Category Archives: Goldman Sachs

Looks like SpinVox is about to get a real run for the money, Nuance enters their niche

Everything leads us to the simple conclusion that Nuance is taking on SpinVox’s voice-to-text technology. It has always been interestingly enough to see how pouring big VC money into an idea, market niche, product or solution is always attracting some bigger player to try and exploit it. It seems the case with SpinVox today is pretty much the same. Nuance Communications, Inc., (the bigger player) announced today at CTIA Wireless 2008  the “Nuance Voicemail to Text” . Offered via wireless carriers, transcribed messages are sent to users as SMS or email messages. This news is hard not to connect to SpinVox’s massive round of funding that took place just a few weeks ago.

“Converting voicemail to text is a powerful and simple concept. But implementing a highly scalable semi-automated service is far more complex and requires highly accurate speech recognition – technology that takes decades to develop,” said Steve Chambers, president, mobile and consumer services division, Nuance. “The Nuance Voicemail to Text Service integrates speech technology with over 3,000 Nuance transcriptionists, hosted in a Nuance-owned facility, with proven security, scalability, and reliability.” 

Nuance’s telco-grade Voicemail to Text service delivers high-quality readable messages in minutes, giving you quick access to accurate transcriptions of your voicemail messages. Your entire voicemail message is transcribed and delivered directly to your mobile device. Users don’t have to worry about writing down or losing information while on-the-go. Messages can be saved, indexed in an archive and retrieved anytime, anywhere.

Nuance has revolutionized voicemail to text through high levels of automation. Nuance can deliver the world’s most accurate solution for turning speech into text with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the world’s leading proprietary speech recognition engine, backed by 400 patents worldwide and proven by millions of users over 10 years. Nuance’s own state-of-the-art speech technology is supported by 3,000 in-house transcriptionists, hosted in a Nuance-owned facility with “five nines” (99.999%) uptime and reliability.

While the early, direct to consumer model of voicemail to text services was needed for a proof-of-concept, Nuance is changing the model to bring speech-enabled services to the mobile consumer through carriers. Nuance hosts the Voicemail to Text for service providers, integrating it with any standard voicemail system. Callers simply leave a message on a voicemail system that’s Nuance-enabled, and the message is transcribed to text and sent back to the voicemail platform, which delivers it to users through different messaging mediums such as email or SMS.

Nuance Communications, Inc. (NUAN) is a $3.8B market capitalization company that generates over $600M (2007) in revenues per year.

As just like some other technology blogs have already noticed and commented on, we also think all this looks like SpinVox is about to get a real run for the money to justify its huge valuation of $500M pre-money!

SpinVox, a London based voice-to-text technology has just recently raised $100M round of funding from a bunch of high-profile investors among which are Goldman Sachs, GLG Partners, Blue Mountain Capital Management and Toscafund Asset Management. Some of those venture capitalists have surely been seriously upset today.

The service can basically be described as a solution that transcribes voicemails to text so that they can be more easily digitized, searched, and manipulated. SpinVox’s software works simply by converting a voicemail message into text, which it then e-mails to a computer or sends via SMS to a phone. It removes the need to dial one’s voicemail, punch in a password and listen to messages.

More about Nuance

Nuance Communications, Inc. (Nuance) is a provider of speech-based solutions for businesses and consumers worldwide. The Company’s speech solutions are designed to transform the way people interact with information systems, mobile devices and services. Nuance offers businesses and consumers value-added speech, dictation and imaging solutions that facilitate the way people access, share, manage and use information in business and daily life. The Company provides speech solutions to enterprise speech, mobility, and healthcare dictation and transcription markets. Nuance markets and distributes its products indirectly through a global network of resellers, including system integrators, independent software vendors, value-added resellers, hardware vendors, telecommunications carriers and distributors, and directly through its sales force and through the Company’s e-commerce Website.

More about SpinVox

We launched in 2005 through The Carphone Warehouse, The Link and other retail channels. Pretty soon we had over 130,000 regular users, with an unprecedented customer retention rate of 80%. People who started speaking through SpinVox soon found they couldn’t live without it.

SpinVox has since won major industry awards from people like the GSM Association, Red Herring and Ernst & Young. No, we’re not boasting, we’re just pleased. In fact we’re amazed at how SpinVox is changing people’s lives.

At the heart of SpinVox is our patented Voice Message Conversion System™ (or VMCS to keep it simple). It underpins everything we do – our retail, enterprise, service provider and global carrier services. It’s maintained on an enterprise-class hardware infrastructure by an expert management team, to meet the rigorous demands of global carriers and their customers. Which means it just works, brilliantly.

