Tag Archives: investment

Wisdom of the crowds principle effectively applied to predict markets, events

While doing our daily research on the web 2.0 deals we came across a very interesting start up that deserves to make our web 2.0 innovations list – Predictify.

Essentially it is a very interesting and pretty innovative idea of using the wisdom of the crowds and the collective intelligence principles to predict in behalf of advertisers and market researchers. It is community-driven prediction market that pays and rewards users for their accuracy, which guarantees user engagement at higher level.

We’ve found out the site has launched just this last October and since then it launched its platform where other companies can create co-branded prediction centers. Freakanomics was Predictify’s launch partner for the platform, where readers can predict outcomes discussed on the Freakonomics blog.

The company has announced today it has closed $4.3 million round of funding, from Sierra Ventures and Sherpalo Ventures. Mark Fernandes, a managing director at Sierra Ventures, will be joining the Predictify board. Predictify has taken so far only an angel round of funding a year ago, but the amount is not publicly disclosed.

More about Predictify

Predictify is a prediction platform where users can predict the future and build a reputation based on their accuracy, and marketers can post questions to collect actionable, forward-looking data “from the crowd”.

Predictors
Predictify provides a simple, fun way to predict the future. You can research, discuss and predict what will happen, build a reputation based on your accuracy, and even get paid real money when you’re right (tell me more). Best of all, it’s free – no points or bets required.

Advertisers
Predictify is an effective way to create interactive advertisements by posting a question related to your product or service. Users’ incentive to be accurate leads to a high level of engagement in your marketing message. The resulting data set, which includes demographic information, provides insight into the preferences of existing and potential customer segments.

Market Researchers
Predictify uses advanced statistical methods to identify experts among their users based on past predictive accuracy, and combines this with demographic information to provide unique, crowd-based insight. You can tap into this user base to collect a large sample of predictions about future events, trends, and market data. Predictify’s unique system captures the full distribution of beliefs, not just the average, and provides easy-to-use graphical tools to analyze the results.

Here is quickly how it works

Predictify is a prediction platform where users can predict the future and build a reputation based on their accuracy, and marketers can post questions to collect actionable, forward-looking data “from the crowd”.

Submit a Prediction

  • Browse or search for questions that interest you
  • Predict the outcome – it’s free, no points or bets required
  • Build a reputation based on the accuracy of your predictions
  • Earn real money – payouts increase as you achieve higher levels of expertise

Click here to predict!

Ask a Question

  • Compose a question about the future that will have an objective, verifiable outcome
  • Submit your question for approval – it’s free (or select Premium to get demographics for $1 per response)
  • View the interactive, graphical results as users submit predictions (example)

Click here to post a question!

More

http://www.predictify.com/
http://blog.predictify.com/
http://mashable.com/2008/03/25/predictify-funding/
http://mashable.com/2008/03/02/predictify-freakanomics/
http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/02/05/predictify/
http://www.infoworld.com/article/07/12/10/50FE-crowdsourcing_1.html
http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/25/a-new-prediction-market-for-the-masses/
http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2007/10/hiring-republic.html
http://www.webware.com/8301-1_109-9794602-2.html
http://mashable.com/2007/10/08/predictify-live/

Ancestry.com has been bought out by a private equity firm, preparing for an IPO

One of the few dot com success stories Ancestry.com and their parent company The Generations Network has entered into a private buyout, a couple of months ago, with the private equity firm Spectrum Equity Investors for a reportedly $300M acquisition deal. Private equity buyouts have been a serious, if not the only, alternative of IPOs these past years.

Spectrum Equity Investors has led the investment of $300 million to purchase a majority interest in the company. Spectrum is a private equity firm based in Menlo Park and Boston and has been a shareholder in The Generations Network since 2003. Following the transaction, Vic Parker and Ben Spero from Spectrum will serve on the company’s new board of directors, along with Tim Sullivan, President and CEO of The Generations Network. Additional terms of the transaction were not disclosed but the investment was said will support and accelerate the company’s “strategic direction and growth plan”.

