Club division of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. had total sales revenue of US$37.1 billion for fiscal year ending 31 January 2005. Sam’s primary competitor is Costco Wholesale.

The first Sam’s Club opened in April 1983 in Midwest City, Oklahoma in the United States.

Sam’s Club is named after Sam Walton. To purchase items from Sam’s Club, one must purchase a membership. Many Sam’s Club customers are small businesses that wish to offer customers a limited selection of food without the expense of having it delivered.

In 1993, Wal-Mart acquired PACE Membership Warehouse and converted many (but not all) PACE locations into Sam’s Clubs.

Even though membership is required to purchase at Sam’s Club, a one time day pass may be obtained from many Wal-Mart newspaper ads. A 10% surcharge is added to the prices for non-members. No membership (with no surcharge) is required for Optical, Pharmacy, or Cafe (as available per club), or to purchase alcohol. However the surcharge can be applied to a membership (which is currently $35 for Business members, $40 for Advantage members, and $100 for the Plus membership). All memberships are 100% refundable at any time for any reason, even on the date that it is to be renewed.

Renewal of memberships can be done via online, through the mail, in-club at the Membership Services desk, any cash register, and also at the new ATM/Membership kiosks.

The latest flagship store opening as of September 13, 2007 was in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It is the second largest Sam’s Club store; its largest is located in Utica, Michigan, with over 145,000 sq. ft. of retail space.

Sam’s Club ranks second in sales volume among warehouse clubs behind Costco Wholesale, despite the fact that Sam’s has more retail locations.

After Costco’s announcement on its change of return policy for consumer electronics (now within 90 days) beginning on February 26, 2007, Sam’s Club finds itself now to be tied with Nordstrom for having best, most liberal return/refund policy in the retail business.

In 2006, Wal-Mart acquired The Central American Retail Holding Company (CARHO), which operates ClubCo stores, similar in concept to Sam’s Club, although with a smaller footprint.

In September 24, 2006, Sam’s Club received a new logo. The new logo has a nice font and features a green and blue diamond inside the big blue diamond, found above the word ‘Sam’s’.

Sam’s Club’s previous slogan was “We Are In Business For Small Business” until 2006, Sam’s Club now has no slogan after the redesign of the new logo. The decision to remove the slogan comes as Sam’s Club attempts to remove itself from serving just small businesses and open up to more individual customers. It is possible that the new slogan is “Enjoy the Possibilities” but it’s probably used for Christmas.

There has been much recent talk about a possible sale or spin-off of Sam’s Club from parent company Wal-Mart. If this were to happen, Sam’s Club would either be owned by another company, or be an independent standalone retailer. Two recent Motley Fool articles explore the implications for both divisions. At Wal-Mart’s 2007 annual shareholder’s meeting, management said that Sam’s Club is not for sale, although they didn’t say they are not considering a spin-off.

In related news Wal-Mart shut its movie download service on December 21st. The video service was launched this February with all the major film studios providing content. Taking that web failure into consideration it is no wonder Walmart is now trying to stick with a proven leader on the Internet — Google.

More

http://www.samsclub.com/
http://samsbiz.com/
http://samsbiz.com/page/1dmiu/Online_Advertising.html
http://pressroom.samsclub.com/content/?id=3&atg=524
http://blog.karlribas.com/2007/12/new-at-wal-mart-sem-services.htm
http://mashable.com/2007/12/27/walmart-introduces-search-engine-marketing/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam’s_Club
http://www.walmartstores.com/GlobalWMStoresWeb/navigate.do?catg=306
http://www.hoovers.com/costco-wholesale/–ID__17060–/free-co-factsheet.xhtml
http://www.fool.com/investing/value/2007/05/07/spinoff-in-bentonville-revisited.aspx
http://www.fool.com/investing/value/2007/04/17/a-spinoff-in-bentonville.aspx?vstest=search_042607_linkdefault
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/060207dnbuswalmart.36d6e74.html
http://web2innovations.com/money/2007/12/18/sequoia-funding-for-search-engine-marketing-sem-firm-kenshoo/
http://www.samsclub.com.mx/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/27/wal-mart-shuts-movie-download-service-offers-sem-services-instead/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/02/06/walmart-officially-enters-movie-download-war/

Behavioral recommendation service for shoppers raises $10 Million, market heats up

A couple of months ago MyBuys raised $10 Million in Series B funding aimed to help online merchants sell more by utilizing behavioral targeting techniques. The company provides software to ecommerce stores that allows them to serve up ads and products based on your behavior – for example, tracking what you search for and showing related items during a future visit. Lightspeed participated in this latest round, which was led by Palomar Ventures.

“The funding further validates MyBuys’ unmatched targeting ability using our proprietary, patent pending technology,” said Robert E. Cell, CEO of MyBuys. “This investment will enable us to significantly increase our market momentum.”

MyBuys, which introduced MyBuys 3.0 earlier this year, delivers the industry’s first 1:1 behavioral recommendation service that targets consumers both while they are shopping and in follow up emails. MyBuys presents products a consumer is truly interested in buying, which enables online retailers to achieve extraordinary 300% higher revenue per customer interaction.

“As pressure grows to maintain high growth rates in ecommerce, MyBuys’ service will become a competitive requirement for online retailers,” said Amanda Reed, partner at Palomar Ventures. “With this financing, MyBuys will have an opportunity to further its ability to provide the greatest revenue lift for online retailers.”

“With its innovative approach to targeting and optimization, MyBuys offers the most effective solution to this burgeoning market,” said Peter Nieh, partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. “MyBuys can significantly improve the profitability of online merchants by enabling them to more fully monetize the website traffic that they have spent substantial dollars to generate.”

These services are used by online retailers to show you potentially interesting merchandise, by tracking what you have already been looking at or buying before. If you do a lot of online shopping for designer jeans, a service like MyBuys may recommend especially popular or discounted designer jeans to you.

The company makes money by receiving a cut of revenue from the retailer when users purchase suggested products.

Mybuys is already being used in retail sites such as camera site Ritz Interactive, urban style site Karmaloop, and fabric site Hancock Fabrics. The company also said it builds behavioral profiles on each consumer.

More about MyBuys

MyBuys is a 1:1 behavioral recommendation service for online merchants. MyBuys builds deep behavioral profiles on each consumer resulting in the highest converting recommendations. By reaching consumers on a client’s web site, through email, and in RSS feeds, retailers realize more repeat visits, increased conversions, and larger order sizes. MyBuys generates revenues at 300% the rate of traditional marketing programs, with no upfront costs and a pay for performance model, so customers realize immediate results with no risk.

MyBuys 1:1 behavioral product recommendation service is a truly comprehensive service proven to deliver real results such as:

• Increasing conversion rates with relevant, personal recommendations

• Re-activating former customers by targeting their interests

• Increasing basket size through relevant, personal cross sells and up sells

• Recovering lost sales due to shopping cart abandonment or items out of stock

• Increasing overall lifetime customer value by driving your customers to your site more often to make more purchases

MyBuys is based in Redwood City, California and is managed by Robert Cell (CEO), Mark Weiler (VP of Engineering), and Paul Rosenblum (VP of Marketing).

Management team

Robert Cell
Chief Executive Officer

Robert Cell is an expert in retail, advertising, and consumer products. Most recently, Robert was Chief Executive Officer of AdSpace Networks, where he led the company through rapid growth and strategic restructuring to focus on becoming a mall advertising network while also growing, and subsequently, divesting its CoolSign video merchandising enterprise business. Under his leadership as Chief Operating Officer at Blue Martini Software, a pioneer in e-commerce solutions, the market capitalization tripled, license revenue doubled, and net results increased by $40M. Prior to Blue Martini, Robert served as the Vice President of Corporate Development for Kellogg Company and as General Manager for its Lender’s Bagel Division. In addition to leading Kellogg’s external growth and acquisitions, he led the turnaround of the Lender’s Bagel Division, tripled its value, and divested the unit for nearly $300M. Preceding his tenure with the Kellogg Company, he was Managing Director and co-founder of Deloitte and Touche LLP’s Midwest Corporate Finance practice responsible for advising the region’s clients on acquisitions and joint ventures. Robert holds an MBA with High Distinction and a BSE from the University of Michigan. 
 
Paul Rosenblum
Vice President of Products and Strategy

Paul Rosenblum has over 20 years of experience defining the strategic direction of successful products for the retail industry. Prior to MyBuys, Paul was Entrepreneur in Residence at Redpoint Ventures. Earlier, he was responsible for product strategy at Pay By Touch, the leading biometric payment system for retailers. Previously, he served as Vice President of Marketing at Movaris, where he repositioned the company as an early leader in Sarbanes-Oxley compliance systems for Fortune 1000 companies. As Vice President of Product Marketing at Blue Martini Software, he was responsible for defining retail eMerchandising. Prior to that, he was Senior Director of Product Marketing at Siebel Systems where he was responsible for the definition of Siebel’s flagship sales effectiveness products and launched Siebel’s first vertical market solutions. Paul holds an SB in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Lisa Joy Rosner
Vice President of Marketing

Lisa Joy Rosner has over 16 years of experience launching, rebranding, and driving revenue for high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. Lisa joined the MyBuys team from BroadVision Inc., an early innovator of personalized e-commerce solutions. During her four-year tenure as Vice President, Worldwide Marketing, she re-launched the company, introduced three new products into the global market, and was part of the team that returned the company to profitability. Previously, as Vice President, Marketing, at DecisionPoint Applications, a financial performance management software provider, she transformed the company brand, aligned sales and marketing processes and added industry-leading companies to the customer base. Prior to that, Lisa launched Market-Touch Corporation where she pioneered and evangelized a new category in CRM – Sales Effectiveness. She has also served in senior business development, marketing and education management roles at Brio Technology, SGI, and Oracle Corporation. Lisa graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Maryland with a BA in English Literature. 

Mark Weiler
Vice President of Engineering

Mark Weiler provides the technical and visionary leadership to MyBuys Engineering team. He brings over 16 years of experience in building high quality solutions in the areas of Web Applications, Enterprise Applications, Infrastructure, and Systems software. Most recently, Mark was Vice President Engineering at NorthStar Systems Inc., where he was part of the founding team and was responsible for first 8 versions of the company’s leading Wealth Management and Asset Management solutions. Prior to joining NorthStar, he managed the teams responsible for building B2B connectors and EAI adapters for Extricity (acquired by Peregrine) whose Alliance B2B product line was used to automate supply chains including RosettaNet processes for several major electronics vendors. Before Extricity/Peregrine, he developed a number of products at Microsoft, notably Exchange Server, MAPI, and LAN Manager and he was a key member of the Exchange X.400 Message Transfer Agent on the first four releases of Exchange Server. Mark holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara. 
 
Len Eschweiler
Vice President, Sales

Len Eschweiler has over 13 years of sales leadership experience in the e-commerce sector. Prior to joining MyBuys, he was an early team member of MarketLive, an industry leading e-commerce platform and solutions provider where he served as Vice President, Sales and Marketing, and most recently headed up European expansion efforts as Vice President of Strategy, Europe. Previously, he was Director of Sales and Marketing for IMS-Net, a start-up focused on serving the needs of commodity trading via an Internet based trading marketplace. Before entering the software arena, he founded one of the first online music distribution sites for unsigned artists. Len studied computer science at Colorado State University and holds a BS in Finance with a minor in Music from Sonoma State University. 

Shaun Schooley
Vice President, Client Success

Shaun Schooley is charged with ensuring MyBuys clients receive the most efficient deployment and the highest performing implementation of the MyBuys service. He brings over 20 years of senior management experience in marketing. Most recently, he was Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Naehas, a web-based marketing solution to create customized and personalized web pages, where he maintained major client relationships and led follow-up programs for Fortune 500 firms. Prior to Naehas, Shaun spent over 19 years in financial services and technology marketing with companies such as Charles Schwab, Amazon.com, and Wells Fargo. Shaun is a frequent industry speaker at 1:1 marketing events sponsored by the DMA, U.S. Postal Service, and the National Center for Database Marketers. He holds several patents in electronic payment technologies and he holds an undergraduate degree from Hastings College and an MBA from Arizona State University.

More about Lightspeed Venture Partners

Lightspeed Venture Partners is a technology-focused venture capital firm that manages $1.3 billion of capital commitments. We closed Lightspeed VII, a $480 million fund, at the end of 2005. Over the past two decades, our partners have invested in more than 120 companies, many of which have gone on to become leaders in their respective industries. Our team invests in the U.S. and internationally from offices in Menlo Park, China, India, and Israel.

We are proud to have partnered with many exceptional management teams. Our investment professionals have contributed domain expertise and operational experience to help build high-growth, market-leading companies such as Blue Nile (NILE), Brocade (BRCD), Ciena (CIEN), DoubleClick (DCLK), Informatica (INFA), Kiva Software (acquired by AOL), Openwave (OPWV), Quantum Effect Devices (acquired by PMCS), Sirocco (acquired by SCMR), and Waveset (acquired by SUNW). Some of our recent exits include the top-performing tech IPO of 2006, Riverbed Technology (RVBD), and the top enterprise software acquisition of 2006, Virsa Systems (acquired by SAP).

Lightspeed is known to be all about ecommerce. We are only seeing the “tip of the iceberg” in e-commerce, the firm’s top blogger Jeremy Liew wrote in June — he thinks there will be “many more” e-commerce companies that grow to make more than $500 million in revenue by using behavioral targeting and other methods of matching purchasers with products they’re most likely to buy.