From retail brands and direct customers, to global carriers and Web 2.0 brands, we are leading the way in converging voice and screens. SpinVox products are used on five continents, in five languages, with new carrier and technology partners joining us every month. SpinVox has 300 employees and offices in nine countries.

Some other competitors include Jott, Pinger, SimulScribe, among others.

More

http://www.nuance.com/
http://www.nuance.com/vm2text/
http://www.nuance.com/naturallyspeaking/
http://finance.google.com/finance?&q=NUAN
http://wirelessspeech.blogspot.com/2008/04/nuance-challenges-spinvox-in-voicemail.html
http://mashable.com/2008/04/01/nuance/
http://www.ctia.org/conventions_events/wireless/
http://web2innovations.com/money/2008/03/21/spinvox-raises-100m-at-a-whopping-500m-valuation/
http://www.spinvox.com/
http://blog.spinvox.com/
http://www.spinvox.com/spinvox-secures-over-100-million-in-new-funding-round..html
http://www.moconews.net/entry/419-voicemail-to-text-firm-spinvox-raises-100-million-500-million-valuation/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/20/spinvox-translates-voice-to-text-service-into-a-100-million-round/
http://mashable.com/2008/03/20/spinvox-funded/
http://uk.techcrunch.com/2008/03/19/it-looks-like-spinvox-has-raised-50m/
http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUKN1932303420080319?rpc=44
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/13/your-phone-is-your-mic-spinvox-lets-users-talk-to-twitter-facebook-and-jaiku-europe-only/
http://www.spinvox.com/spinvox-targets-cambridge-for-speech-recognition-skills..html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_Domecq
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro_Domecq
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/spinvox

SpinVox raises $100M at a whopping $500M valuation

SpinVox, a London based voice-to-text technology is raising $100M round of funding from a bunch of high-profile investors among which are Goldman Sachs, GLG Partners, Blue Mountain Capital Management and Toscafund Asset Management. The service can basically be described as a solution that transcribes voicemails to text so that they can be more easily digitized, searched, and manipulated. SpinVox’s software works simply by converting a voicemail message into text, which it then e-mails to a computer or sends via SMS to a phone. It removes the need to dial one’s voicemail, punch in a password and listen to messages.

This brings the total money invested in the company so far to $200M and today’s round is said to have been done on $500M pre-money valuation. What is also interesting with the company is that the CEO, the 31-year-old Christina Domecq is from the famous liquor family Domecq from UK that was part of the international company Allied Domecq PLC that operated spirits, wine, and quick service restaurant businesses. Allied Domecq was the result of a 1994 merger between Allied Lyons and Pedro Domecq. Rumors go up to the point that SpinVox was planning on an IPO before, but today the company has said it has no immediate plans to go public or sell itself but is exploring all options.

SpinVox is said to have partnerships with 12 mobile carriers, mostly in Europe, including O2, Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile, 3, and Virgin Mobile, but is barely presented on the US market.

The funds will be devoted to further building the global business of the UK-headquartered company that already operates on four continents.

“Closing this funding round is an exceptional achievement given the current state of the global financial markets,” says Christina Domecq, CEO and Co Founder of SpinVox. “We are delighted to have this group of institutional investors join the company. It clearly underlines the confidence these high-calibre investors have in SpinVox and the management team.”

The new round builds on previous investments made in the company by private equity investors such as Martin Hughes, Charles Dunstone of Carphone Warehouse and Peter Wood, the founder of Direct Line, eSure and Sheila’s Wheels and institutional investors such as ABN Amro, Gartmore and Allen & Co.

“We built SpinVox to answer a real need in the marketplace and have now established a vast new market for voice-to-screen messaging which we continue to lead,” continues Christina. “One of the many reasons why people are getting so excited about SpinVox is that it is one of the few genuinely innovative companies to have emerged in the telecommunications arena in recent years. SpinVox is transforming core messaging for carriers world-wide and delivering new, recurring revenues from existing user behaviour.”

Goldman Sachs International acted as exclusive financial adviser to SpinVox on the transaction.

Most of the technology bloggers simply followed up on the PR materials being sent to them and have positively reviewed the service, but we think there is plenty of room for improvements and the reportedly $500M valuation for the company is hard to understand and justify.

However, the guys from Mashable have more critical look into the technology and have written that while the company is trying to make all the right moves, by opening up MySpace and Facebook applications, the core technology, “continues to fail hard.” We tend to agree with them.