This is being said to be a liquidity event for most of TGN’s shareholders, although it was said that the deal does not represent a complete buyout. Employees and possibly some outside shareholders still have equity in the entity, which is almost certainly preparing for an IPO or other larger liquidity event. The company is said to be making over $150M in revenues per year and is reported to be hugely profitable according to online sources. The company’s current management team will continue to lead the company.

The Generations Network (formerly MyFamily.com Inc) is a genealogy discovery company which helps you map your family tree. The Generations Network, Inc. provides people the content, community, and technology to empower them to find the people most important to them — and discover and share their unique family stories. The company’s most popular brand is Ancestry.com, which has more than 5 billion names and 23,000 searchable databases for family history information, including the web’s largest collection of historical records.

The Generations Network operates a number of popular sites among which ancestry.com, ancestry.com.uk, ancestry.com.au, ancestry.ca, ancestry.de, ancestry.se, ancestry.fr, ancestry.it, myfamily.com, genealogy.com, rootsweb.comfamilytreemaker.com, ancestrymagazine.com.

In late 2007 the company has launched DNA Ancestry — a new service combining the precision of DNA testing with Ancestry.com’s unrivaled collection of 5 billion names in historical records and the site’s unmatched online family history community.

This DNA testing service provides Ancestry.com’s growing network of more than 15 million users a tool that helps solve family-tree mysteries through science. By taking a simple cheek-swab test and comparing DNA test results in DNA Ancestry’s expanding results database, individuals may be able to extend the branches of their family trees, prove (or disprove) family legends, discover living relatives they never knew existed and find new leads where traditional paper trails dead end.

“DNA testing in family history is reaching critical mass,” said Megan Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian for Ancestry.com and co-author of the no. 1 selling book on genetic genealogy, Tracing Your Roots with DNA. “As more people add their results, the DNA Ancestry database becomes a powerful asset for users to make connections and discover their family tree. Already, many people have taken a simple DNA test to uncover genetic cousins and tap into their research, gathering names, dates, places and stories for their own family tree.”

DNA Ancestry offers Y-DNA and mtDNA tests — the two types of DNA tests most useful in family history, ranging in price from $149 to $199. The Y-DNA test analyzes the DNA in the Y chromosome, which is passed virtually unchanged from father to son. Test results can help users identify living individuals who share Y-DNA as well as predict ancient ancestors’ origins. Women can benefit from Y-DNA by having their father or other related male take the test. The mtDNA test analyzes DNA in an individual’s mitochondrial DNA, which passes from a mother to her children. Test results predict ancient ancestors’ origins and migration route from Africa and can aid in identifying living cousins.

Ancestry.com has also recently introduced the largest collections of U.S. military records and African-American historical records.

According to Quantcast, the company’s main site Ancestry.com is reaching 3M uniques per month but the site is not reported quantified so we can easily assume the site’s real reach is larger. Comscore, by contrast, says TGN’s group of sites had 8.2 million unique worldwide visitors in August 2007 (the only public date we have discovered online).

The Generations Network properties have more than 900,000 paying subscribers off the 8.2 million worldwide unique visitors per and in the last 18 months the company has solidified its position as one of the largest and most profitable subscription businesses online with success in several areas:

  • Ancestry.com is the world’s leading online family history resource, with more than 5 billion names from historical records, unmatched and proprietary search technologies and an engaged and passionate community f more than 2.5 million active members.
  • A redesigned Ancestry.com experience has transformed an online research tool into a platform for aggregating the world’s family history memories. Since late July 2006, more than 3.8 million family trees have been created on Ancestry.com, over 330 million names added to Ancestry Family Trees™, and more than 3.5 million individual photos, stories, or scanned documents have been uploaded by members.
  • Ancestry.com now boasts the only completely indexed online U.S. Federal Census Collection (1790-1930), the most comprehensive online compilation of U.S. ship passenger lists (1820-1960), the largest online collection of African American historical documents and the most comprehensive online collection of U.S. military records.
  • Beyond the United States, the Ancestry global network now includes local country sites for the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, France and Sweden.
  • The recent launch of DNA.ancestry.com™ now extends the Ancestry service into the rapidly growing field of genetic genealogy.
  • AncestryPress™, a digital publishing platform integrated into Ancestry.com, now gives every family the ability to create completely unique, professionally printed family history books.
  • Family Tree Maker® 2008, the No. 1-selling family history software package, is now available online and in major retail stores throughout North America and Europe.
  • The redesigned myfamily.com site now has new features, providing families everywhere a safe, private, and free family home on the Web.