More about Palomar Ventures

Palomar Ventures was launched in 1999 by veteran venture capitalists to focus on early stage information technology companies that demonstrate the potential for exceptional growth and market leadership. The founding principle of Palomar is teamwork; we work closely with our portfolio companies to assist them in achieving their objectives. The partners at Palomar have contributed their strategic insight, network of corporate relationships, and recruiting skills to assist in building nearly 50 public companies.

Palomar Ventures is currently investing Palomar III, a $225 million fund, bringing total capital under management to over $500 million. A typical investment involves $2 million to $5 million in capital, and we prefer to act as a lead or co-lead investor early in the process of value formation. We believe that beginning early with a company is the best way to utilize our experience in building value rapidly by focusing the company on a small number of key milestones.

The market

Behavioral advertising and behavioral targeting are both lately becoming yet another hot area in the online marketing space, with Tacoda recently acquired by AOL for an estimated amount of $200-300 million. Start ups are trying to analyze every move you do online and try to hook you up with the right ads, products and services. MyBuys is making no exception it tracks user behavior to help online retailers make better recommendations.

Competition in the field is staggering and some of the names include StyleFeeder relying on community recommendations and raised $1M so far, Wunderloop, Baynote, Matchmine, which also raised $10M recently and not last Aggregate Knowledge, which once used to be a hot start-up in the Silicon Valley.

The demand among online retailers for better behavioral tracking is so high right now that MyBuys and its startup competitors are all able to gather this “low hanging fruit” –Lightspeed Venture Partner’s Peter Nieh explains further.

The market shakeout in behavioral targeting will resemble search engines startup in the 1990’s, Nieh, a Lightspeed Venture Partner, thinks: Many companies were able to search the web, but Google ended up doing it way better than the others, and captured the largest portion of the market.

More

http://www.mybuys.com/
http://www.marketwire.com/mw/release.do?id=778293&sourceType=1
http://mashable.com/2007/10/08/mybuys-funding/
http://www.pehub.com/article/articledetail.php?articlepostid=8085 (requires subscription)
http://venturebeat.com/2007/10/08/mybuys-behavioral-targeting-for-online-retailers-raises-10-million/
http://pulse2.com/2007/10/08/mybuys-raises-10-million-series-b/
http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stories/2007/10/08/daily7.html?ana=from_rss
http://www.lightspeedvp.com/
http://www.palomarventures.com/
 

MSNBC made its first acquisition in its 11-year history, acquired Newsvine

In a recent deal the citizen journalism startup Newsvine has been acquired by MSNBC, the Microsoft/NBC joint venture, for an undisclosed sum.

Newsvine will continue operating independently, just as it has been since launching in March of 2006. The acquired company also indicated there would be little change in the features of the site. 

Newsvine is one of the good CJ [Citizen Journalism] web sites. Others include Digg, Reddit and Netscpae’s Propeller among others. Newsvine is a good example of a startup CJ site aimed to be a mainstream news destination in the future. Along with most of the other current CJ sites, Newsvine uses many of the ‘web 2.0’ functionalities in its design – such as user-generated content, reputation, voting, comments, friends lists, tags, and more. Newsvine was among the first sites on web to implement basic semantic tagging based on the content submitted. The first site, as far as we know, was NosyJoe.com with its intelligent tagging engine.  It allows users to ‘seed’ stories, by adding a link and short description. Users can also write a full article as well. Newsvine is arguably more advanced in its design than other CJ sites, often trying new things and design techniques – e.g. the Newsvine, a color-coded visual representation of a user’s impact on the site.

The site opened as a private beta in December 2005 and was officially launched on March 1, 2006. Newsvine CEO is Mike Davidson and the company is based in Seattle which is the home of MSNBC too. Calvin Tang is the Co-founder and COO. More details about Newsvine can be found below.

“Over the next few years, Newsvine technology and content will make its way onto msnbc.com, and vice-versa where it makes sense.” Davidson explained further.

Newsvine officially became part of MSNBC on Friday, October 5th, but Davidson said they’d “been talking since May.” The company will continue to be based in Seattle, perhaps due to the location of the MSNBC too.

What is MSNBC getting, anyway? Mostly the citizen journalism community and features combined with some basic (compared to MSNBC’s) traffic but representing a very loyal community. From our perspective this deal looks more like acquiring technologies, features and mostly practical experience from the citizen journalism and the social news sector. It could also be an employment through acquisition. Basically Newsvine successfully established and positioned itself especially within the social news arena yet the site cannot be clearly identified as a popular site with its only 1.2M unique visitors per month. So, MSNBC is clearly trying to tap into the social news space and is buying experience.

The following statement from the company supports out thinking:

“While Newsvine may be well known in early adopter circles, we want every college student, every farmer, every weekend journalist, and every household to have their own branch on the “Vine”.

Davidson, the Newsvine’s CEO has explained the reason why he sold out to MSNBC.
It seems it is all about scale and partnering with bigger media company to achieve that:

“Why would a young, efficient independent news startup become part of a large organization? For us, the answer is simple: it’s all about growing the community and spreading the idea of participatory news as far and wide as possible. Although going from zero to over a million users a month in less than two years is heartening, msnbc.com operates on another scale entirely. While Newsvine may be well known in early adopter circles, we want every college student, every farmer, every weekend journalist, and every household to have their own branch on the ‘Vine. In order to spread this idea further, we could have gone out and raised a lot of money, quadrupled our staff, and gone it alone, but when one of the finest news organizations in the world is headquartered right across Lake Washington, the potential of partnering with such a great team is dramatic. We feel strongly that we can learn from the successes of their experienced team, in a way that will empower Newsvine to become the worldwide mouthpiece of the citizen journalist.”

This is the MSNBC’s first acquisition in its 11-year history and is a good fit for MSNBC.com. Newsvine will report directly to the Publisher/President of MSNBC.com.

Neither of the companies would disclose terms of the all-cash transaction, but deals for other social media sites have ranged as high as the $75 million that eBay was reported to have spent for StumbleUpon.com, which claims about 3 times the number of users as Newsvine.

It appears as Newsvine will move to the server farms of MSNBC.com to allow for greater reliability and expansion.

Reach

Back in July 2007 the stat numbers were reported by the founder Mike Davidson, to be in about 1.2 million unique visitors per month and Newsvine has grown at an average rate of 46% per quarter. Newsvine community members view an average of 21 pages per day and spend an average of 143 minutes per month on the site. The site gets about 80,000 comments a month and 250,000 votes a month.

Where the site stands at today?

Quantcast is reporting for slightly over 260,000 unique visitors per month but Newsvine is not quantified there. Compete on the other side is reporting for 409,000 unique visitors.  Both sites are reporting on only the American traffic.

In details about Newsvine

Newsvine is a website consisting of community-driven news stories and opinions. Users write articles and save links to external content, vote, comment and chat on article pages created by both users and by professional journalists.

Seattle-based “Newsvine, Inc.” was incorporated in March of 2005 by Calvin Tang. Mike Davidson, Lance Anderson and Mark Budos subsequently left The Walt Disney Internet Group and together began development of Newsvine during the summer of 2005, as the four co-founders of the company. Josh Yockey joined the company shortly after development began, with Tom Laramee following in the spring of 2006. Eric Glomstad joined as an intern over the summer of 2006 and has stayed on with the company since. The development team consists of several veterans from the Disney Internet Group and ESPN. Mike Davidson, CEO of Newsvine Inc. was interviewed in episode 8 of Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur’s weekly Inside the Net podcast.

Community

Newsvine is a community-driven news site similar to sites such as Slashdot, reddit and Digg. It combines user submission of information with items from the Associated Press and provides each user with a blog-style “column” for writing their own ‘posts’.
Features
 
Seeding
Newsvine allows users to “seed,” or post links for others to view. Seeds usually contain a short description or direct quotation from the linked article. With the “Newsvine Button,” users can select “Seed Newsvine” from their bookmarks and a seeding dialog will appear. Seeds allow for all of the same options as articles except the ability to insert photographs.

Articles
One of the most defining features of Newsvine is the ability for users to write their own articles. Commonly known as citizen journalism, this allows for users to express their opinions for public disccusion or even report in a journalistic manner. The most popular articles for top tags appear in the “Featured Writers” section, where article writers can receive extra publicity.

While writing articles, users are also given the ability to upload their own photographs or choose from a list of Flickr photos registered under a Creative Commons license for addition to the post. Captions can be written as well to clarify the meaning of the photograph.

Voting
Another common feature among social bookmarking websites is the ability to vote for content. Users who enjoy reading an article/seed or agree with its content are encouraged to vote for the content. Articles and seeds with the most votes appear in the “Top Wire,” “Top Seeds,” or “Top of the Vine” sections of the site.

Newsvine also allows for users to vote for comments that they enjoyed reading. This aspect of commenting encourages better content and friendly discussions. When a comment receives at least five votes, a green star is placed in the upper right-hand corner, signifying that many users enjoyed or agreed with the comment. Clicking the star will lead viewers to the next highly rated comment.

Negative votes are also registered, and a comment that receives too many negative votes will often be collapsed, so that it can only be viewed by deliberately opening it. This limits discussion under that comment, since new comments under it will not be seen automatically.

Commenting
The ability to comment on seeds and articles allows for extra discussions regarding the content to take place. While debates are welcome, useless, insulting, and self-promoting comments are not. If a comment receives enough reports, that comment will be collapsed and its contents can only be shown by choosing to expand it. The Newsvine comment system also allows for threaded comments, easing the confusion of comment direction. While users do not yet have the ability to edit or delete their own comments, writers are allowed to delete comments on their own content. Unregistered users are also allowed to have their say, but comments by unregistered users are not made public until that user creates a registered account.

User Columns
Newsvine user columns give users the ability to manage and share their articles, seeds, friends, recommendations, and other statistical information. Every user has one, and each is given their own subdomain to access it (<user>.newsvine.com). User columns are customizable: aspects of the layouts can be moved or hidden, a user photo and biography can be added, a header (such as a welcome message) can be added, friends can be invited to Newsvine or added to your friends list, recommendations (such as favorite books, bands, blogs, etc.) can be shown, and comments and feedback from other users can be managed. Also, through user columns, members have the ability to add others to their watchlist and friend list or to send another a chat invitation.

Earnings
Newsvine tells users that they will receive 90% of ad revenue from ads on their personal Newsvine pages. These earnings are “based on traffic to your articles and seeds,” but it is unclear exactly how Newsvine calculate earnings. The remaining 10% go to whoever referred the user to Newsvine, or for site maintenance if there was no referrer. Newsvine does not publish the amount of revenue that has so far gone to users.

Chat Lobby
The Chat Lobby is a section of Newsvine that manages the various chat rooms available or open. Every article or seed on Newsvine has the ability to have a chat room created for it, where users can discuss the subject matter real-time rather than posting a comment. While this feature is not often used, the capability is there for those users that want to participate in a discussion.

Watchlist
If a user finds a particular writer or tag that he/she enjoys to read content from, it can be added to the Watchlist. Watchlists are lists of members and tags that a user can compile to easily find interesting news. Items on a user’s watchlist appear on the left column and, if there is content that the user has not read by a watchlisted author or tag, a number will appear next to the item name signifying how many articles or seeds have not been read.

Conversation Tracker
Much like the Watchlist, the Conversation Tracker allows users to track other members. However, the Conversation Tracker is a notifier of new comments. There are three sections to the Conversation Tracker: new comments from a user’s Newsvine column, new comments from articles that a user has commented on, and new comments from an article a user’s friend has commented on. If a user has added members to the friend list that share a common interest in content, the Conversation Tracker can act as a list of recommended articles.

Friends List
The Friends List gives users the ability to meet new people and find others with common interests, but there are no requirements in doing so. Creating a populated friends list gives users the ability to find interesting new articles through the Conversation Tracker. Once a user adds a friend to the list, the added friend receives a notification and is given the ability to accept or decline the offer.

Vineacity

Vineacity is a measure of six different elements that contribute to a Newsvine user’s overall rating as a positive influence to the Newsvine community. Earned as ‘branches’ on a Newsvine logo icon displayed next to the user’s name, the six areas of excellence include:

  • Courtesy – Earned when a user’s positive feedback outweighs any abuse reports they may have received.
  • Longevity – Earned when the users has been active for at least two months after registering.
  • Fruitfulness – Earned when the user has submitted a substantial amount of content or comments that have received votes.
  • Connectedness – Earned when the user appears on a substantial number of watch-lists and/or friend-lists.
  • Random Act of Vineness – Earned for an exceptional moment of greatness on Newsvine.
  • Lifetime achievement – Earned when a user has received a combined number of votes on all articles, links and comments around Newsvine.

 Newsvine is known to have had only 6 employees at the time the deal was announced.

About MSNBC

MSNBC.com is a privately run news organization started by Microsoft and NBC in 1996. The site is one of the most decorated, highly trafficked news sites on the web, serving more than 29 million unique visitors per month. Contrary to popular belief, msnbc.com is run independently from both Microsoft and NBC and even the MSNBC news channel. It is its own organization, headquartered in Redmond, and has been growing and profitable for several years now. MSNBC.com employs about 200 people.