Below are some transcripts from Mashable’s author when he attempted to get the service to accurately translate his voice to text:

What I said: “Ok, well, let’s see… What am I talking about? Oh! Actually I put a new article up on Mashable.com today. ”
What I said, SpinVoxed: “Ok well, see what I’m talking about oh actually put a new article of nashville.com(?) today.”

What I said: “It’s that YouTube or whatever may have helped them get there quicker, citing the new Apple UGC ad that came out as an example.”
What I Said, SpinVoxed: “It’s that a youtube or whatever may have helped them get their quick or setting the new apple UGC ad,…”

What I said: “It’s staying on and letting me talk and so I’m just gonna talk until this thing kicks me off.”
What I said, SpinVoxed: “It’s sticking on let me talk and so I’m just gonna talk into this thing puts me off.”

Mark Hopkins, an author at Mashable, has further said that he has spoken to folks far more familiar with the limitations of VTT (voice-to-text technology) technology that it just isn’t feasible with current standards of computing.

A guy that claims to work for the company has saidthe following. I work for SpinVox and have a window on the process. SpinVox employs a series of speech engines and the majority of our English conversions are automated. The Voice Message Conversion System is actually a “live learning” system that “knows what it doesn’t know”. When it encounters new language or ambient noise that confuses the automated process, it then asks a human to review that portion of the message in dispute. That person then converts the portion of the message in dispute and the complete conversion is then delivered. To date we’ve had about 4 million unique voices pass through the system which improves our ability to understand any voice.

Others, like Rob Abbott, are more favorable explaining that the value of indexable, searchable voice transcriptions is significant. Once integrated into an application like a mail client (Gmail, Mail, Outlook…etc.), the value is clear. The time spent transcribing important voice messages, interviews and conversations is cut by these services. While some services, like SimulScribe and SpinVox do send the audio to markets with cheap labor, the service isn’t always optimal or exact.

I am a current user, he says, of both services and it’s of enough value for me to become dependent on once my habits change. I get previews of my voice messages sent to my iPhone in SMS form, so I know who called and most importantly, why, without having to play the message (in a meeting).

Goldman Sachs is investing in the distributed service and in the technology, so SpinVox is widely integrated into applications which increase productivity, and so the quality of the transcription technology involves to an accurate service, whether it be by human or machine (or both).

Some competitors include Jott, Pinger, SimulScribe, among others.

More about SpinVox

We launched in 2005 through The Carphone Warehouse, The Link and other retail channels. Pretty soon we had over 130,000 regular users, with an unprecedented customer retention rate of 80%. People who started speaking through SpinVox soon found they couldn’t live without it.

SpinVox has since won major industry awards from people like the GSM Association, Red Herring and Ernst & Young. No, we’re not boasting, we’re just pleased. In fact we’re amazed at how SpinVox is changing people’s lives.

At the heart of SpinVox is our patented Voice Message Conversion System™ (or VMCS to keep it simple). It underpins everything we do – our retail, enterprise, service provider and global carrier services. It’s maintained on an enterprise-class hardware infrastructure by an expert management team, to meet the rigorous demands of global carriers and their customers. Which means it just works, brilliantly.

From retail brands and direct customers, to global carriers and Web 2.0 brands, we are leading the way in converging voice and screens. SpinVox products are used on five continents, in five languages, with new carrier and technology partners joining us every month.

SpinVox has 300 employees and offices in nine countries.

The management

  • Christina Domecq
    CEO and Co-founder
  • Daniel Doulton
    Chief Strategy Officer and Co-founder
  • Andrew Cherry
    Chief Financial Officer
  • Tom Clear
    Chief Commercial Officer
  • Philip Marnick
    Chief Technology Officer
  • Rob Wheatley
    Chief Information Officer
  • James Scroggs
    VP Consumer Business

More

http://www.spinvox.com/
http://blog.spinvox.com/
http://www.spinvox.com/spinvox-secures-over-100-million-in-new-funding-round..html
http://www.moconews.net/entry/419-voicemail-to-text-firm-spinvox-raises-100-million-500-million-valuation/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/20/spinvox-translates-voice-to-text-service-into-a-100-million-round/
http://mashable.com/2008/03/20/spinvox-funded/
http://uk.techcrunch.com/2008/03/19/it-looks-like-spinvox-has-raised-50m/
http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUKN1932303420080319?rpc=44
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/13/your-phone-is-your-mic-spinvox-lets-users-talk-to-twitter-facebook-and-jaiku-europe-only/
http://www.spinvox.com/spinvox-targets-cambridge-for-speech-recognition-skills..html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allied_Domecq 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro_Domecq
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/spinvox

Massive second round of funding for Freebase – $42 Million

Freebase, the open and shared database of the world’s knowledge, has raised a whopping amount of money in its Series B round of funding, $42 Million, in a round that included Benchmark Capital and Goldman Sachs. Total funding to date is $57 million.

