Category Archives: True Ventures

Nice exit for Sphere.com

While AOL is trying to shop itself around they seem are not stopping the shopping spree themselves and keep on buying second tier web companies. After snatching Bebo last month, they have bought yesterday the related content engine Sphere, which is mainly used across blogs on Web.  So it seems to be official already: AOL has acquired sphere.com. Despite financial terms of the deal were not disclosed the price was rumored to be in the $25M range that comes on top of Sphere’s $3.5M total funding to date. That is supposed to be a nice exit for Sphere’s existing investors. There are bunch of angels and a couple of institutional investors in Sphere’s two rounds of funding. The first one was in the $500K range and the participating private investors then were Radar Partners, True Ventures, Winton Partners, David Mahoney, Scott Kurnit, Vince Vannelli, William Randolph Hearst III, Kevin Compton and Doug Mackenzie while their institutional round was closed by Hearst Corporation and Trident Capital and was in the $3M range. Well, other sources claim the company has taken over $4M in funding so we are not really sure which number is the correct one.

Sphere is basically providing contextually relevant content tools that make connections between text, video, photos and ads and according to the company is currently integrated into over 70,000 leading sites and is live on over 2 Billion monthly article pages across the web. If true that is pretty impressive number and should have been able to command a price way higher than the $25M rumored to have been paid for the company.

According to their blog “we are very excited about becoming part of AOL and wanted to share with you what it will mean for Sphere and our publisher partners, including “mainstream” media, micro-publishers and blog sites.”

Sphere has always been a publisher/ blogger -centric company, even in our early days as a fledgling blog search engine. We founded Sphere with a mission to make contextually relevant connections between all forms of content (mainstream media articles, archived articles, videos, blogs, photos, ads) that enable the reader to go deep on topics of interest. We also, by virtue of our starting point, set out to be a vehicle to enable the individual voice to join the conversation as well as expose their voice to a broader audience of readers. The benefit of joining the ‘sphere is straightforward: publishers/ bloggers who successfully promote distribution of their content and that of others will be in a position to derive more value (aka….make more money, gain more influence, etc.) from media distribution.”

We humbly thank everyone involved: our awesome team; advisors (Josh Macht; Toni Schneider; Matt Mullenweg; Mike Monteiro; Ron McCoy; Mary Hodder; and Scott Kurnit); investors, many of which wear halo’s (True Ventures; Trident Capital; Radar Partners; Hearst Interactive; Blacksmith; Phil Black; Will Hearst; David Mahoney; Mike Winton; Scott Kurnit; Vince Vannelli; Adaptive Path); our board (Venetia Kontogouris; Phil Black; Darcy Bentley; Scott Kurnit); publisher/ blog partners; the gang at Oddpost who showed us the way to build frugally/ intelligently; OM Malik, Mike Arrington, Kara Swisher, Dan Farber, Matt Marshall and the many other bloggers who’ve partnered, written, and given us advice; our attorney (Stefan Clulow); Howard Zeprun and Ira Parker who insured the dialog kept moving forward; Jen Consalvo who understood our potential and introduced to a number of AOL groups, Lewis Dvorkin and Bill Wilson who paid us the nicest compliment of all in offering to acquire our company and then doing so, family and friends. We’re thrilled to be part of this new genesis!

Sphere was founded by Tony Conrad, Martin Remy, Steve Nieker and Toni Schneider in 2005 and is based in San Francisco. Sphere uses its contextual-search platform technology to make connections between content from blogs, video, media, photos and advertisements. These contextual results are then displayed in a pop-over window or an integrated widget that lets publishers enhance articles by incorporating related articles and blog posts from archived content and across the Web.

Prior to the acquisition, AOL partnered with Sphere to offer its widget technology on AOL News and the myAOL service, Mgnet. Sphere’s third-party network includes more than 70,000 content publishers and blogs and is live on an average of more than 2 billion article pages across the web every month.