More

http://www.newsvine.com/
http://www.newsvine.com/_cms/info/companyinfo
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21138371
http://blog.newsvine.com/
http://blog.newsvine.com/_news/2007/10/07/1008889-msnbccom-acquires-newsvine
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/newsvine_acquired_by_msnbc.php
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/the_state_of_citizen_journalism_pt1_newsvine.php
http://www.centernetworks.com/future-of-web-apps-mike-davidson
http://www.centernetworks.com/newsvine-acquired-msnbc
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newsvine
http://www.calvintang.com/blog/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/07/breaking-newsvine-acquired-by-msnbccom/
http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2007/10/msnbc.com-acquires-newsvine
http://www.fimoculous.com/archive/post-3267.cfm
http://tang.newsvine.com/_news/2007/10/07/1008988-the-future-of-newsvine-and-what-it-means-to-you
http://www.quantcast.com/newsvine.com
http://siteanalytics.compete.com/newsvine.com/?metric=uv
http://www.zoominfo.com/Search/CompanyDetail.aspx?CompanyID=98714299&cs=QHF4kK7Uk&pc=compete

SAP Germany makes its biggest deal ever – acquires Business Objects for 4.8B EURO

SAP, the world’s largest maker of business software, has agreed to acquire Business Objects SA for €4.8 billion euros, which was around ~$6.8 billion at the time the acquisition deal was announced. The deal is amongst the largest for 2007 alongside with Oracle’s Hyperion deal for over $3.3B and the Nokia’s Navteq for over $8B.

Business Objects is the world’s leading BI (Business Intelligence) software company. Their software helps organizations gain better insight into their business, improving decision-making and enterprise performance. Business Objects has more than 43,000 customers – including over 80 percent of the Fortune 500 – and a network of more than 3,000 partners and resellers.

The acquisition, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2008, is SAP’s largest acquisition so far. The deal is especially newsworthy for SAP, which has always tended to favor developing its own technology rather than acquiring it.

The acquisition of Business Objects is designed to dovetail into SAP’s previously announced plans to double its addressable market by 2010, said Henning Kagermann, SAP chief executive, during a press conference earlier this year.

Under the terms of the agreement, SAP will pay 42 euros ($59.35) per share in cash.

John Schwarz would continue as the CEO of Business Objects and is expected to become a member of SAP’s executive board, while Doug Merritt, corporate officer for SAP’s Business User segment, would join the Business Objects entity and report to Schwarz, the companies said.

SAP said it expects the transaction to add to the company’s earnings per share by 2009.

Business intelligence software taps into an organization’s disparate data “to provide meaningful information and analysis to employees, customers, suppliers, and partners for more effective decision making.”

Although both companies are sort of Web 1.0 (closed, proprietary, no Web 2.0 environment, no services and collaboration on-line available, etc.) SAP and Business Objects have started providing online services that represent an extension of their core products. For instance SAP has focused on online business collaboration, and has developed web based widgets that interact with SAP productivity tools.

On the other hand Business Objects offers a number of online applications under the “BI 2.0″ banner on its Business Objects Labs Web site. Tools include BI Annotator, a tool that combines external data feeds with the structured data in a data warehouse, and BI Desktop, for creating programs or widgets that display current BI information on the desktop.

Earlier this year SAP announced the acquisition of two other smaller companies an enterprise communications software developer and a buyout of an identity management applications maker.

The Wicom Communications acquisition is designed to bolster SAP’s customer relationship management (CRM) software, while the pending MaXware acquisition is expected to increase SAP’s identity management capabilities in NetWeaver.

Both acquisitions mirror the enterprise software giant’s past practice of acquiring small, niche companies to fill out its product portfolio, rather than large multibillion-dollar deals.

What forced SAP to switch from buying mostly small niche-specific companies and products to large-scale deals such as the deal for Business Objects SA today?

Perhaps the fact that roughly 40 percent of Business Objects’ customers use SAP might be a natural synergy for both companies. Between them, SAP and Business Objects offer three financial consolidation products. The other 60 percent of Business Objects’ business, which deals with business-intelligence tools, is where SAP will find value, said Paul Hamerman, an enterprise applications analyst with Forrester Research.

Business Objects acquisition might also be the SAP’s respond to the rival Oracle which has, not too long ago, acquired business intelligence tool developer Hyperion Solutions in a $3.3 billion deal.

Just last April, SAP apparently wasn’t convinced it needed to buy itself into the business intelligence market. Hamerman said he spoke with Kagermann at Sapphire, SAP’s annual user conference, where the SAP CEO said he couldn’t expect to make a big push into the market with an acquisition and still get a return on investment by 2010. What a sharp turn.

Meanwhile, AMR Research notes that spending on business-intelligence and performance management products is expected to reach $23.8 billion by the end of the year, up 3.6 percent from the previous year.

Shares of Business Objects soared 16 percent in the trading after the deal was announced to $58.36 a share. By contrast SAP shares dropped 5.2 percent to $56.14 a share.

About SAP

Founded in 1972 as Systems Applications and Products in Data Processing, SAP is the recognized leader in providing collaborative business solutions for all types of industries and for every major market. From Walldorf to Wall Street: The SAP Success Story

Serving more than 43,400 customers worldwide, SAP is the world’s largest business software company and the world’s third-largest independent software provider overall. We have a rich history of innovation and growth that has made us a true industry leader. Today, SAP employs more than 42,750 people in more than 50 countries. Our professionals are dedicated to providing the highest level of customer service and support.

Knowledge, Experience, and Technology for Optimizing Business

SAP has leveraged our extensive experience to deliver a comprehensive range of solutions to empower every aspect of business operations. By using SAP solutions, organizations of all sizes – including small businesses and midsize companies – can reduce costs, improve performance, and gain the agility to respond to changing business needs.

SAP has also developed the SAP NetWeaver platform, which allows our customers to achieve more value from their IT investments.

To ensure SAP’s position as a technology leader, SAP Ventures invests in emerging entrepreneurial companies that are advancing exciting new technologies. And through SAP Research, we introduce new ideas for future solutions.

At SAP, quality awareness and best practices are at the heart of everything we do. SAP’s commitment to quality is manifested through annual quality awards.

Headquartered in Walldorf, Germany, SAP is listed on several exchanges, including the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange, under the symbol “SAP.”

SAP’s stock has consistently achieved one of the highest returns of German securities. Investors who bought SAP ordinary shares at the end of 1996 and reinvested their dividends (excluding tax credits) and the proceeds from rights issues into SAP ordinary shares would have received, at the end of 2006, an average annual return of 16.9%. A REX portfolio of fixed-interest German government bonds yielded 5.1% per year during the same period. The comparable yield on an investment tied to the DAX index of Frankfurt securities was 8.6% per year. The average return on SAP ordinary shares over the past five years has been 2.6% per year (5% in 2005, -3.8% in 2004, and 2.1% in 2003).

Stock Details

  • Initial public offering:  November 4, 1988
  • Issue price:  750.00 DM (ordinary shares); €0.50 in today’s currency
  • Stock category:  Ordinary share (no-par-value share)
  • Shares outstanding:  1,267 million
  • Free float:  About 69.8% (approximately 884 million shares)
  • Market cap (Dec. 31, 2005):   €51 billion
  • Dividend for fiscal year 2006:  €0.46
  • Closing price (Dec. 31, 2006):  €40.26

Ticker Symbols

  • Deutsche Boerse  SAP
  • New York Stock Exchange (ADR)  SAP
  • Bloomberg  SAP GR
  • Reuters  SAP_p.F or DE
  • Quotron  SAGR.EU

Indices

In recognition of its ethical performance, SAP has again qualified for inclusion in major ethical investment indexes, FTSE4Good and the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes.

More about Business Objects S.A.

The company was established in Aug. 3, 1990 in Paris. Business Objects was founded on the vision of two young software entrepreneurs. The company is today headquartered in both locations San Jose, California and Paris, France. The company’s CEO is John Schwarz. 2006 revenues were $1.254 billion while the 2007 Q1 revenue was $334 million. The company has more than 5,428 (as of Q1 2007) Employees.

Bernard Liautaud is chairman and chief strategy officer of Business Objects. As chief strategy officer, Liautaud focuses on advising CEO John Schwarz and the executive committee on business strategy.

Liautaud co-founded Business Objects in 1990 and was chief executive officer until September 2005. He took the company public on NASDAQ in September 1994, making it the first French software company listed in the United States. Since that time, Liautaud lead Business Objects through 12 successful years of growth and profitability, making the company one of the 25 largest software companies in the world and the clear leader in the business intelligence market. Liautaud’s key accomplishments include:

Time Magazine Europe’s Digital Top 25 of 2002
BusinessWeek Europe Stars of Europe of 2002
 
One of the Top 10 CEOs in North America by Chief Executive Magazine in 2001

Author of the popular business book, e-Business Intelligence: Turning Information into Knowledge into Profit. The book was translated into nine languages and sold more than 50,000 copies worldwide

Prior to Business Objects, Liautaud served as marketing manager for Oracle in France. Previously he was the deputy scientific attaché for the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. Liautaud has a master’s degree in engineering from École Centrale (France) and a master’s degree in engineering management from Stanford University. In 2007, Bernard was awarded the title of “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur” by the French government.

More

http://www.sap.com/
http://www.businessobjects.com/
http://www.businessobjects.com/news/press_release.asp?id=20071007_005046
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/07/sap-acquires-business-objects-for-e48-billion/
http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/0,1000000121,39285595,00.htm
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20071007/bs_afp/francegermanycomputertakeoversap (story has expired)
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1866923,00.asp
http://www.businessobjects.com/company/management/liautaud.asp
http://www.businessweek.com/ap_working/financialnews/D8S4K2580.htm?chan=top+news_top+news+index_top+story
http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9792531-7.html
http://www.news.com/SAP-acquiring-two-European-software-makers/2100-1012_3-6183545.html
http://www.news.com/Oracle-buys-Hyperion-for-3.3-billion/2100-1012_3-6163325.html
http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=4908
http://www.informationweek.com/management/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=202300623
http://www.sap.com/about/press/press.epx?pressid=8360
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/08/business/worldbusiness/08sap.html?ref=business
 

Naspers Acquired Polish based IM Company Gadu Gadu (chit-chat)

South Africa’s biggest media group Naspers Ltd offered to buy all outstanding shares in Polish Internet firm Gadu Gadu S.A. (GADU.WA), a Polish IM service, for 23.50 zlotys ($8.77) per share. The current majority shareholder of Gadu Gadu has agreed to tender its 55% shareholding in the public tender offer. In order to gain 100% acceptance of this tender offer the total investment will amount to around $155 million. Gadu Gadu (GG) is listed on the Warsaw stock exchange (Poland), and Naspers will launch a public offer to buy the shares. As a side note Poland became a European Union member in early 2004.  Poland is the EU’s fifth most populous country with 38 million inhabitants, exhibiting fast growth in the penetration of broadband connectivity, usage of the internet and online internet advertising.

Gadu Gadu is one of Poland’s largest instant messaging companies, with millions of unique users, mainly in Poland, and a 43% share of the Polish market. It also has a social network mojageneracja, which has just under million uniques. Gadu Gadu is one of the many entrants for the instant messaging market. Should Naspers get this public tender offer, it will be adding to its global reach, especially in Europe, where it’s somewhat less influential than some of the other countries it has a presence in.

Gadu-Gadu stands for “chit-chat” in Polish and is commonly known as GG or gg and is a Polish instant messaging client.

Gadu-Gadu runs under Windows 98/2000/Me/XP/2003/Vista and is operating under the license of adware. Gadu-Gadu makes money by displaying advertisements. Just like with ICQ, users are identified by their serial numbers. There are numerous add-ons available to provide extra features. The official version provides over 150 smiley icons, and allows off-line messages, data dispatch, and VoIP. Since version 6.0, an experimental SSL secure connection mode can be used.

One of the most popular features of Gadu-Gadu is the status option, allowing users to display short text messages visible under their buddy icons on other users’ contact lists. Gadu-Gadu uses its own proprietary protocol. Many unofficial plug-ins have been created to expand its capabilities. Even though Gadu-Gadu service provider officially forbids to access the network with 3rd party applications (changes in use Terms and Conditions introduced in 2006), several other instant messengers have the ability to communicate with GG protocol such as:

  • Kadu, an open-source instant messenger similar to Gadu-Gadu (Linux/Macintosh)
  • Tlen.pl, a Polish instant messenger (Windows)
  • Miranda IM (Windows)
  • Adium (Macintosh)
  • Proteus (Macintosh)
  • Pidgin / Finch (multi-platform)
  • Kopete (multi-platform)
  • AmiGG (AmigaOS and MorphOS)
  • EKG (Linux/Macintosh) console client
  • GNU Gadu (Linux/Macintosh)

Gadu-Gadu is the most popular IM in Poland. There are over 7.8 million registered accounts, and every day approximately 6.5 million users are online.

Many users consider the latest version too overloaded by unnecessary addons (Gadu-Gadu Radio Station etc.), so the older versions (especially 6.1 build 158) are still as popular as the new one. However, the new version is generally regarded as being much more stable.

Gadu Gadu S.A. was established in 2000.

About Naspers

Naspers is a multinational media company with principal operations in electronic media (including pay-television, internet and instant-messaging subscriber platforms and the provision of related technologies) and print media (including the publishing, distribution and printing of magazines, newspapers and books, and the provision of private education services). Naspers’ most significant operations are located in South Africa, where it generates approximately 76.4% of its revenues, with other operations located elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, Greece, Cyprus, the Netherlands, the United States, Thailand and China. Naspers creates media content, builds brand names around it, and manages the platforms distributing the content. Naspers delivers its content in a variety of forms and through a variety of channels, including television platforms, internet services, newspapers, magazines and books. Many of Naspers’ businesses hold leading market positions, and Naspers capitalises on these strong positions when expanding into new markets.