The investment is considerable, and comes at a time when a number of experts are betting that a more powerful, “semantic” Web is about to emerge, where data about information is much more structured than it is today.

In March 2006, Freebase received $15 million in funding from investors including Benchmark Capital, Millennium Technology Ventures and Omidyar Network.

Freebase, created by Metaweb Technologies, is an open database of the world’s information. It’s built by the community and for the community – free for anyone to query, contribute to, build applications on top of, or integrate into their websites.

Already, Freebase covers millions of topics in hundreds of categories. Drawing from large open data sets like Wikipedia, MusicBrainz, and the SEC archives, it contains structured information on many popular topics, including movies, music, people and locations – all reconciled and freely available via an open API. This information is supplemented by the efforts of a passionate global community of users who are working together to add structured information on everything from philosophy to European railway stations to the chemical properties of common food ingredients.

By structuring the world’s data in this manner, the Freebase community is creating a global resource that will one day allow people and machines everywhere to access information far more easily and quickly than they can today.

Freebase  aims to “open up the silos of data and the connections between them”, according to founder Danny Hillis at the Web 2.0 Summit. Freebase is a database that has all kinds of data in it and an API. Because it’s an open database, anyone can enter new data in Freebase. An example page in the Freebase db looks pretty similar to a Wikipedia page. When you enter new data, the app can make suggestions about content. The topics in Freebase are organized by type, and you can connect pages with links, semantic tagging. So in summary, Freebase is all about shared data and what you can do with it.

Here’s a video tour of how does Freebase work. Freebase categorizes knowledge according to thousands of “types” of information, such as film, director or city. Those are the highest order of categorization. Then underneath those types you have “topics,” which are individual examples of the types — such as Annie Hall and Woody Allen. It boasts two million topics to date. This lets Freebase represent information in a structured way, to support queries from web developers wanting to build applications around them. It also solicits people to contribute their knowledge to the database, governed by a community of editors. It offers a Creative Commons license so that it can be used to power applications, on an open API.

This is one of the biggest Series B rounds for the past 12 months. And probably what Google tries to do with its Knol to Wikipedia is the same what Freebase tries to achieve too – replicate and commercialize the huge success of the non-profit Wikipedia.

Other semantic applications and projects include Powerset, Twine, AdaptiveBlue, Hakia, Talis, LinkedWords, NosyJoe, TrueKnowledge, among others.

Peter Rip, an investor in Twine has quickly reacted on the comparison between the two Freebase and Twine the VentureBeat’s Matt Marshall made.

As an investor in Twine, allow me correct you about Twine and Metaweb’s positioning. You correctly point out that Metaweb is building a database about concepts and things on the Web. Twine is not. Twine is really more of an application than a database. It is a way for persons to share information about their interests. So they are complementary, not competitive.

What’s most important is that Twine will be able to use all the structure in something like Metaweb (and other content sources) to enrich the user’s ability to track and manage information. Think of Metaweb as a content repository and Twine as as the app that uses content for specific purposes.

Twine is still in closed beta. So the confusion is understandable, especially with all the hype surrounding the category.

Nova Spivack, the founder of Twine has also commented on.

Freebase and Twine are not competitive. That should be corrected in the above article. In fact our products are very different and have different audiences. Twine is for helping people and groups share knowledge around their interests and activities. It is for managing personal and group knowledge, and ultimately for building smarter communities of interest and smarter teams.

Metaweb, by contrast, is a data source that Twine can use, but is not focused on individuals or on groups. Rather Metaweb is building a single public information database, that is similar to the Wikipedia in some respects. This is a major difference in focus and functionality. To use an analogy, Twine is more like a semantic Facebook, and Metaweb is more like a semantic Wikipedia.

Freebase is in alpha.

Freebase.com was the first Semantic App being featured by Web2Innovations in its series of planned publications where we will try to discover, highlight and feature the next generation of web-based semantic applications, engines, platforms, mash-ups, machines, products, services, mixtures, parsers, and approaches and far beyond.