“Our focus at AOL is providing consumers relevant content wherever they are on the Web, and Sphere’s capabilities fit in perfectly with this effort. Not only will it let us enhance content on our own sites, it will let us distribute our content across Sphere’s growing third-party publisher network,” said Ron Grant, President and COO of AOL. “In addition, this acquisition provides AOL with access to advertising inventory across Sphere’s network, while growing its reach to content publishers via the widget.”

Sphere will be integrated in Bill Wilson’s organization, the EVP of Programming at AOL. His division controls AOL’s content properties (Entertainment, Finance, Weblogs, etc.).

Competition include Proximic, Lijit, Adaptiveblue, LinkedWords, somehow NosyJoe, Jiglu, among others. Other, although remote, players in this space include Attendi, Diigo, Twine and Freebase.

More about AOL

A Global Ad-Supported Web Services Company

AOL is a leading global advertising-supported Web company, with the most comprehensive display advertising network in the U.S., a substantial worldwide audience, and a suite of popular Web brands and products.

The company’s strategy focuses on increasing the scale and sophistication of its advertising platform and growing the size and engagement of its global online audience through leading products and programming.

Core Statistics

  • 109 million – Average domestic monthly unique visitors to the AOL network of Web properties during the quarter ending December 31, 2007, according to comScore Media Metrix.
  • 49.2 billion – Domestic page views for the AOL network of Web properties during the quarter ending December 31, 2007, according to comScore Media Metrix.
  • 150 – Average monthly page views per unique visitor to the AOL network of Web properties, during the quarter ending December 31, 2007.

 A sophisticated advertising network

AOL offers advertisers access to the broadest display advertising network in the U.S. and some of the most sophisticated tools available to target and measure online advertising campaigns through AOL’s Platform-A business group. Platform-A consists of Advertising.com, which operates the largest third-party display networks; behavioral targeting leader TACODA; Third Screen Media, which operates one of the largest mobile media networks; market leading video ad serving platform Lightningcast; Quigo, which offers advertisers the ability to target ads based on the content of Web pages; and ADTECH‘s global ad serving platform.

In addition, Platform-A Marketing Solutions provides large brand customers with coordinated access to the full Platform-A product suite, enabling advertisers and agencies to more easily harness the full power of digital media.

Industry-leading products and programs

AOL’s network of Web properties is one of the top three in the United States, attracting an average of 109 million unique visitors each month during the quarter ending December 31, 2007, according to comScore Media Metrix, and many are leaders in their categories.

MapQuest, for example, is the leading U.S. provider of online maps and directions; AIM is the No. 1 messaging service in the U.S.; and TMZ, developed in partnership with Warner Bros.’ Telepictures Productions, is the No. 1 domestic entertainment news site on the Web. Other popular destinations include Black Voices, a premiere site for the African-American community, and AOL Latino, a leading bilingual portal for U.S. Hispanics.

In the past year, AOL has relaunched all its major programming channels, including News, Sports, Money & Finance, Living, and launched several new sites, including Switched.com, PopEater, Stylelist, DIYLife and Green Daily.

AOL also has been upgrading its product suite, including the new AOL.com home page, improved AOL Mail, the new AOL Desktop, Safety and Security and Parental Control tools, and the new Winamp player. In addition, AOL has launched breakthrough products such as BlueString, which lets users easily store and share their pictures and movies, and myAOL, which lets users easily customize their homepage.

AOL’s Truveo video search tool, the leading video search engine, continues to expand its reach. During 2007, Truveo’s index of searchable videos grew 20-fold to more than 100 million. Truveo tracks more than 500,000 new videos uploaded to the Web each day. Queries across the Truveo video search network increased 20 fold during 2007. Unique monthly visitors across the sites powered by Truveo exceeded 50 million. Truveo has also launched localized versions of its video search product in 16 countries.

Expanding worldwide

As part of its aggressive international growth plans, AOL launched portals in Austria, The Netherlands, India, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Poland and Belgium. In addition, AOL teamed up with HP – a leading PC maker in the U.S. – to include localized versions of the AOL.com portal and other AOL services as the default setting on HP computers shipped in the United States and more than two-dozen countries worldwide.