As a side note early this year Naspers announced voluntary delisting from NASDAQ and instead Naspers Limited Received Listing Approval for London Stock Exchange. Naspers is listed on the stock exchange in Johannesburg and up to date stock quote can be found over here: http://stocks.us.reuters.com/stocks/overview.asp?symbol=NPNJn.J

With the current acquisition Naspers is hoping to expand its instant messaging services beyond what it already owns in the sector. Naspers operates local IM/online services in Russia (Mail.ru), China (Tencent) and Thailand (M-Web/Sanook).

The company is headquartered in Cape Town, RSA. 

More

http://www.gadu-gadu.pl/
http://www.naspers.co.za/pdfs/press_04_october_2007.pdf
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-south-africas-naspers-offers-to-buy-polish-im-service-gadu-gadu-for-155/
http://mashable.com/2007/10/04/naspers-gadu-gadu/
http://www.naspers.com/English/home.asp
http://www.reuters.com/article/mergersNews/idUSWEB835920071004
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gadu-Gadu
http://finance.paidcontent.org/paidcontent?GUID=3379356&Page=MediaViewer&Ticker=NPSN
http://stocks.us.reuters.com/stocks/overview.asp?symbol=GADU.WA

Small round for Mesmo.tv

The social video bookmarking and recommending service Mesmo.TV and provider of a very popular Facebook application, has secured over half of a $900,000 round of Series A financing.

Mesmo.TV’s Davin Miyoshi informed the public that Aydin Senkut’s Felicis Ventures, Mike Maples’ Maples Investments, Naval Ravikant’s The Hit Forge, and Georges Harik participated in the round. Simply put their tool allows users to rate and tag the videos that they enjoy. Mesmo.TV is then recommending videos to you and introduces you to other viewers with similar viewing habits and interests.

This tool, however, has not turned out to be the most successful part of Mesmo.TV’s business. The company’s TV Show Trivia  Facebook application, which launched in August, has garnered over 1.3 million users and over 125,000 daily unique visitors. This puts the application amongst the top 45 applications on Facebook, and made Mesmo.TV the largest TV show community on that social network.

Mesmo.TV plans to continue focusing on its social network efforts and looks forward to expanding to other networks, such as MySpace, who might open up in the near future. The company is also talking with TV networks to bring online videos to its users.
About Mesmo TV

“Mesmo TV” (formerly called TV Show Trivia) is the largest social TV application and community on the Facebook Platform. On Mesmo TV you can play TV trivia, discuss your favorite shows and share your favorite characters and quotes with your facebook friends. MesmoTV is building highly engaging, fun, social TV applications that that allow you to engage with your friends and favorite shows.

Mesmo.TV has been funded by a group of talented and successful entrepreneurs and some of the key people are listed below.

Davin Miyoshi Co-founder/CEO 
Jesse Hull Co-founder/CTO 
Debarshi Kar Co-founder/VP of Engineering 
Daphne Carmeli Board Member 
Auren Hoffman Board Member 
Cindy McCaffrey Board Member 
Munjal Shah Board Member 
Ben T. Smith, IV Board Member 
Aydin Senkut Investor 
Mike Maples Investor 
Naval Ravikant Investor 
Georges Harik Investor 

More

http://www.mesmo.tv/
http://blog.mesmo.tv/2007/05/about-us.html
http://apps.facebook.com/tvtrivia/?entrySource=mesmohomepage
http://apps.bebo.com/mesmotv/?entrySource=mesmohomepage
http://apps.facebook.com/tvtrivia/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/mesmo.tv
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/04/social-video-company-mesmotv-raises-900000-of-series-a-funding/
http://www.pehub.com/article/articledetail.php?articlepostid=8047
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/07/17/mesmotv-discovers-videos-you-like/

iPower – the worst hosting company I have ever seen

Having to blog for such ridiculous situation in the light of Christmas is not an easy task to do, but I have to.

One thing seems clear to me today iPower, Inc, is rapidly heading towards the “deadpool” and is on its way to totally disintegrate itself as a hosting company.

We were part of a highly promising start-up company that had the bad luck to be hosted on a dedicated server with the iPower company. Last week the server went down and all of our attempts to have a knowledgeable customer rep on the phone, email or chat to get our problem resolved or at least being told what the problem is have completely failed. The project was very important site (everyone’s site is important) and we were in initial talks with potential investors when the disaster struck us and our nightmares begun.

Simply put, this company has the worst customer service department and approach towards its clients we have ever experienced in our business practice and we can claim we have a vast business experience, more than 20 years in the IT sector and more than 10 years over Internet.

Their live chat support is outsourced with liveperson and the representatives there are absolutely unaware of what we were talking about, copying and pasting pre-made questions and answers and when you ask them concrete questions there are replying with no concrete details and you end up spending an hour or two without any luck to get your issue resolved.

Calling on their customer service telephone is yet another tragedy – normally you end up waiting for at least 50 minutes on the phone until somebody answers on the line. Things are here even worse. First off they ask for your domain name and you are feeling hopeful something will help you out now. After you tell them your domain name and after waiting for 5 minutes more, they are coming back telling you that your domain name is not registered with their system but with GoDaddy (in our case it is true) and they cannot do anything more to help. One second before you freak out, you just calm down and try to explain them that you are on dedicated server there and the domain name is not of particular interest to you. The guy then asks you for your user name and password for their platform; surprise you do not have such ones. You then try to explain that you never had user name or password because you had never used their platform and you had never been given with such a chance to do so. Once you insist further that you are talking about dedicated server and you can provide them with the IP address the customer rep is then saying just OK, give it to me. Fine, we think this time we are on the right direction but not really as it turns out. After yet another 5 minutes waiting on the line the customer rep is returning with surprising news, we did not find your server. While the rep is trying to get rid of us, we are desperately trying to ask what the problem is anyway and how that is possible our server is not found. We are then asked for the last 4 digits of the primary account holder’s credit card and once provided with the rep went off line again for yet another 5 minutes. Upon his return he further asked for our full names and other personal details and when we have in return asked for his surname the customer rep refused to give it to us. He simply asked why and when we have politely explained that we might want to speak with his supervisor he just said he is busy. Anyway we gave up on further chasing the poor guy and start begging him to do something and help us out, we have recommended he reboots our server. His respond to our request something to be done was yet another shocking statement from iPower: it is not his job and he is not rebooting servers. Realizing that we go no where with this guy on the phone we have simply given up and hanged up.

A few days later and after having tried pretty much everything to contact them again and have our issue resolved we are again landing on a customer rep on the phone. After all standard and time wasting questions the tech rep is stating our server is working and everything seems normally according him. Great you may think but you are wrong our server is still down and after telling this guy that we were not able to ping the server he just replied that our office must be behind firewall and that’s our problem, we cannot access our server otherwise it is working fine. While putting efforts to calm down and not go against this guy over the phone we tried to calmly explain him that a web based ping server is reporting that the packages are lost at 100% being tried from 10 different locations from all over the world and our office firewall is our last problem in this moment. The guy then just replied OK, I will open a new ticket for you and when being asked how long it would take for our server to get back to normal he simply put it As Soon As Possible and said he cannot help us anymore.

One day later our server is still down and unreachable. At the end of the day we are seeing a new email from iPower staying that our server has been worked out and should be up and running within 45 minutes. What a happiness for us, we were thinking, almost ready to leave for Christmas with everything settled well down. Well, wishful thinking, 5 hours later our server hence our site is still down.

We have also realized yet another fact that you always speak with different names at their customer service department and when the next time you call them up and want to speak with the same person for the sake of better understanding and skip all the identification questions and the usual crap, the guy you presently speak with is telling you that the person from your previous phone call is not remembering you.

7 days later our server is still down, unreachable, the site is inaccessible and our business is totally harmed, just before the end of the year. Well we admit that technology issues, problems and difficulties are happening all the way, including to RackSpace most recently (great customer support btw). What made us pissed off is the lack of normal customer support to explain what the problem after all is and the way their customer reps were treating their customers being sarcastic, ironic and very impolite in particular moments.

Their support section is filled with erroneous instructions. There are normally 100+ people in line at chat support and at least 1 hour wait by phone. Customer support is virtually non-existent after they make a mess out of your website.

No emails were ever replied and returned to us.

Having a quick research conducted over Internet we find out the shocking reality, we are not alone. It turns out a countless people are furious over iPower and lots of businesses are affected. A number of law suits are promised to be put up against the Arizona company and even a class action lawsuit against IPowerWeb is in preparation.

In another site iPowerWeb and iPower currently has 214 user reviews: 30 positive and 184 negative. So far 14% of the reviews submitted have said they would recommend iPowerWeb and iPower. The reviews go as far as 5 years back in the time as the most recent years and most there are no recommendations at all. It indicates the company is worsening as it grows older.

Yet another group of unhappy customers are doing campaign calling for a boycott by potential new customers of IPowerWeb has been initiated and as well as an organized effort to commence an class action lawsuit against IPowerWeb for business interruptions and monetary losses incurred as a result of IPower’s mandated “transition” to new servers and “hosting platform”.

The ultimate goal is to initiate a class action lawsuit against iPower to recover losses caused by their mandated “transition” and to force them to offer options including remaining on the “old platform” if customer so wishes; and to initiate a boycott against iPower to discourage new customers from contracting with them as a web host.

There have been horrendous and ongoing problems with iPower and their “changeover” to a new “platform”.

“There are no options”, the customer is told. You either allow them to transfer your website and business for you or you pay someone to do it if you can’t do it yourself and brace yourself for multiple and ongoing headaches.

There are nightmare stories of people who have lost their businesses and their income because of iPower, because their website no longer functions and customer support at iPower is virtually non-existent and non-responsive after they “move” your website and business to their new “platform”.

Ultimatum is to initiate class action lawsuit against IPower to recover losses and force changes in customer support/options.

Law firms who are interested in representing IPower/Endurance International customers in a class action lawsuit for business losses and disruption of business are asked to contact news@northcountrygazette.org

Just like it is not enough for the iPower to have the worst customer service on Web but it seems they are involved into hosting a countless number of sites that direct visitors to nasty drive-by installations.

The company’s CEO said in an email the problem has been fixed, but as of blog post time we were still able to identify iPower-hosted sites that were redirecting to malicious servers.

In May, iPower came to the attention of researchers at StopBadware.org, who found more than 10,000 compromised websites were being hosted by the Phoenix-based company.

Later the same week, iPower CEO Thomas Gorny said less than 1 percent of the sites his company hosts were compromised. With company claims of at least 700,000 customers, that would translate to 7,000.

I remember a friend of mine had a bad experience with his email account of a web site he had hosted with iPower and his server’s IP address was listed on spamhaus.org due to bad neighborhood and because of the practice iPower relies on for ongoing emails. Spamhaus tracks the Internet’s Spammers, Spam Gangs and Spam Services, provides dependable realtime anti-spam protection for Internet networks, and works with Law Enforcement to identify and pursue spammers worldwide. On his attempts to resolve the issue with iPower and expose the spammers no body from the Arizona company was responsive and helpful. They later moved out from iPower.

About iPower Inc.

iPower, Inc., founded in October 2001, provides web hosting and web services for small- and medium-sized businesses worldwide looking to build, manage, promote and profit from an online presence. The company, which offers domain registration, web site hosting, e-commerce tools, merchant services, application hosting, online marketing, site optimization services, and web site design, is also famous for the speed and effectiveness of its customer support.

The company’s address:

iPower, Inc.
919 East Jefferson
Phoenix, Arizona
United States
Phone: +1.3103141610
Sales Number:  888-511-4678 
Support Number:  888-511-4678 
www.ipower.com

Founder and CEO of the company is Thomas Gorny (in the middle on the picture) and the company is based in Arizona, US. Thomas Gorny spent the first 14 years of his life in Poland. A move to Germany found him attending a prestigious business college and running his own PC hardware business. Then, two months before graduation, he dropped out and sold his business for very little money to seize an opportunity to immigrate to America. The risk paid off not once, but twice.

Gorny joined one of the very first web hosting companies in 1996 and earned 20 percent ownership. The company was sold in 1998, and when Gorny left in 1999, he was in the money. “I never thought I’d go back to web hosting,” he says. So he jumped into marketing and real estate, but when the bubble burst in 2001, his stocks dropped and his real estate projects suffered. “I just got involved with the wrong people in business,” says Gorny, who lost everything.

“Being on an investor visa, I couldn’t even go to work for somebody because I didn’t have a work permit,” Gorny says. After re-examining the hosting market, he realized there was room for a company offering web hosting and site building for nontechnical users. Armed with his American Express card, Gorny willed iPower into existence in late 2001. “I said to myself, ‘If we can acquire 10 customers a day, I’m going to be in heaven.’” The company garnered 60,000 customers in its first year. Now with more than 500,000, iPower recently moved its headquarters from Santa Monica, California, to Phoenix.

Maggie Kinsley is the company’s Director of Human Resources for iPower.

Just our 2 cents: Thomas Gorny must put every effort to improve his company’s customer service if he wants to stay in the business simply ASAP. Unless this happens, Gorny might be the first to witness how, from business having more than 500,000 clients today, iPower melts down to 10 clients as quick as it has grown, so does his American dream.

For anyone who wants to see iPower’s record with the BBB, go to the Phoenix BBB site below and search for “IPower”.

Phoenix Better Business Bureau
4428 N. 12th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85014-4585
Phone: (602)264-1721
Fax: (602)263-0997
Email: info@phoenix.bbb.org
Web: http://www.phoenix.bbb.org

After all there is only one simple conclusion left. We are strongly recommending anybody out there stop using or never start using iPower for mission-critical projects if you do care of your own business. Another piece of advice from us would be for you to choose Web Host That Values Their Customers, Not iPower. Good hosting companies, based on our personal experience, are both RackSpace and Dreamhost.