“Spectrum Equity has been an incredibly supportive and strategic-minded investor in our company for several years, so I am thrilled to have them acquire this majority interest in The Generations Network,” said Tim Sullivan, company President and CEO. “2007 has been the company’s most successful and profitable year to date, and 2008 looks even more promising as we grow our core businesses further, expand our global presence, and innovate with new products and services that help us realize our mission to connect families across distance and time. I appreciate Spectrum’s vote of confidence in our direction and vision, and I am excited to work even more closely with Vic Parker and Ben Spero to continue to transform this amazing and unique business into a truly great company.”

Lehman Brothers acted as financial advisor to The Generations Network, Inc. in the transaction.

The Generations Network, Inc. has been founded in 1983 as a print publishing company called Ancestry and is based in Provo Utah. They’ve raised $95 million to date, although the last round of financing was closed back in 2001.

About Spectrum Equity Investors

Spectrum Equity Investors is a private equity firm focused on investing in profitable, growing services businesses. Founded in 1994 with offices in Menlo Park and Boston, Spectrum manages over $4 billion in capital across five funds. The firm’s investment team has deep experience in information services and online media, including investments in Demand Media, Interbank FX, iPay Technologies, NetQuote, Mortgagebot, RiskMetrics Group, Seisint (acquired by Reed Elsevier PLC) and WorldCheck.

The company’s web sites compete with a number of web 2.0 start ups that have aggressively entered the space one of which is Geni. Other companies include MyHeritage, familytreemaker.com, Story Of My Life, Our Story and 23andMe, founded by one of the Google’s founders, which competes with TGN’s DNA unit, among others. 

More

http://www.tgn.com/
http://www.ancestry.com/
http://www.spectrumequity.com/
http://dna.ancestry.com/
http://www.ancestry.com.uk
http://www.ancestry.com.au
http://www.ancestry.ca
http://www.ancestry.de
http://www.ancestry.se
http://www.ancestry.fr
http://www.ancestry.it
http://www.myfamily.com/
http://www.genealogy.com/
http://www.rootsweb.com/
http://www.familytreemaker.com/
http://www.ancestrymagazine.com/
http://blogs.ancestry.com/
http://blogs.ancestry.com/circle/?p=1960
http://tgn.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=111
http://tgn.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=110
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/16/private-buyout-of-ancestrycom-for-300-million/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/thegenerationsnetwork
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/03/05/100-million-valuation-for-geni/
http://www.quantcast.com/ancestry.com
http://www.news.com/Google-invests-3.9-million-in-biotech-start-up/2100-1014_3-6185860.html
http://www.news.com/Ancestry.com-parent-sold-for-300-million/2100-1038_3-6214028.html?tag=resourceshelf
http://www.searchengineworld.com/tech/3456440.htm
http://www.topix.com/com/spectrum-equity-investors/2007/10/ancestry-com-parent-sold-for-300-million
http://www.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSN1729430020071017

Is Google going to be the winner from the Microsoft-Yahoo deal?

Over the past a couple of days all the major media outlets are full with news, analyses, reports, commentaries and researches on the potential deal between Microsoft and Yahoo! trying to figure out the benefits or the potential pitfalls the deal would eventually face.

We’ve read a lot and we’d like here to summarize the pluses and minuses of this potential deal.

Potential pitfalls, disadvantages and overall minuses

Different cultures of the two companies – there will be the challenge of integrating two very different companies, with clashing cultures and business philosophies. At Microsoft, the operating system has always been priority number one, while Yahoo’s vision is all things Internet.