The purpose of these publications is to discover and showcase today’s Semantic Web Apps and projects. We’re not going to rank them, because there is no way to rank these apps at this time – many are still in alpha and private beta.
More

http://www.metaweb.com/about/
http://freebase.com
http://roblog.freebase.com
http://venturebeat.com/2008/01/14/shared-database-metaweb-gets-42m-boost/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/16/freebase-takes-42-million/
http://www.dmwmedia.com/news/2008/01/15/freebase-developer-metaweb-technologies-gets-$42.4-million
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/freebase
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/10_semantic_apps_to_watch.php
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Hillis
http://www.metaweb.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaweb_Technologies
http://web2innovations.com/money/2007/11/30/freebase-open-shared-database-of-the-worlds-knowledge/
http://mashable.com/2007/07/17/freebase/
http://squio.nl/blog/2007/04/02/freebase-life-the-universe-and-everything/

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. 

~~~

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 ]

Classmates prepares for an IPO

Classmates Media has just filed to go public at a valuation of $600 to $700 million. Compared to Facebook’s $15 Billion valuation, which the company took as a private entity, it ranks the company more in the bottom level of the Internet sector rather than within the top 100. It appears that Classmates is trying to cash in on the social netwrking 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.

Based on the anticipated price range, Classmates would have a market capitalization of $600 million to $720 million. Assuming an offering price of $11 per share, the company expects to raise net proceeds of about $117.7 million after fees and expenses from the IPO. Mark Goldstone will be the CEO of Classmates Media, and he is personally getting 2.8 million options at the IPO price.

Here are some facts at a glance as taken from the Security Exchange Commission:

—Revenues the first nine months of 2007 weer $140 million. (Full-year 2006 revenues weer $139 million; 2005 revenues were $85 million).
—Net income the first nine months was $1.6 million. ($1.9 million loss in 2006; $8.2 million loss in 2005).
—50 million registered users as of September, 2007. Only 12.8 million of which are active and 3 million of which pay on average $3.33 a month to email and connect with old friends directly.
—Monthly churn of 4.6 percent

Classmates makes money primarily from subscriptions. It also relies on MyPoints, which is a loyalty program. The company also owns a French based social network, Trombi, and Sweden’s Stayfriends.

Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Sercurities are serving as joint book-running managers for the IPO. Deutsche Bank Securities is also underwriting the offering. The underwriters have an option to buy up to 1.8 million shares from the company to cover any overallotments.

The company plans to list its shares on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol “CLAS”.

In an another story the FTC is investigating Classmates membership subscription auto-renewal policy, where it just keeps charging your credit card until you tell it to stop, reports Techcrunch’s Erick Schonfeld.

comScore’s October 2007 social networking numbers reveal Classmates had 14.4 million U.S. visitors, which represents a one percent year-over-year decline.

The company’s overview:

We operate leading online social networking and loyalty marketing services under our Classmates and MyPoints brands. Our leadership position is based on a number of factors, including the number of unique visitors to our Web sites, brand awareness and the number of registered members. Our success is driven by our expertise in growing and monetizing large online audiences in a cost-effective manner and enabling advertisers to reach relevant online consumers effectively. Revenues from our social networking services are derived from subscription and advertising fees, and revenues from our loyalty marketing services are derived from advertising fees.

On our social networking sites, we enable users to locate and interact with acquaintances from school, work and the military. Led by our flagship Classmates Web site, our social networking properties are comprised of a large and diverse group of users, with over 50 million registered accounts as of September 30, 2007. Social networking pay accounts at December 31, 2005 and 2006, and at September 30, 2007, were approximately 1.8 million, 2.2 million and 3.0 million, respectively. Using our interactive tools and features, our members have contributed to our social networking Web sites a substantial number of distinct, relevant pieces of content, such as names, school affiliations, profiles, biographies, interests and photos.

MyPoints, our online loyalty marketing service, provides advertisers with an effective means to reach a large online audience with targeted marketing campaigns, while also enabling consumers to earn points-based rewards by responding to email offers, completing online surveys, shopping online and engaging in other online activities. During the last year, we marketed the products and services of over 400 advertisers to our MyPoints members, including NetQuote, Inc., Office Depot, Inc., VistaPrint Limited and Waterfront Media, Inc. As of September 30, 2007, over 8.8 million members were registered with MyPoints, over 6.0 million of whom were registered to receive email marketing messages from us.

From all this it becomes clear for us that calling yourself a social networking site might be profitable these days.

[ via Techcrunch ]

[via Yahoo Biz ]

[ via SEC ]