Our simple appeal is avoid relying on and using iPower in Arizona, US.

P.S.

In the day of this post our server was still down.

More

http://www.ipower.com/ipower/index.bml
http://www.northcountrygazette.org/news/2007/12/16/boycott_ipower/
http://www.thepoint.com/campaigns/just-say-no-to-i-power-web
http://www.webhostingunleashed.com/ipowerweb-and-ipower?gclid=COuG1eXBuZACFQNhMAodfSphHA
https://www.thepoint.com/targets/ipowerweb-inc
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/12/14/latest_ipower_breach/
http://tacit.livejournal.com/
http://blogs.stopbadware.org/articles/2007/05/04/stopbadware-identifies-hosting-providers-of-larged-numbers-of-sites-in-badware-website-clearinghouse
http://www.stopbadware.org/home
http://www.spamhaus.org/
http://www.northcountrygazette.org/news/2007/12/06/stay_away_ipower/  http://www.northcountrygazette.org/news/2007/12/09/ipower_customers/   http://www.northcountrygazette.org/news/2007/12/14/transition_disaster/
http://www.northcountrygazette.org/news/2007/12/17/ipower_fraud/
http://www.yelp.com/biz/ipowerweb-inc-phoenix
http://hostjury.com/blog/page-14
http://hostjury.com/blog/view/27/ipowerweb-ipower-clients-enduring-massive-problems
http://www.vistainter.com/reviews/I/ipower.com/
http://gallery.ipower.com/main.php?g2_view=core.ShowItem&g2_itemId=10
http://www.entrepreneur.com/magazine/entrepreneur/2006/october/167764-4.html
http://forums.devarticles.com/web-hosting-45/ipower-has-no-power-10573.html
http://www.my3cents.com/showReview.cgi?id=30830
http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/ipower-c38553.html
http://www.americanbadbusinesslist.com/ipowerweb-complaints.htm

Hakia takes $5M more, totals $16M

In a new round of funding Hakia, the natural language processing search engine has raised additional $5M. The money came from a previous investor, some of which are Noble Grossart Investments, Alexandra Investment Management, Prokom Investments, KVK, and several angel investors. With plans of fully launching some time next year, Hakia has been working towards improving its relevancy and adding some social features like “Meet the Others” to their site. Hakia is known to have raised $11 million in its first round of funding in late 2006 from a panoply of investors scattered across the globe who were attracted by the company’s semantic search technology. As far as we know, the company’s total funding is now $16M.

We think that from all alternative search engines, excluding Ask.com and Clusty.com, Hakia seems to be one of the most trafficked engines with almost 1M unique visitors as we last checked the site’s publicly available stats. If it is us to rank the most popular search engines I would put them the following way: Google, Yahoo, Ask.com, MSN, Naver, some other regional leaders, Clusty and perhaps somewhere there is hakia going.

On the other hand and according to Quantcast, Hakia is basically not so popular site and is reaching less than 150,000 unique visitors per month. Compete is reporting much better numbers – slightly below 1 million uniques per month. Considering the fact the search engine is still in its beta stage these numbers are more than great. However, analyzing further the traffic curve on both measuring sites above it appears that the traffic hakia gets is sort of campaign based, in other words generated due to advertising, promotion or PR activity and is not permanent organic traffic due to heavy usage of the site.

In related news a few days ago Google’s head of research Peter Norvig said that we should not expect to see natural-language search at Google anytime soon.

In a Q&A with Technology Review, he says:

We don’t think it’s a big advance to be able to type something as a question as opposed to keywords. Typing “What is the capital of France?” won’t get you better results than typing “capital of France.”

Yet he does acknowledge that there is some value in the technology:

We think (Google) what’s important about natural language is the mapping of words onto the concepts that users are looking for. To give some examples, “New York” is different from “York,” but “Vegas” is the same as “Las Vegas,” and “Jersey” may or may not be the same as “New Jersey.” That’s a natural-language aspect that we’re focusing on. Most of what we do is at the word and phrase level; we’re not concentrating on the sentence. We think it’s important to get the right results rather than change the interface.

In other words, a natural-language approach is useful on the back-end to create better results, but it does not present a better user experience. Most people are too lazy to type in more than one or two words into a search box anyway. The folks at both Google and Yahoo know that is true for the majority of searchers. The natural-language search startups are going to find out about that the hard way.

Founded in 2004, hakia is a privately held company with headquarters in downtown Manhattan. hakia operates globally with teams in the United States, Turkey, England, Germany, and Poland.

The Founder of hakia is Dr. Berkan who is a nuclear scientist with a specialization in artificial intelligence and fuzzy logic. He is the author of several articles in this area, including the book Fuzzy Systems Design Principles published by IEEE in 1997. Before launching hakia, Dr. Berkan worked for the U.S. Government for a decade with emphasis on information handling, criticality safety and safeguards. He holds a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee, and B.S. in Physics from Hacettepe University, Turkey.

More

[ http://venturebeat.com/2007/12/12/hakia-raising-5m-for-semantic-search/ ]
[ http://mashable.com/2007/12/12/hakia-funded/ ]
[ http://www.hakia.com/ ]
[ http://blog.hakia.com/ ]
[ http://www.hakia.com/about.html ]
[ http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/hakia_takes_on_google_semantic_search.php ]
[ http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/hakia_meaning-based_search.php ]
[ http://siteanalytics.compete.com/hakia.com/?metric=uv ]
[ http://www.internetoutsider.com/2007/07/the-big-problem.html ]
[ http://www.quantcast.com/search/hakia.com ]
[ http://www.redherring.com/Home/19789 ]
[ http://web2innovations.com/hakia.com.php ]
[ http://www.pandia.com/sew/507-hakia.html ]
[ http://www.searchenginejournal.com/hakias-semantic-search-the-answer-to-poor-keyword-based-relevancy/5246/ ]
[ http://arstechnica.com/articles/culture/hakia-semantic-search-set-to-music.ars ]
[ http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9800141-7.html ]
[ http://searchforbettersearch.com/ ]
[ http://web2innovations.com/money/2007/12/01/is-google-trying-to-become-a-social-search-engine/ ]
[ http://www.web2summit.com/cs/web2006/view/e_spkr/3008 ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/18/googles-norvig-is-down-on-natural-language-search/ ]

Digg guys are up for sale again, quietly

The situation around Digg is heating up, but not because there are many potential buyers bidding for the company, but it seems the rumors are all around us telling stories where Digg is in desperation to sell out. It has happened before; it happens today again, the only difference is the price tag. Digg is again getting serious about a sale and has hired Allen & Company to shop the site for what rumors claim to be anything in the $300 million range.

Investment bank Allen & Company has been involved in a number of high profile mergers and acquisitions in the past. Interesting for the Allen & Company is the privacy the investment firm seems to be working in as argument for which is the absence of even a basic site for the company on Web. Perhaps they don’t like publicity. Yet, we have found the firm’s contact details, which can be found among the other links on the end of the story’s page.

For Allen & Company, there’s no business like financing show business. The investment bank serves variously as investor, underwriter, and broker to some of the biggest names in entertainment, technology, and information. Viewed as something of a secret society, the firm has had a quiet hand in such hookups as Seagram (now part of Vivendi) and Universal Studios, Hasbro and Galoob Toys, and Disney and Capital Cities/ABC. The firm’s famous annual retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho, attracts more moguls than a double-black ski run (Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and eBay CEO Meg Whitman have attended). Brothers Herbert and Charles Allen founded the company in 1922.

Key people and executives for Allen & Company LLC are as follows:

  • Non-Executive Chairman Donald R. (Don) Keough
  • President, CEO, and Director Herbert A. (Herb) Allen
  • Managing Director and CFO Kim M. Wieland

The obvious question is will Digg sell with a $300 million valuation given that it has been on the market (quietly) for months, even year or two, with no serious interest to date?

According to Quantcast, which we believe is very accurate, Digg.com is hugely popular site and is reaching morethan 22 million unique visitors per month.

Here we go again with lots of speculations for one of the top and most popular web 2.0 websites: digg.com. In our understanding there must be something wrong with either Digg, its business/revenue model or the momentum is simply lost, or something else.

Here are our thoughts on why Digg.com did not get sold so far:

  1. Not profitable enough towards their claims of having 22M visitors a month; in other words too many visitors, too much popularity that seem hard to be monetized.
  2. Digg.com is Slashdot.org 2.0., how much did Slashdot.org go for? As far as we remember it was bought for $20M something.
  3. Their technology and concept is not distinctive and definitely not defendable. There are too many followers and competitors, including Netscape.com (now Propeller.com). Digg set the standard but it seems too many old media companies are building up the same technologies within their web properties which will additionally undermine Digg.com’s popularity.
  4. Digg.com was and still is widely criticized for being corrupted in getting manipulatively different news stories promoted to the home page by a handful savvy Digg.com users.
  5. Geeks are not clicking on ads, as what many people say, so the advertising model seems highly unlikely to be the panacea for Digg.com.
  6. In the past Digg.com and News Corp negotiations have failed for one reason or another, which might have negative impact towards other potential acquirers.
  7. Digg is in one way or another under the control of its top users like Dmoz.org and Wikpiedia. What helped those sites grow to such popularity levels is what seems to be their setback. The new owner has to deal with this issue and it is not a small one.
  8. Top Digg users are often requested to help stories get the home page, sometimes in return for cash payments.
  9. Digg has issues with spam, scam and gaming of their system.
  10. When you have a system that works like Digg, of course there will always be people wanting to organize and promote stories that they like or have interest in. You can’t expect people to vote as an individual, they have friends, they have jobs, and they are involved in communities. Digg should have focused into the tech news at first and stay there. Now Digg is becoming mainstream with inaccurate, sensationalist, boring news mostly recompiled by bloggers from other news. As some people say: the front page posts are recycled news of web, nothing new there. Unless you want to see articles about Digg or the newest Free collection of fonts, the stories are crap. The only stories and news that make it to the home page appears to be the ones submitted by the top users.
  11. Digg is a great idea which has grown faster than its creators’ ability to administer it. In a perfect world, they’d be ahead of these sort of problems, rather than playing catch-up trying to fix scenario after it’s proven to be broken. I suppose broken is a bit harsh actually, but the site is definitely being gamed with Rose et al trying their hardest to implement some rules/policies that will keep it together without destroying the essence of what the site is all about.
  12. Being forerunners in this sort of self-run community, they get to sort out all the pain for those similar sites that will follow later and improve on the idea. Slashdot lead the way for a long while in this regard, and Digg.com came along and improved on the model without having to figure out a lot of the issues Slashdot had already been through. Now Digg is leading the way and having to wade through the mire themselves.
  13. We think that Digg is great success, and with the success all the issues come along, but it takes on old media outlets, which puts fire under their feet and unless they figure this out and find their niche, they are under the risk to have their concept and popular site ruined.
  14. Most users are around and gone after few months, short-term loyalty with revolving door.
  15. Mob mentality crowd which creates abusive comment section.

Despite anything said above, Digg.com, in our view, does cost more than $300M at the very current moment, with or without steady revenues, simply because of its popularity, leadership, reach and target audience. 22 Million unique visitors per month is almost a mainstream site and we have seen sites with less that traffic getting acquired in the 10 digit range.

Yet we cannot get rid from the feeling there must be something wrong that the general public is not aware of, which might be the key reason behind the decision of so many suitors so far to have backed off.

More

http://digg.com/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/17/for-sale-used-social-voting-site-asking-price-300-million-goes-by-the-name-of-digg/
http://www.hoovers.com/allen-&-company/–ID__51026–/free-co-factsheet.xhtml
http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/12/28/no-acquisition-for-digg-raise-series-b-round-instead/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/07/just-sell-digg-already-jay/
http://nextnetnews.blogspot.com/2006/12/why-nobody-buys-diggcom.html
http://venturebeat.com/2007/12/17/source-digg-hires-bank-hoping-to-sell-for-300-million-or-more/
http://nextnetnews.blogspot.com/2007/02/diggcom-fights-spam-scam-games.html
http://www.quantcast.com/digg.com
http://www.pronetadvertising.com/articles/latest-digg-payola-exposed.html
http://valleywag.com/tech/rumormonger/digg-close-to-a-300-million-sale-320145.php
http://valleywag.com/tech/sun-valley/whos-selling-whos-buying-at-the-allen-confab-276716.php
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2004/06/28/374371/index.htm

Sequoia Funding for Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Firm Kenshoo

Kenshoo, a search engine marketing firm, has received an undisclosed amount of funding from Sequoia Capital. The end-to-end search marketing solution aimed at advertisers and ad agencies operates on an automated technology for advertising campaigns, and a core feature of the company’s suite of offerings relies on the longtail keyword expansion. It is an exclusive search formula using patented multilingual keyword expansion, automatically identifies thousands of related keywords from real user search terms with no need for manpower and hours of effort. Updates are provided on a constant basis on the campaign ensuring updated information on the exact keywords.

The basic idea behind their concept is to minimize the amount of man power needed to run a successful and informed advertising campaign online. Running an AdWords or related CPC text ad campaign is a time consuming and hard science process

Those advertisers that are savvy into it run up against the mind numbing tasks to entering data over and over again so they can run side-by-sides and constantly improve their dollar efficiency, and changes based on one cent’s move in either direction can sometimes mean the difference between a profitable ad campaign and one that ends up losing tons of money.