Even combined the new entity is going to have less than the half of the searches Google enjoys.

  • Google Sites: 37.1 billion (5 billion at YouTube)
  • Yahoo Sites: 8.5 billion
  • Baidu.com: 3.3 billion
  • Microsoft Sites: 2.2 billion

So the deal would do little to nothing to address the fundamental problem faced by both companies: finding a way to effectively compete with Google and its growing dominance of the Web.

The combined number of employees would be in the 90,000 range and potential layoffs can be overseen.

The reach of Microsoft and Yahoo! combined is going to be bigger than Google’s but unless the new entity figures out how to more effectively monetize its traffic they are not going to make any impact on Google’s advertising business. Google’s AdSense is still paying most to web publishers compared to other advertising networks, which tells us that Google earns more off its traffic and reach than any other ad network out there.  

Despite Microsoft’s intention to offer significant retention packages to Yahoo’s engineers, key leaders and employees across all disciplines we think Yahoo’s most talented employees will take the money from their suddenly valuable stock options and run. It is clear they aren’t going to get rich working for Microsoft, whose stock has gone up an average of 6.6 percent a year over the last five years.

If this deal happen Yahoo’s shareholders can been seen in a better position compared to Microsoft’s. They would finally get a reasonably happy ending to their long nightmare of waiting for Yahoo management to come up with a viable strategy to repel the Google assault. Other than announcing a thousand job cuts this week, Yahoo co-founder and Chief Executive Jerry Yang has given no sign that he has any better ideas for turning around the struggling company than Terry Semel, who resigned in disgrace in June 2007.

There are many questions to be addressed; some of them are included below.

  • Live search or Yahoo search?
  • Live mail or Yahoo mail?
  • Live messenger or Yahoo messenger?
  • Live spaces, Yahoo 360 or Facebook (Microsoft owns less than 2% in Facebook)?
  • MSN Dating (Match) or Yahoo personal?
  • Microsoft’s AdCenter or Yahoo’s Panama advertising platform?
  • .Net or java?
  • Live ID or Open ID?

None of the above seems to be having any synergies. Most of them are already well established brands while others are taking quite different approaches by using and relying on different technological standards. There is clearly huge dilemma if Microsoft keeps the different brands alive, it will surely confuse customers and reduce synergies. If it kills one or another, it will throw away a lot of expensively built real Web properties.

Microsoft and Yahoo would eventually waste a couple of years jumping through antitrust hoops and figuring out how to integrate their companies. During all that time Google will continue to adding more business and consumer Web services and leverage its dominance of search advertising into yet more advertising niches.

Google is already aggressively entering into the mobile space, striking deals around the globe to get prominent positioning with certain carriers and promoting an open handset design. The company is even bidding billions of dollars to buy a chunk of U.S. wireless spectrum that it could use to launch its own mobile voice and data service.

Potential synergies, advantages and overall pluses

Under no doubt the biggest advantage oversee by the Microsoft’s people is the Internet traffic/reach the combined entity is going to have – it is clearly going to be much larger than Google’s. This is what Steve Ballmer called the eyeballs and is going to be used to strengthen their advertising strategy. According to HitWise the combined traffic reach of Yahoo! and MSN web properties is going to be 15.6% of the entire Internet traffic in the U.S., compared to only 7.7% for Google’s web properties yet Google still has double the market share in search of both Yahoo and Microsoft combined.

Microsoft says it can shave at least $1 billion from operating expenses in a merged company.

The combined revenues of the two companies would be about $65B while the net profit is expected to be in the $17.5B range compared to only $4.2B for Google.

The companied company would achieve around 32% market share from the US search market.

Another advantage is that Yahoo still sports the best consumer Web portal, My Yahoo, with tens of millions of loyal users while Microsoft’s Windows operating system runs nine out of 10 desktop computers on the planet and a considerable portion of the Internet is powered by servers of the company.