AOL continues to operate one of the largest Internet subscription businesses in the United States, with 10 million domestic subscribers at the end of the third quarter of 2007.

More

http://www.sphere.com
http://www.sphere.com/blog/
http://aol.com/
http://corp.aol.com/press_releases/2008/04/aol-acquires-sphere
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/04/14/aol-buys-sphere-content-engine/
http://gigaom.com/2008/04/14/aol-buys-sphere/
http://www.crunchbase.com/person/tony-conrad
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/sphere
http://www.sphere.com/blog/2008/04/15/aol-buys-sphere/
http://web2innovations.com/money/2008/03/14/22m-uniques-mo-site-bebo-goes-to-aol-for-850m-in-all-cash-deal/
http://web2innovations.com/money/2008/03/12/aol-is-offered-up-for-sale/
http://www.crunchbase.com/person/tony-conrad
http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/05/22/timecom-adds-sphere-it-links/
http://www.tridentcap.com/
http://kara.allthingsd.com/category/radar-partners/

More instructional videos on the horizon

Creating educational and instructional videos, clips and episodes is something hot lately. The space is crowded and has just emerged from the popularization of the online video sector. MindBites is yet another player jumping the bandwagon. MindBites is a self-publishing platform and social marketplace for instructional content, which enables people to share their unique knowledge, skills and passions through audio and video lessons, earning money for themselves or for charity.

Creating a marketplace where user-generated content becomes a commerce-driven supply for those out there in need of instructional videos is something said to set MindBites apart from its competitors.

MindBites has just raised $1M in series A round of funding from True Ventures.

Jason Reneau is the company’s CEO and founder.

Competitors include Expert Village, VideoJug, Sclipo, Graspr, Instructables, SuTree, Howcast, among others.

More about MindBites

Who we are
Introducing MindBites, your place on the web to learn directly from other real people and share what you know with the world. A self-publishing platform and social marketplace for instructional content, MindBites enables people to share their unique knowledge, skills and passions through audio and video lessons, earning money for themselves or for charity. The result is a unique community of discovery with content that simply can’t be found anywhere else – from Teaching your Baby Sign Language, to Cooking Tandori Chicken, to Surviving a Knife Attack. By enabling people to learn, connect and share as never before, MindBites promises to revolutionize the way the world shares knowledge. MindBites – What do you know?

What We Believe
Our belief is that the world is at the dawn of a new era in the sharing of knowledge. Led by the ubiquity of the Internet and drastic improvements in the accessibility of digital media technology, we are experiencing the largest increase in the global sharing of knowledge since Gutenberg invented moveable type. The bottom line is that today we can be connected, from one mind to another, like never before in the history of the world (please speak in your best James Earl Jones voice). We are inspired to be living in such an exciting time and playing a part in these historic trends.

Our Team
Our team is an ever expanding group of unique, talented and fun (if not a little goofy) individuals. As a group, we have experience from such varied institutions as Whole Foods, Harvard Business School, Burnt Orange Productions, McKinsey and Company, FreeMarkets, and Kiva Systems, to name a few. We have worked in such areas as web development, e-commerce, professional education, TV and film production, design, sales, marketing and entrepreneurial ventures. Most importantly though, we’re a group that includes bad but aspiring chefs, gardeners, artists, bartenders, golfers and foosball players. We own old houses and have no idea how to fix them. We’d like to learn foreign languages, have dreamed of knowing martial arts, and are always trying to figure out how to use our latest technical gadget. Simply put, we love learning, and that’s why we’re here.