So it seems there is a growing need for automated tools in regards to online advertising and marketing, especially with the growing number of ways in which campaigns can be distributed across the web.

Their flagship product is called KENSHOO SEARCH(tm) and provides automated management for campaigns across multiple search engine platforms such as Google, Yahoo and MSN.

KENSHOO SEARCH(tm) is an end-to-end SEM platform, which automates the process of building and optimizing cross channel search campaigns.

Quality Management with KENSHOO SEARCH

Quality Management is a unique approach which automates all aspects of Search campaigns. Bid management is not enough anymore! In today’s search engines arena, creating a successful SEM campaign consists of a wide array of elements;

  • Selecting relevant keywords
  • Updating deep links URL’s
  • Creating effective ads
  • Providing and constantly updating bids
  • Monitoring the traffic
  • Structuring cross platform campaigns
  • Reporting and analyzing data on-time

Long-tail keyword expansion

Kenshoo’s exclusive search formula guarantees every search engine marketing campaign a long tail. By using patented multilingual keyword expansion, KENSHOO SEARCH(tm) automatically identifies thousands of related keywords from real user search terms- with no need for manpower and hours of effort.

Dynamic Sites

Website content perpetually shifts as new and improved products reach the cyber-shelves. The need for updating multiple campaigns is vital in order to keep up with this ever-changing environment. With the unique ability to automatically update itself as web content changes, KENSHOO SEARCH(tm) enables the client high ROI SEM campaigns. By staying in tune with this constantly changing environment, KENSHOO SEARCH(tm) seamlessly index a site and upload the exact model/brands or other keywords and data together with the deep link URL to the search engines. This enables the upload of the merchant’s products onto the Search engines as well as updating it as the site changes. The added bonus is the low cost per click, high CTR, high conversion rates and maximized ROI that result from the highly relevant landing page.

Intelligent Bid Management

Featuring an easy-to-use and configurable Bid Management solution, KENSHOO SEARCH ™ allows your bids to be flexible, applying its’ logic to all major search engines, it even allows you to create your own bid policy. Whether your products require maximum exposure or a positive ROI on any level, KENSHOO SEARCH(tm) follows campaign behavior in real time, detecting changes and reacting to the competition, insuring high ROI on your SEM campaigns.

Click Fraud

KENSHOO SEARCH(tm) offers the invaluable asset of identifying click fraud in real time. With the ability to manage multiple campaigns all at once, KENSHOO SEARCH(tm) reports the detection of Click Fraud immediately, protecting advertisers from over clicking, and allowing clients to obtain a refund. In addition, KENSHOO SEARCH(tm) has ability to pause campaigns when sites malfunction.

Quality Reporting

Stay on track with comprehensive reporting of your campaigns. KENSHOO SEARCH(tm) understands the importance when it comes to reporting. With Kenshoo search, in-depth reports are created that analyze traffic from different networks, displaying click distribution and ROI geographically, daily, and hourly, to take your campaigns to the highest level of success.

Kenshoo’s service enables advertisers and agencies to reach high volumes and optimize campaigns.

To utilize their services you simply give them your URL, and a designated account manager will assist you wit the process. They work hard to understand your targets and goals, analyze your website, assess your campaign, and optimize it to suit your individual needs.

The company is based in Israel. In August 2007, Kenshoo began applying its search engine marketing analytics on behalf of its first large client, AOL-owned IM company ICQ, also based in Israel. It also works with agencies such as McCann-Erickson and AlthogetherDigital. A representative for the company said one-year-old Kenshoo is focused on bringing its business to the UK sometime early next year. Once it’s up and running in Europe, Kenshoo then plans to build a U.S. presence.

Yoav Izhar-Prato, CEO and co-founder of Kenshoo adds, “We are thrilled to be joining forces with Sequoia, a partner with an unsurpassed track record of successful Internet investments such as Yahoo!, Google, Apple, PayPal and YouTube. Kenshoo is determined to be the leading provider of innovative Search Marketing solutions; harnessing our in-depth knowledge of the industry, our clients’ constructive feedback, technological strengths and continuous innovation- I believe we are well positioned to do so.”

Sequoia Capital is the Google backer and it is coming as no surprise they are funding a company that is helping in particular users and customers that are spending their ad money on Google.

Although Moritz sat on the evaluating committee, he is not the investing partner from Sequoia. Yuval Baharav, a partner in Sequoia’s Israeli office, is the one who invested and will take a board seat. This is Kenshoo’s first venture round. Terms were not disclosed, although one report in an Israeli paper puts it at a few million dollars. Previously, the startup raised about one million dollars from angel investors, and has been funding itself from operations.

More about Sequoia Capital

Since 1972, Sequoia Capital has provided startup venture capital for very smart people who want to turn ideas into companies. As the “Entrepreneurs Behind the Entrepreneurs,” Sequoia Capital’s Partners have worked with innovators such as Sandy Lerner and Len Bozack of Cisco Systems, Jerry Yang and David Filo of Yahoo!, Gaurav Garg of Redback Networks, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Dan Warmenhoven of Network Appliance, T.J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor, Lou Tomasetta of Vitesse Semiconductor, Steve Jobs of Apple Computer and Larry Ellison of Oracle. The companies organized by Sequoia Capital now account for about 12% of the value of NASDAQ.

More about Kenshoo Ltd

Kenshoo is a provider of end-to-end search marketing automated technology for advertisers and agencies worldwide.

The company’s flagship product KENSHOO SEARCH(tm) provides automated Quality Management for cross- platform search campaigns. Kenshoo’s unique technology and approach enables advertisers and agencies worldwide to reach high volumes, optimize campaigns and to boost ROI.

Kenshoo is an innovator in Search Engine Marketing with extensive industry knowledge and a dynamic approach. Kenshoo’s strength is in developing SEM technology to increase ROI on search campaigns.

Kenshoo’s flagship product, KENSHOO SEARCH(tm) is an end-to-end SEM platform, which automates the process of building and optimizing cross channel search campaigns. KENSHOO SEARCH?utilizes Quality Management, the company’s unique approach to search marketing that automates much of the labor intensive search marketing operations.

As a Google Qualified Company, a Yahoo! Ambassador and Microsoft adExcellence, Kenshoo provides its licensed SEM platform and services to publishers, agencies, blue-chip advertisers, and affiliate marketers world wide.

Management Team

Yoav Izhar-Prato, CEO & Co-Founder- As a founder of several start-ups around the globe and former manager of ECI Thailand, Mr. Izhar-Prato brings over ten years of business management to Kenshoo. Mr. Izhar-Prato carries an Executive B.A., Business management from Ruppin College.

Alon Sheafer, VP Marketing & Co-Founder- Mr. Sheafer brings over ten years of internet experience to Kenshoo. Alon has a strong Technological background combined with sales and marketing experience. Formerly founder and CEO of Bazman, a price comparison website. Mr. Sheafer holds a B.Sc in Computer Science from the Academic College of Tel-Aviv Jaffa.

Nir Cohen, CTO & CO-Founder- As former founder and CTO of Bazman, a price comparison website, Mr. Cohen carries years of experience in leading design and development teams for companies such as Demantra and Imperva. Mr. Cohen holds a B.Sc in Physics & Computer science from Ben Gurion University, Israel.

Andrey Shirben, Head of Campaigns- A former VP in marketing with Storewiz Ltd, Mr. Shirben brings a history of technology experience to Kenshoo. As Head of Campaigns, Mr. Shirben’s background lies in business management and computer science with a BA in Management & Computer science from Open University in Israel.

Udi Broyer, CFO & COO- Mr. Broyer brings over ten years of Financial and operational experience to Kenshoo. Mr. Broyer previously served as the Director of Finance of Metacafe a leading UGC Video web site. He held various executive financial positions such as financial consultants for JVP a Venture Capital firm and VP of Finance at Fundtech. Mr. Broyer is a CPA and served as a Senior Audit Manager in the high-tech group at “Ernst & Young” Israel. Mr. Broyer holds a B.A in Accounting and Economics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.

The market

SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is the younger brother of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). In general who fails to perform well on the SEO scene is forced later to rely on the SEM. SEO promises organic results and traffic while SEM does that for paid campaigns. On the other hand we think there are thousands of large-scale corporations and millions of small ones that have little to no ideas on how to develop white-hat SEO practices for their web based businesses and are in one way or another going to rely and depend on SEM and companies like Kenshoo for instance.

Otherwise the SEM market is very crowded and the environment is extremely competitive; there are literally thousands of small and mid-level SEM firms in the sector, yet having Sequoia on your side might be one step in the right direction for Kenshoo. I remember one firm in particular called Fathom Online. Fathom Online received $6 million in financing in its first round of venture funding a few years ago. The financing came from Constellation Ventures and private investors. As part of the funding, Constellation managing directors Virginia Turezyn and Dennis Miller have joined Fathom’s board of directors by that time. What we know Former Ask Jeeves executives Chris Churchill and Chris Raniere founded the San Francisco-based search engine marekting firm in 2002. Fathom also helps clients design and run paid search campaigns as clients include Hilton, Covad and Microsoft..

More

[ http://www.kenshoo.com/ ]
[ http://www.kenshoo.com/blog.asp ]
[ http://www.kenshoo.com/news_sequoia_invest_in_kenshoo.asp ]
[ http://www.linkedin.com/pub/0/172/967 ]
[ http://mashable.com/2007/12/13/kenshoo-funded/ ]
[ http://www.venturecapitalupdate.com/node/970 ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/10/sequoia-invests-in-sem-automator-kenshoo/ ]
[ http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-israel-sem-provider-kenshoo-secures-first-round-in-support-of-european-/ ]
[ http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/071211/uktu014.html?.v=101 ]
[ http://www.fathomonline.com/ ]
[ http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum5/5033.htm ]

MyPunchBowl gets angel funding, relies on algorithm to recommend best dates

MyPunchBowl, the event planning site that has joined the new crowd of Evite rivals, has recently been angel funded. According to some sources like VentureBeat and Mashable, the exact amount of funding has not been disclosed, but it’s less than $1 million, and is enough to keep the team in development for another year, at least.

MyPunchBowl is known to have had a pretty good year, with several developments and feature upgrades to its event-planning service. More niche templates have been added to its collection, and they released their new Facebook application called “Party Animal.”

Partnerships with traditional media companies like the Boston Globe could also help to establish MyPunchBowl as a viable option for planning your next event.

In technological aspect they’ve been building out tools for each step of planning a party: finding supplies, inviting friends, setting a date, and the after party. MyPunchbowl has also made setting a date that much easier through the help of an algorithm that recommends the best date for your party. Connecting party organizers with suppliers in an algorithmic approach (supplies on-demand, recommendations in context of the party, individuals, events, at the right time and place etc.) could be a viable business model in our understanding and this is where the site is planning to make money from, see below comments.

More about Punchbowl Software

At Punchbowl Software, we believe that planning an event or party should be enjoyable and easy.

For the host, there are typically lots of pieces to organize: picking a date, sending invitations, choosing catering and entertainment, purchasing party supplies, and renting party equipment just to name a few. It can be a time-consuming process, and it usually isn’t much fun.

To solve this problem, we’ve created MyPunchbowl, a new web application for event and party planning. MyPunchbowl provides software for every stage of planning. With MyPunchbowl.com you’ll actually enjoy planning while saving time.

“They are the developers of one of the hottest websites in America and around the world. These are the folks that are at the vanguard of web development” – one reads at CNBC. 

For now, MyPunchbowl is avoiding monetizing the site through display ads. Instead, it plans to open partnerships with vendors, helping users secure any party supplies they need. To make money, the site is working on opening more relationships with vendors. A guest asked to bring the turkey to a Thanksgiving event, for example, might receive a targeted offering from Butterball.

According to Quantcast the site’s reach is less than 12,000 American visitors per month and compared to Evite.com’s 7 million uniques / mo MyPunchbowl looks like it has way too much to do in order to be called even close competitor to Evite, despite the press attention it gained over the past year http://corp.mypunchbowl.com/news.php

The company was founded by software and user interface experts who are fanatics about simplicity and ease of use. As they say “they were frustrated with the current tools, and knew there had to be a better way”. The funding came from Intel Capital and eCoast Angels.

As far as we know MyPunchBowl’s competitor Planypus has recently been funded as well.

Other competitors include Skobee or Renkoo although they have differentiated themselves by helping plan the casual outings for drinks or dinner. Socializr is taking a social networking approach.

The company’s founder is Matt Douglas. Douglas, whose principal offices are based in the Boston Metrowest technology center (Natick, MA), has three employees for now. Formerly of Adobe Systems and Bose Corporation, Matt Douglas has 12+ years in product management and marketing with expertise in software product development. At Adobe, Matt was responsible for Adobe Premiere where he grew revenue from $15M to $50M in four years. At Bose, he was a senior manager in the professional division where he led a hardware and software product team. Matt has a degree in music from the University of Rochester and an M.B.A. from UNC Chapel Hill. Matt’s favorite reason to party is Groundhog Day–he and his wife held their 11th annual Groundhog Day party in 2007.

Otherwise Punchbowl Software is a privately held Delaware Corporation.

The competition in the event planning sector looks intensive, but the vast majority of the startups being active in the arena have chosen specific niches, and will be trying to secure their own markets without invading each other’s territory.