In theory, Microsoft might integrate the best services from each company, from Yahoo’s Flickr photo sharing to Microsoft’s Office applications, to provide an appealing PC-and-Internet platform for customers. The technical challenges would be enormous, but the payoff could be huge.

Today Microsoft has over $300B market capitalization while Yahoo!’s has climbed close to $30B so the combined entity would potentially have a market capitalization twice bigger than Google’s, which is a little more than $175B today.

Potential competitive bidders showing up on the horizon

Aside everything else being mentioned above the acquisition deal is not for sure yet. Multiple sources are reporting counter offers are in preparation by competitive bidders trying to snatch Yahoo! before Microsoft does it. One thing is for sure we can easily exclude Google from the list of potential bidders for Yahoo!. On the conference call explaining the deal, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith pointed out that, while other companies may make competing bids for Yahoo, one company that clearly can’t is Google. Citing a 75 percent market share in the paid-search advertising market worldwide, Ballmer asserts, “Google is prevented by antitrust laws from buying Yahoo.”

One of the rumor is that a big private equity firm from New York is going to enter the bidding war for Yahoo!.

Another potential bidder being rumored on a few blogs is the New York-based Quadrangle Partners. Yahoo’s former president, Dan Rosensweig recently joined the firm to open the Silicon Valley office and Quadrangle also has deep media expertise. Yahoo! is after all more like a major media company with Internet nuance rather than pure technology company like, for example, Google.

Other sources are reporting that News Corp is also frantically trying to put together a competing bid, with the help of private equity firms. This makes sense, given News Corp’s previous interest in trading MySpace for a big Yahoo equity stake. News Corp can’t afford to do the whole deal, but it could certainly provide some funding in exchange for some equity.

So to conclude, the minuses, obstacles and the disadvantages seem to be more than what the pluses are expected to be. So if ever a deal goes through it is not very clear what the benefits for both Microsoft and Yahoo! would be and if ever there is going to be a winner from this deal Google, ironically, might be the one at the end of the day.

You can read more over here…

More

http://www.techmeme.com/080201/p78#a080201p78
http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_8149194
http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/feb2008/tc2008021_885192.htm?chan=rss_topStories_ssi_5
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/02/AR2008020200568.html
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/02/02/MN8OUQGNB.DTL&type=tech
http://kara.allthingsd.com/20080201/microsoft-to-yahoo-two-days-to-respond-or-else/
http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/02/hold-everything-we-may-get-another-yhoo-bidder.html
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/01/what-would-a-combined-microsoft-yahoo-look-like/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/01/ballmers-internal-e-mail-to-the-troops-explaining-the-yahoo-acquisition/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/02/news-corp-scrambles-to-bid-for-yahoo/
http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/02/microsoft-yahoo-combined-financials.html

Yes, we were right Yahoo was seriously undervalued; Microsoft offers $44.6B for the company, a 62% premium over their value from yesterday

When a few days ago we conducted an in-depth research on Web and ran an analysis based on the information collected we came up to the logical conclusion that Yahoo! was seriously undervalued company. Today Microsoft proved us right by offering $44.6B for Yahoo!, which represents a 62% premium on Thursday’s closing price. All major media are reporting on the deal.

In our post a few days ago we were speculating that Alibaba lost $13B from its market cap in just one month, yet the company’s market value was close to 50% from what Yahoo!’s value then was (~$26B).

Yahoo! is known to own 39% in Alibaba Group. Alibaba Group holds a 75% stake in Alibaba.com, which was worth $17.4 billion. Yahoo owns 39% of Alibaba Group, which puts the value of their share at $6.8 billion. Yahoo! has also bought around 1.2% stake in Alibaba.com by paying $100M so the direct-owned 1.2% stake was worth about $278 million. That puts the total value of Yahoo’s interest in Alibaba.com at north of $7 billion. That was then about 16.7% of Yahoo’s then $42 billion valuation.