There are too many people who have already touched MindBites to mention, but to list a few: our development team is from Squeejee.com led by Wynn Netherland, Jeff Kramer designed and manages our infrastructure, and Matt Warchola built our smack player. Matt “MattDaddyC” Chapman is responsible for our funky web design, and John Rubio deserves credit for the original MindBites logo. Ellen Ambrose has been our author recruiter extraordinaire, and our production team has been a group effort from Brittanie Flegle, Keith Fraase, Matt James and Sarah Moore, among others. The bozo in the back of the boat manning the rudder (and sitting on top of the ice chest) is Jason Reneau. Happily swimming along behind the boat is Chelsea, our unofficial mascot. Shout out also to our ex-lead-developer-turned-doctor, Matt Sanders.

Our Technology
MindBites is built with Ruby on Rails and oodles of CSS goodness, with light sprinkles of Flash and AJAX thrown in for good measure. We serve our media in Flash and Quicktime (for the most part). MindBites simply wouldn’t have been possible without a bevy of fantastic open source software that makes our lives so much happier – thanks guys! We’ve built additional super-secret technology to keep the ship sailing smoothly even through troubled waters. We could tell you about it, but of course then we’d have to kill you…

On the production side, we have made a concerted effort to use consumer-level technology and tools. We film everything that we do or help out on with sub-$500 mini-DV camcorders, and we typically edit with Final Cut (although we dabble with a range of Windows and Mac software). Our most critical piece of technology though is our Braun coffeemaker, without which all MindBites productivity would screech to a halt.

More

http://www.mindbites.com/
http://blog.mindbites.com/
http://mashable.com/2008/03/20/mindbites/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/mindbites
http://www.trueventures.com/
http://Squeejee.com

Video advertising networks are hot, Brightroll gets its second round, claims it already served over 1 Billion video ads

After having covered the video ad networks BlackArrow and YuMe Networks today we have discovered that yet another one called Brightroll has also recently closed its Series B funding taking $5M more. The round was led by existing investor True Ventures with Adams Street Partners and KPG Ventures as new participants. The first round’s amount is not publicly disclosed.

The company offers both pre-roll and mid-roll ads and Brightroll contextually matches the ads based on webpage information, site behavior and demographics. Assessing tags, profiles and data from ComScore, Brightroll aims to provide publishers and advertisers targeted ads, where the publishers need to do very little work to this end.

BrightRoll helps leading agencies, representing brands such as Walmart, Hewlett-Packard and Sony Pictures, launch and scale video campaigns across the industry’s leading publishers. The one-year-old start-up will use the capital to continue to grow its agency and publisher relationships, as well as accelerate product development.

“Video advertising is the future of online marketing and we are exclusively focused on simplifying the process of targeting, distributing and executing online video campaigns,” said Tod Sacerdoti, co-founder and CEO of BrightRoll. “BrightRoll provides efficiency and technology to agencies today and we will continue to expand our solutions for agencies and brands moving forward.”

“We increased our investment in BrightRoll because the company is the emerging leader in a revolutionary category,” said Jon Callaghan, a partner at TRUE Ventures. “This is my third time working with the founders, Tod Sacerdoti and Dru Nelson, and I could not be more ecstatic about the team they are building.”

BrightRoll can execute video campaigns across more than 50% of the top 100 online media properties in the United States. The average BrightRoll video campaign reaches over 50 million unique users over a six week period. A video advertising innovator, BrightRoll is built entirely on proprietary video ad serving, targeting and optimization technology.

The market

Video advertising is promising to be huge opportunity online and the sector is extremely competitive with new players entering every couple of weeks. Venture capitals also do think the online video advertising holds the chances to be the next big thing on Internet to bring billions of revenues in and are pouring big money into start-ups with the hope they come up to the groundbreaking technology that might shake the sector and make them the huge ROI.   

No matter what standard for video ads the sector might adopt – pre-roll ads, mid-roll adspost-roll ads, watermark ads, viral ads or overlay ads, the undisputed leader remains Google’s YouTube with its huge number of eyeballs. That’s why the smaller players are focusing not on the reach but on different approaches and technologies to more effectively serve, track and measure these video ads. The video ads are in their infancy on Web and there is plenty of room for innovation and growth and all those small start-up companies hold their good chances for success.