More

[ http://www.mypunchbowl.com/ ]
[ http://corp.mypunchbowl.com/ ]
[ http://venturebeat.com/2007/01/15/mypunchbowl-joins-growing-list-of-evite-rivals/ ]
[ http://mashable.com/2007/10/02/mypunchbowl-funded/ ]
[ http://venturebeat.com/2007/10/02/mypunchbowl-lands-seed-funding-for-online-invitations/ ]
[ http://www.quantcast.com/mypunchbowl.com ]
[ http://www.quantcast.com/evite.com ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/05/21/mypunchbowl-the-algorithm-schedules-your-event/ ]
[ http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2007/07/22/will_boston_ever_catch_up/?p1=MEWell_Pos5 ]

Sportingo has raised $3.2 in funding, moves to London

Sportingo, a sports fan portal and blogging community, has raised $3.2 million in funding from London-based Ingenious Media. 

Launched early this year in Israel, Sportingo is a site where users can write their own match reviews and commentary, and discuss others’ content. With the type of content that’s created on Sportingo, this is very much a blogging community for users to contribute to the larger discussion around different sports. A wide range of sports is covered on Sportingo, from cycling to swimming, cricket and rugby to soccer and beyond.

Sportingo is known to have already acquired a UK soccer blog, CaughtOffside, in June. The site has since opened an office in London. This deal could be classified as employment through acquisition this way effectively hiring the CaughtOffside’s author Chris Toy as chief editor.

The founder of the company is the Israeli Ze’ev Rozov who has recently moved from Israel to London, UK.

About Sportingo

Sportingo is all about sport. Whether we follow football, cricket, rugby, tennis, golf, cycling, darts or tiddly winks, as fans, the main thing that we all share, is a passion for our sport. This passion has led to many late nights, arguments over pints of beer and cups of tea and neglect of partners and friends, whilst we debate the greatest sporting moments of all time, the top football players and their monetary worth, the virtues of one day international cricket matches and the need to retain the tradition of Rugby Union and Rugby League as 2 different games.

Sportingo is about fans sharing their opinions with the sports community. All fans are invited to register and write articles about any sport related event ranging from match reviews and team performances to nostalgia articles about memorable moments in sport.

Sportingo is about fans writing for fans; fans commenting and ranking the articles of other fans; fans deciding what are the topical and important stories of the day, fans setting the sport agenda.

Sportingo recently acquired the award winning football blog CaughtOffside. CaughtOffside was founded in 2006 and quickly became a leading football blog in the UK and across the world. The site focuses primarily on English football clubs and has developed a strong culture and reputation amongst the online football community.

Sportingo exists for the fans and because of the fans. As fans you are part of the website’s success. We welcome you and look forward to your contributions.

About Ingenious

Ingenious is an independent and integrated group of companies advising and investing solely in media, thereby providing a unique service to clients and investors.

Founded in 1998 by Patrick McKenna, Ingenious is one of the leading investors in the UK’s creative industries.

Our collective knowledge and experience has positioned us as the market leader in media investment and strategy and through our extensive network of relationships we are able to provide an unrivalled service to our clients.

We have the necessary depth of professional experience and expertise to provide both a high level of advisory services and investment to companies operating in the film, television, music, games and publishing sectors.

Our independence and impartiality allow us to work with a broad spectrum of other advisers, companies and financial institutions. We understand the needs of both the media sector and the investment community, thereby enabling us to work easily with both.

Alongside our private equity investments and project financing capability, we offer a range of media consultancy and corporate finance services and, through our asset management division, provide innovative solutions to the private investor.

More

[ http://www.sportingo.com/ ]
[ http://mashable.com/2007/10/02/sportingo-funded/ ]
[ http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-sports-fan-portal-sportingo-wins-65-funding-for-marketing-and-developme/ ]
[ http://www.ingeniousmedia.co.uk/flash.htm ]
[ http://www.sportingo.com/about_us/1001,4 ]
[ http://www.paidcontent.co.uk/entry/419-sports-fan-portal-sportingo-wins-32-funding-for-marketing-and-developme/ ]
[ http://sportingoblog.blogspot.com/2007/10/new-round-of-funding.html ]
[ http://sportingoblog.blogspot.com/2007/09/move-to-london.html ]

Google is taking on Wikipedia

Once known as one of the strongest and beneficial friendships on the Web between two hugely popular and recognized giants is today going to turn out into an Internet battle second to none.

It is no secret on Web that Google was in love with Wikipedia over the past years turning this small and free encyclopedia project into one of the most visited sites on Web today with over 220 million unique visitors per month. It is believed that at least 85% of the total monthly traffic to Wikipedia is sent to by Google. One solid argument in support of that thesis can be the fact every second article on Wikipedia is being ranked among the first, if not the first, results in Google’s SERPs resulting in unprecedented organic traffic and participation.

It is also well known fact that Google wished they had the chance to acquire Wikipedia and if it was possible it’s believed they could have done this even years ago. Due to the non-profit policy and structure Wikipedia is built upon it provided no legal pathway to such deal for Google to snatch the site in its early days.

Basically one can conclude that Google has always liked the idea and concept upon which Wikipedia is built up and since, due to obvious reasons, they were not able to buy the site they seem today are up to an idea dangerously similar to the Wikipedia and are obviously taking on the free encyclopedia.

News broke late yesterday that Google is in preparation to launch a new site called Knol to create a new user generated authoritative online knowledgebase of virtually everything.

Normally we would not pay attention on such type of news where a large-scale corporation is trying to copy/cat an already popular and established business model (concept) that did not turn into a large-scale company itself. This is happening all the time and is part of the modern capitalism except we found a couple of strategic facts that provoked us to express our opinion.

First of all the mythical authority and popularity of Wikipedia seems to be under attack and unlike any of the other attempts encountered before this time it is Google, a company that is possessing a higher degree of chance to make it happen, undermining Wikipedia despite its huge popularity and idealistic approach today.

A couple of weeks ago we have written an in-depth analysis how yet another mythical site Dmoz.org has fallen down and is on its half way to totally disintegrate itself and the only reason behind this trend we have found is the voluntary approach and principle the site relied ever since – almost 10 years of existence.

We think the same problem is endangering Wikipedia too and perhaps it is just matter of time we witness how the hugely popular free encyclopedia today will some day in the future start disintegrating the same way it happened to Dmoz.org due to the same reason – it hugely relies on and is heavily dependant upon the voluntary principle and the contribution of thousands of skilled and knowledgeable individuals. However we all know there is no free lunch, at least not in America. And once Wikipedia has its mythical image, today everyone wants to be associated with, lost and is no longer passing authority and respect on to its free knowledgeable contributors the free encyclopedia will then most likely start disintegrating and what’s today known to be an authoritative and high-quality knowledge data base will then become one of the biggest repository of low-quality and link rich articles of controversial and objectable information on the Web. Pretty much the same has already happened to Dmoz.org. The less the Wikipedia volunteers become interested to keep contributing their time and knowledge to the free site while fighting with an ever growing army of spammers and corporate PRs the more the low-quality and less authoritative information on the Wikipedia will grow to and that process appears unavoidable.

This is what Google seems to be up to and is looking forward to change. Google wants to compensate those knowledgeable contributors on a long term run that way avoid a potential crash in the future, which is unavoidable for every free-based service on the planet that had the luck to grow out of size. 

Having more than $10 billion in annual sales (most of it represents pure profit), and willingness to share that money with these knowledgeable people around the globe, as well as relying on more than 500 million unique visitors per month Google seems to be on the right track to achieve what Wikipedia will most likely fail at.

Otherwise Wikipedia is a greater idea than Google itself but anything the size and ambitious of Wikipedia today does require an enormous amount of resources to keep alive, under control and effectively working for the future. Wikipedia has been trying to raise money for a long time now with no viable success. On the other hand, Google has already these resources in place.

Google has already said that Knol results will be in Google’s index, presumably on the first page, and very possibly at the top: “Our job in Search Quality will be to rank the knols appropriately when they appear in Google search results.” Google wants Knol to be an authoritative page: “A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read” and that’s already a direct challenge to Wikipedia.

If Wikipedia is being replaced in the first top results on Google with pages from Knol respectively, Wikipedia traffic will definitely decrease, and possibly as a consequence so will broader participation on Wikipedia.

Will Knol be the answer of the Web of Knowledge everybody is looking for? We do not know but one is for sure today it is going to hurt Wikipedia and not the ordinary user of the aggregated knowledge base Wikipedia is. The entire army of both users and contributors will possibly move to Knol, for longer, or at least until Google finds ways to pay for the knowledge aggregation and its contributors.

Other companies that will eventually get hurt are as follows: Freebase, About.com, Wikia, Mahalo and Squidoo.

Below is a screenshot of the Knol’s reference page and how it would eventually look like:


More

[ http://www.google.com/help/knol_screenshot.html ]
[ http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/encouraging-people-to-contribute.html ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/13/google-preparing-to-launch-game-changing-wikipedia-meets-squidoo-project/ ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/14/google-knol-a-step-too-far/ ]
[ http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/knol_project_google_experiment.php ]
[ http://www.webware.com/8301-1_109-9834175-2.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Webware ]
 [ http://searchengineland.com/071213-213400.php ]
[ http://www.news.com/Google-develops-Wikipedia-rival/2100-1038_3-6222872.html ]
[ http://www.micropersuasion.com/2007/12/wikipedia-and-w.html ]
 

AdultFriendFinder.com finally sold out – $500M

We have been hearing for quite long time that the company’s founder Andrew Conru kept on trying to get rid of the AdultFreindFinder.com and its affiliate sites during the past 2 years pitching various potential acquirers. The company was recently rumored to have revenues in excess of $300 million annually and the acquisition price was said to be 3x revenue, or around $1 billion.

These days it turned out that the company was not sold for $1 billion but rather for half a billion and the buyer is Penthouse Media Group. It is confirmed already and taking into consideration the revenues the company is bringing in the acquisition now looks more like fire sale rather than major liquidity event for the owners.

Penthouse Media Group has acquired the adult-oriented social network operator Various Inc. for $500 million. Various runs a vast network of social net sites under its flagship site, AdultFriendFinder.com.

Andrew Conru is the founder. He is a mechanical engineering doctoral student at Stanford who grew up with churchgoing Lutheran parents in northern Indiana and he started the first online dating site, WebPersonals, in the early ’90s. He sold it in 1995, pocketed a minor windfall, and started all over again. Now he owns 27 sites under an umbrella company called Various, controlling twice as much online dating traffic as better-known rivals Match.com and Yahoo Personals.

Aside the Friend Finder Network Andrew Conru is also involved with several other companies like Dine.com (online restaurant reviews), ConfirmID.com (3rd-party personal info verification service), QuizHappy.com (free etests), GradFinder.com (alumni locator), BreakThru.com (spam-free free email), GuanXi.com (Chinese business networking), NiceCards.com (free ecards), ShareRent.com (roommate directory), LikeMyPhoto.com (photo review site), FriendPages.com (free homepages), and HelpCrew.com (remote customer service).

Prior to these companies, he started the first Internet website development company (Internet Media Services – 1993), the first company to centralize Internet advertising (Focalink Communications/AdKnowledge – 1995, sold to Engage and CMGi in 2000), the first online personals site (WebPersonals.com – 1994), and the first commercial website personalization software company (W3, Inc – 1995). “I’ve enjoyed finding new ways to use emerging technologies to solve real-world problems” says Conru.

Of all the dating sites Conru has launched–ones for Latinos, seniors, Asians, Jews, churchgoers–the biggest by far is AdultFriendFinder, which accounts for more than 60 percent of Various’s revenue. Conru says his privately held, 450-person company brings in well over $200 million in annual revenue, averaging 40 percent growth for the past nine years. With more than 35 million visitors in 2006 and 75,000 new users registering each day, AFF ranks among the 100 most popular sites in the United States.

For instance both Compete and Quantcast report for slightly more than 20 million unique visitors to the AdultFriendFinder.com but considering the fact that these sites are mostly reporting on American traffic it is likely the Various claims for 35M unique visitors per month to be true.

While porn remains one of the most profitable areas of online media, more traditional companies like Penthouse and Playboy have been struggling to catch up on the digital side. Playboy CEO Christie Hefner boasted of 50 percent gains in digital revenue earlier this month at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference, thanks in part to the launch of its social net PlayboyU.com this past year. She cited the investment in a community site as a way to extend Playboy’s brand.

Penthouse CEO Marc Bell also points to brand building among 18- to 34-year-old men as the impetus behind the purchase. Various brings Penthouse an existing membership base of more than 260 million users, with roughly 1.2 million paid subscribers. The combination would bring in an estimated $340 million in revenue this year.

In addition to its porn-related social nets, Various also has sites that aren’t centered around sex, including Italianfriendfinder.com, gradfinder.com and a faith-based community site called bigchurch.com. The company also owns Passion.com, alt.com and outpersonals.com; and Streamray, Inc., with its popular video chat site Cams.com. Penthouse now expects to absorb all of Various’s holdings.

Apart from the acquisition, Various has settled charges brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission related to adware issues. While the suit specifically named its AdultFriendFinder.com site, Various’s agreement with the FTC, which includes a promise to clean up its marketing tactics and use of pop-up ads, cover all of its properties. Since this was its first violation, the company is not subject to fines, according to FTC rules.

Penthouse Media Group Inc., parent to Penthouse Magazine, one of the world’s leading men’s lifestyle publications and producers of online, licensed and broadcast content and materials, announced today that it has acquired internet social networking giant Various, Inc. and its subsidiaries for $500 million in cash and securities. With $340 million in projected combined 2007 revenues, this acquisition makes Penthouse the largest adult entertainment company in the world.

“We are very excited to welcome Various and its employees as a part of the Penthouse family,” said Penthouse Media Group CEO Marc H. Bell. “Various is an attractive addition to our already strong print platform, and one that puts Penthouse in a very robust position in the ever-growing online social networking arena. We like where the business combination puts us and that this transaction will enhance PMGI’s current and future licensing, print and interactive ventures.”

“We are excited to be combining our substantial internet presence with one of the most recognized adult entertainment brands in the world,” said Lars Mapstead, VP of Marketing for Various, Inc. “Together we will expand in many areas, both online and offline, to solidify our position as the world leader in adult entertainment.”

The transaction is the latest step in Penthouse’s expansion march, with the company having previously acquired Danni.com and the Jill Kelly Productions library in separate 2006 transactions. Penthouse is continuing its acquisition program as it continues to consolidate the industry into one global brand.

Various, Inc. is based in Palo Alto and is the trend-setter in the online personals sector, distinguished by its creative marketing programs and technological innovation.

The company has developed dozens of owned and operated sites along with many popular co-branded partner sites. Its holdings include FriendFinder Network, Inc., a group of multi-cultural and multi-lingual dating, social networking and personals websites; AdultFriendFinder.com and similar venues for more intimate social networking such as Passion.com, alt.com and outpersonals.com; and Streamray, Inc., with its popular video chat site Cams.com. Visit www.friendfinderinc.com for more information.

We have researched to find out who are the investors in the company but found nothing worthwhile aside that venture investors seem to have shied away from him, in part because of “sin clauses” in their contracts prohibiting investing in adult companies.
Via

[ http://adultfriendfinder.com/go/page/corporate.html ]
[ http://siteanalytics.compete.com/adultfriendfinder.com/ ]
[ http://www.quantcast.com/adultfriendfinder.com ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/17/whoa-adult-friendfinder-may-have-been-acquired-for-1-billion/ ]
[ http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2007/04/01/8403370/index.htm ]
[ http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-penthouse-buys-adult-themed-social-net-various-inc-for-500-million/ ]
[ http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/071212/clw048.html?.v=101 ]
[ http://conru.com/ ]
[ http://venturebeat.com/2006/11/01/owner-of-adult-site-adultfriendfindercom-raking-in-100s-of-millions/ ]
[ http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/business/15899851.htm ] {expired page}

No IPO for Classmates.com

On November 27, 2007 we have reported that Classmates Media has just filed to go public at a valuation of $600 to $700 million. It then appeared that Classmates is trying to cash in on the social networking market craze.

Classmates Media Corp., which operates the online social networking site Classmates.com, (when the company started they did not call themselves social networking site) expects its planned initial public offering to total 12 million Class A shares and price between $10 and $12 each.

Today we learned they have canceled their IPO in US. If it did go through it could have been the first pureplay social networking IPO in the country. And probably Facebook could have gathered some vital market information on how far they could eventually go to with their planned IPO in 2008 or 2009. But as it seems things did not work out.

United Online (NSDQ: UNTD) has canceled the proposed IPO of its Classmates.com social networking unit. By citing the standard “market conditions,” the company now says that such a move wouldn’t be in the interest of stockholders. In other words, the interest wasn’t there. While there had been some excitement over a social networking pure-play IPO, Classmates.com, with its subscription-driven business model and earth-bound growth rates, couldn’t fully capture the buzz. United Online said it will take a $4.5-$5.5 million charge in Q4 associated with the aborted process.

There could potentially be countless reasons for that decision but certainly several of them are standing out:

  • IPO market is sort of cooling.
  • The filing anyway did not appear any serious from the get-go.
  • Classmates is far beyond the buzz level some other social networking sites are enjoying today.
  • They have tried but it seems nobody else was buying Classmate’s story.
  • The FTC investigation (The company’s auto-renewal system has come under investigation at the FTC, potentially causing churn to spike).
  • Hints of self-dealing.
  • User engagement is 95 percent lower than say on Facebook, suggesting that users see little value in the service they’re paying for. Classmates has little value for young users, since there’s no need for them to re-connect; they’re already connected through other sites.
  • Facebook is making major inroads into Classmates’ adult demographic.
  • Classmates is sort of Web 1.0 company.

Taking into consideration some of the above points it is no wonder the investors passed.

An interesting question was asked by Techcrunchers: How is United Online going to get back that $50 million it “loaned” to its subsidiary now?

A recent report from Cowen & Co. analyst Jim Friedland spells out exactly why United Online couldn’t cash in with Classmates. One line sums up his thesis: “We expect the Classmates.com subscriber base to peak in the first half of 2008, followed by a steady decline to zero by 2012.” Much of the report hones in on the fact that Classmates is no Facebook. The biggest difference is that Facebook is free and offers far more robust features.

While we do not take the Facebook reason for a valid point, since Facebook itself is most likely going to become paid in some parts at some point in the future, we think the problem with Classmates is more on the aspect of the fact it is generally declining business rather than rapidly growing with viable future as for example some of the newer social networking players, including but not limited to, MySapce, Facebook, Bebo and a countless number of market-niche specific social networking sites and community sites of new type and breed.

While we are not sure how profitable Classmates is the revenues for the full year of 2006 were $139 million and 2005 revenues were $85 million. 2007 is expected to bring in more than $140M.

Via

[ http://web2innovations.com/money/2007/11/27/classmates-prepares-for-an-ipo/ ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/12/update-classmates-ipo-is-pulled/ ]
[ http://www.nytimes.com/paidcontent/PCORG_317818.html ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/26/classmates-ipo-tries-to-cash-in-on-social-networking-craze/ ]
[ http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/071126/classmates_media_ipo.html ]
[ http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1409112/000104746907009507/a2179839zs-1a.htm ]

BillMeLater – $1 Billion in funding so far

By putting different pieces together we have just realized that all the funding for the so called credit card alternative BillMeLater totals $1 Billion. Pretty impressive at first sight but on second reading we guess it is in norms for a financial company with such ambitious goals and operations.

BillMeLater is a young seven-year-old company that is taking on the major competitors, including MasterCard, Visa and PayPal, which made its name as an online payment provider. BillMeLater has landed as merchants some of the most popular on-line retailers like www.Overstock.com, www.Walmart.com, www.usairways.com, www.officemax.com, www.brookstone.com, www.continental.com, www.etoys.com, www.hotels.com, www.1800flowers.com among others. Amazon will be offering the payment option as well.

The company incorporated initially as I4 Commerce and has changed its name to Bill Me Later, Inc. in 2007.

Bill Me Later, Inc. has developed and operates the PayCapture® technology platform and its suite of credit tools including its flagship Bill Me Later®–the first new payment method since credit cards to be broadly available within the United States.

Managed by a team of industry leaders, the Bill Me Later® Payment Suite allows merchants to leverage payments as a strategic tool to enhance customer loyalty, drive higher sales and expand profit margins.

Bill Me Later, Bill Me Later Business, the Preferred Account Program, and Promotional Financing tools are the first in a series of solutions designed to help merchants meet the demands of an increasingly competitive marketplace.  Leveraging existing infrastructures, most merchants can fully deploy these next-generation credit tools in a matter of weeks as opposed to the months it can take to set up other payment methods or private label accounts.

Millions of consumers rely on the safety and convenience of Bill Me Later, Inc.’s payment solutions when shopping online, via catalog and in-store to help save both time and money. 

On the consumer part it is:

Bill Me Later is the new way to pay that’s simple, fast and secure. 

Easy and Convenient
Bill Me Later is a convenient and secure new payment method designed for purchasing on the web or over the phone. As a credit account, Bill Me Later provides you with the flexibility to purchase without using your credit card. To request a Bill Me Later account, you do not have to complete a lengthy application prior to making a purchase. Simply select Bill Me Later at checkout to complete your request.

Security You Can Count On
With no card number for making purchases and no physical card, Bill Me Later gives you an extra level of security. Plus, Bill Me Later offers “zero fraud liability” protection, which means you are not responsible for unauthorized charges.

It operates much like a credit card company largely because its founder and chief executive Gary Marino has a long credit card pedigree, having served as chief credit officer for both First USA/Bank One and Citigroup. He started Bill Me Later after an investor suggested that online billing options be as simple as the “bill me later” tear-out form that comes inside magazines.

Revenues

It is the sixth-fastest-growing company in the country by revenue – on track to bring in more than $100 million this year – according to Inc. magazine’s September issue. No information publicly available whether the company is profitable.

The People

Gary Marino is the company’s chief executive officer and founder.  Gary has over 20 years of experience in the credit card industry with expertise in credit management, marketing, Internet strategy development, and general management.
Prior to joining Bill Me Later, Inc., Gary was Executive Vice President, Chief Credit Officer, and Chief Marketing Officer of the consumer lending division at First USA/Bank One. Gary also held numerous executive positions in his 13 year career with Citibank’s European and North American Card Division. These include Chief Credit Officer and member of the Bankcards Executive Planning council.

Other executive include

  • Steve Burleson – Chief Financial Officer
  • Craig Eckstrom – VP Sales and Account Management
  • Carolyn Groobey – Head of Consumer Strategy
  • Adam Joffe – Chief Information Officer
  • Tom Keithley – VP Credit and Integration
  • Mark Lavelle – VP Corporate Development & Strategic Planning
  • Bill Seligman – VP Credit Operations
  • Bill Shupert – VP Human Resources
  • Vince Talbert – VP Marketing
  • Marita Ventura – Chief Technology Officer
  • Chris Williams – VP Consumer Marketing

Investors & Tranches

The company, which is about 7 years old, has received $200 million in venture capital funding from investors such as Chase Paymentech and Azure Capital Partners, as well as a $640M credit line from Citigroup. The past month BillMeLater raised a whopping amount of $72 Million as well. The past week Amazon.com has just put yet another amount into the company as terms of the deal were not disclosed. Earlier last year the company secured $27.4 Million in Venture Funding.

Some of the investors as included below with short bios and company information.

ChasePaymentech is the payment solutions company of choice for online and offline transaction processing. A leader in the industry for more than sixteen years, ChasePaymentech processes one out of every two U.S. Internet transactions. ChasePaymentech is also a strategic investor in Bill Me Later, Inc.

Azure Capital Partners was founded in April 2000 with a focus on infrastructure technologies. Their philosophy of investing is to support and accelerate companies throughout their lifecycle of growth, ranging from early seed stage through maturity in the public markets.

GRP Partners is a global venture capital firm focused on retailing, retail technology and financial services technology. With $650 million under management, GRP finances early-stage and late-stage companies that develop solutions meeting pressing customer needs.

First Data Corporation processes payments for 312 million accounts around the world. As the leader in payment services, First Data serves approximately 3 million merchant locations and 1,400 financial institutions. First Data also provides consumer account processing services for Bill Me Later® and is a strategic investor in Bill Me Later, Inc.

Crosspoint Venture Partners invests in virtual service providers and broadband infrastructure. With over $1 billion under management, Crosspoint was recently named the #1 venture capitalist based on three – year returns.

CIT Group Inc. (NYSE: CIT), a leading commercial and consumer finance company, provides clients with financing and leasing products and advisory services. CIT, a Fortune 500 company and a member of the S&P 500 Index, holds leading positions in cash flow lending, vendor financing, factoring, equipment and transportation financing, Small Business Administration loans, and asset-based lending. With its global headquarters in New York City, CIT has approximately 7,500 employees in locations throughout North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific.

Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking is the most complete financial partner to corporations, financial institutions, institutional investors and governments in the world. As a global leader in banking, capital markets, and transaction services, with a presence in many countries dating back more than 100 years, Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking enables clients to achieve their strategic financial objectives by providing them with cutting-edge ideas, best-in-class products and solutions, and unparalleled access to capital and liquidity.

Citigroup (NYSE: C), the leading global financial services company has some 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 100 countries, providing consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, and wealth management. Major brand names under Citigroup’s trademark red umbrella include Citibank, CitiFinancial, Primerica, Smith Barney and Banamex.

Equifax is today’s number one provider of real-time consumer information with the world’s largest repository of consumer credit information.

T. Rowe Price: Founded in 1937, Baltimore-based T. Rowe Price is a global investment management organization that provides a broad array of mutual funds, subadvisory services, and separate account management for individual and institutional investors, retirement plans, and financial intermediaries. The organization also offers a variety of sophisticated investment planning and guidance tools. T. Rowe Price’s disciplined, risk-aware investment approach focuses on diversification, style consistency, and fundamental research.

Legg Mason, Inc.: Legg Mason, Inc. is a global asset management firm, with over $1 trillion in assets under management as of September 30, 2007. The Company provides active asset management in many major investment centers throughout the world. Legg Mason is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland and its common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (symbol: LM).

Via

[ http://www.bill-me-later.com/wss/help/aboutus.do ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/11/amazon-invests-in-bill-me-later/ ]
[ http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/071211/20071211005292.html?.v=1 ]
[ http://www.corporate.billmelater.com/billmelater/Content.do?pageID=15 ]
[ http://corporate.billmelater.com/ ]
[ http://www.bill-me-later.com/wss/index.do ]
[ http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bal-bz.billmelater04dec04,0,4892376.story?page=1&coll=bal-technology-headlines ]
[ http://www.fool.com/personal-finance/credit/2007/11/26/profit-from-holiday-credit.aspx ]
[ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/27/AR2007112702246.html ]
[ http://corporate.billmelater.com/billmelater/FilesInline.do?file=Citi Financing (2).pdf ]
[ http://corporate.billmelater.com/billmelater/FilesInline.do?file=funding03_28_06.pdf ]
[ http://corporate.billmelater.com/billmelater/FilesInline.do?file=Bill Me Later Inc. Announcement.pdf ]