Some companies, as we know them, include BlackArrow, BrightRoll, XillianTVPodaddies, VMIX and MeeVee. BrightRoll video ad network itself has raises $5 Million while VMIX, yet another video network company has also raised a whopping amount of money $16.5M to expand its business. Other video advertising players include Revver, VideoEgg’s TheEggNetwork, ScanScout, Adap.tv, AdBrite’s InVideo platform, BroadRamp and Blinkx.

eMarketer predicts online video advertising to nearly double in 2008 to $1.3 billion, but no one’s really nailed a scalable ad platform for video. However, Google’s been quietly testing their own system and there are a bunch of other startups tackling it as well.

More about BrightRoll

Led by a team of Internet advertising veterans and engineers, BrightRoll has served billions of advertisements since we got started. We achieved this growth by enabling agencies and brand advertisers to execute smart video ad campaigns across the industry’s leading publishers, including over half of the top 250 websites in the United States.

Dozens of advertising agencies work with BrightRoll to execute campaigns for their premier brands. By offering full site disclosure, detailed performance reports and flexible targeting, we provide advertisers with the reach, frequency, scalability, and transparency needed to achieve their goals.

Hundreds of branded publishers work with BrightRoll to maximize the value of their online inventory. We are fortunate to work with many of the Internet’s leading branded publishers, including multiple television properties, and most of the leading high-volume video sites.

The company was launched in 2005 and has offices in San Francisco and New York City. Founders are Tod Sacerdoti and Dru Nelson.

The Team

Tod M. Sacerdoti, CEO, Founder

Tod M. Sacerdoti is the Chief Executive Officer of BrightRoll and co-founded the business in July, 2006. Most recently, Tod was the Director of Revenue and Business Development at Plaxo, one of the fastest growing companies in the history of the Internet. Previously, Tod was the Director of Business Development at Spoke Software, an enterprise software firm providing tools to sales forces to better leverage relationships. Tod also worked at Interscope, Geffen and A&M Records, a division of the Universal Music Group and was an analyst in both the Mergers & Acquisitions Group and the Internet Corporate Finance group at Robertson Stephens. Tod has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and has a B.A. in Economics from Yale University.

Dru Nelson, CTO; Founder

Dru Nelson is the Chief Technology Officer of BrightRoll and co-founded the business in July, 2006. Dru brings over twelve years of senior software development expertise to the company. Prior to BrightRoll, Dru was a Senior Software Engineer at Plaxo Inc. , where he was also the first Engineer hired and the first Client Engineer. Previously, Dru was the Director of Service Operations at eGroups (sold to Yahoo), Senior Software Engineer at Diva Systems (spinoff of SRI Research) and a Software Engineer at Four11 (sold to Yahoo and became Yahoo!Mail). Dru also has previous experience at the Florida State University Supercomputer Research Institute (SCRI).

Charlie Whittingham, Vice President, Sales

Charles Whittingham is the Vice President of Sales at BrightRoll and brings over 25 years experience in media, advertising and building Internet sales teams. Most recently, Charles was the Vice President of Sales, Western Region, for Advertising.com (a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL). Previously, he was Regional Vice President of Sales for About.com (owned by the New York Times), Regional Vice President of Sales for The Excite Network (owned by IAC/Interactive Corp.) and Executive Vice President, Sales Marketing at Wired Magazine. Prior to his Internet experience, he held senior positions as Director of New Business Development for advertising agencies McKinney & Silver and J. Walter Thompson, Southeastern Sales Director at The National Sports Daily and Sales Manager with People Magazine.

Lewis Rothkopf, Vice President, Network Development

Lewis is charged with broadening BrightRoll’s audience reach and enhancing client value by building strategic partnerships with the web’s top publishers. Prior to joining BrightRoll, lewis was Head of Distribution for the national Broadband Company (NBBC), NBC Universal’s digital video syndication business, where he was responsible for connecting premium digital video owners with the web’s premier publishers. Active in the digital media community for a decade, Lewis spent five years at DoubleClick Inc.’s TechSolutions for Publishers business, most recently as a sales and account management leader. He was at LightningCast Inc., one of the first video advertising companies, as a director of sales for the video ad insertion technology business, where he helped ready the company for acquisition by AOL LLC. In those capacities, he spearheaded technology and media solutions for numerous industry leaders, including AOL, Washington Post, Newsweek Interactive, Disney/ABC, Scripps, Networks, MTV Newworks, CBS Inc., Knight Ridder Digital, United Online, among many others. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Boston University and lives in Manhattan with his wife Nicole.

Calton Chan, Director of Sales, Eastern Region

Calton Chan is the Director of Sales, Eastern Region at BrightRoll and brings over 10 years experience in media, advertising and building Internet sales teams. Most recently, Calton was the Vice President of Agency Relations for ContextWeb, one of the leading contextual ad networks. Previously, he was Sales Director at The Excite Network (owned by IAC/Interactive Corp.) and Director of Sales for About.com (owned by the New York Times). Prior to his Internet experience, Calton worked in software sales for Autodesk. Calton has a B.A. in Biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Mike Enomoto, Director, Media

Mike Enomoto is the Director of Media at BrightRoll and brings over eight years of managing media buying, ad ops, campaign management, and publisher relationships. Most recently Mike managed sales and distribution for Adteractive, one of the largest online lead generation marketers. At Adteractive, Mike was responsible for buying display media, creative and product strategy, and client development. Previously, he was the primary display media buyer for the Alena division of Intermix Media (acquired by News Corp) where he was responsible for all portal media relationships and campaign profitability. Mike began his career with MaxOnline (acquired by IAC / Interactive Corporation), one of the pioneering online ad networks. Mike has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

About the Investors

About TRUE Ventures

True Ventures invests in promising entrepreneurs at the earliest stages in the highest-growth segments of the technology market. The Partners at True have started over ten companies as founders, and True is designed by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. The firm clearly understands both opportunities and challenges in the earliest stage of development and provides young companies with a powerful, seasoned partner.

About KPG Ventures

KPG Ventures, a San Francisco based venture capital firm founded by Vince Vannelli, brings capital, experience and strategic relationships to early and seed stage companies. KPG is committed to investing in talented people and actively supporting each portfolio company in building their business.

Adams Street Partners, LLC

Adams Street Partners has been making investments in private equity since 1972 and is also credited with establishing the industry’s first institutional private equity fund of funds in 1979. Adams Street Partners has made over 140 investments with the objective of backing experienced management teams focused on high-growth markets. Investments are made primarily in companies in the technology, life sciences, and technology-enabled services sectors. Adams Street Partners currently manages $15 billion and has offices in Chicago, Menlo Park, London and Singapore.
 
Private investors include Jeff Clavier (SoftTechVC), Fabrice Grinda (Co-CEO, OLX and Founder, Zingy), Auren Hoffman (CEO, Rapleaf), Oliver Jung (Partner, Adinvest), Ariel Poler (Founder, Topica), Aydin Senkut (President, Felicis Ventures), Michael Tanne (CEO, Wink & Founder, AdForce), Colin Wiel (President, Keiretsu), Jeremy Wenokur (Former Corp. Dev., Google).

More

http://www.brightroll.com/
http://blog.brightroll.com/
http://www.brightroll.com/2007/10/23/brightroll-secures-5-million-in-venture-capital-funding/
http://www.brightroll.com/2007/10/24/brightroll-serves-1-billionth-video-advertisement/
http://mashable.com/2007/10/19/brightroll-funded/
http://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/10/yume-a-broadband-video-advertising-network-has-taken-16m-so-far-to-tackle-the-video-advertising/
http://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/09/blackarrow-took-12-million-to-tackle-the-video-advertising-relies-on-cable-companies/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/brightroll
http://www.todsacerdoti.com/