The big question then was whether Alibaba.com is overvalued or Yahoo! is undervalued? One should take into serious consideration the fact that Yahoo! is making more than $6B in revenues per year while Alibaba.com is having, as far as we know, no more than $150M in annual revenues. A quick online research revelead that Alibaba had GAAP Revenue of around $46.3M for 2004 while the company’s revenue in the first half of 2006 was about $100 million (presumingly $200M for the entire 2006). For the first 6 months of 2007 Alibaba had revenue of RMB957.7M (~$132MM) (presuming $260M for the entire 2007). The numbers showed big difference, no? Anyway, today we are already pretty sure we were right the other day and it is obvious today that Yahoo! was seriously undervalued and was a good buy.

Microsoft Corp. made an unsolicited $44.6 billion cash and stock bid for Yahoo on Friday, a deal which could shake up the competitive and lucrative market for Internet search. The deal would pay Yahoo shareholders $31 a share, which represents a 62% premium from where Yahoo stock closed on Thursday.  Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, called the move the “next major milestone” for the software giant. “We are very, very confident this is the right path for Microsoft and for Yahoo,” he said. Ballmer, saying that Microsoft has been in “off and on” talks with Yahoo for 18 months, said he called Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang Thursday night to tell him about the bid.

Microsoft made the bid early Friday. In a statement, the company said the offer allows Yahoo shareholders to elect to receive cash or a fixed number of shares of Microsoft common stock, with the software giant’s offer consisting of one-half cash and one-half Microsoft common stock.

Shares of Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) shot up nearly 60% in pre-market trading on the news, while shares of Dow component Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) went down 5%. In a statement, Yahoo acknowledged receipt of the offer and said its board would evaluate the proposal “carefully and promptly.”

Michael Arrington from Techcrunch has also predicted a couple of days ago in his appearance on Fox Business that Yahoo could face a takeover by Microsoft as part of an ad play, and he was right too.

Two other events hit Yahoo over the past week on Thursday, former Yahoo Chief Terry Semel, who opposed an earlier approach made by Microsoft last year, resigned from the Yahoo’s board. In another announcement Yahoo said it would lay off 1,000 employees by mid-February. Yahoo also reported lower fourth-quarter earnings that still beat Wall Street’s now modest expectations for the firm, but it gave a 2008 revenue forecast that disappointed analysts.

Microsoft also said it projects the online advertising market to grow from over $40 billion in 2007 to nearly $80 billion by 2010 and in other news we have read advertising is the key element from the deal as proposed. Regardless Google’s recent problems and the fact they have lost 24% of its market capitalization since November 2007, the company is still leader on the online advertising market and a potential deal between Microsoft and Yahoo! would for sure strengthen their position in the battle for the online leadership with Google. The investors will no doubt be pressing the line that the combined bulk of the Yahoo! flagship website and MSN, Microsoft’s web division, will create – in terms of advertising inventory at least – a counter to Google’s dominance.  Google already controls nearly 60 percent of the U.S. search market, and has been widening its lead, despite concerted efforts by both second-place Yahoo and third-place Microsoft. By combining, Microsoft and Yahoo would have a 33 percent share of the U.S. search market, according to the latest data from comScore Media Metrix. But the idea is it eventually surge ahead of Google in terms of the eyeballs attracted to the combined web sites. The combined internet properties will have reach of at least 700M/800M people online per month but possible overlap of the real uniques can be expected.

According to comScore the current search numbers are as follows:

  • Google Sites: 37.1 billion (5 billion at YouTube)
  • Yahoo Sites: 8.5 billion
  • Baidu.com: 3.3 billion
  • Microsoft Sites: 2.2 billion

The thing is, Microsoft and Yahoo! have both known this for years and have been falling over themselves to create – or buy – their own advertising technologies that can compete with Google’s. That’s why Microsoft bought aQuantive and Yahoo! has spent furiously on the development of Panama, a rival new advertising platform aside buying a number of other advertising companies like RightMedia and BlueLithium. It’s also part of the reason it’s hard to see any synergies between Microsoft and Yahoo! with their rival proprietary technologies and bolt-on acquisitions. Doubts also abound on whether the two companies would do well together in terms of culture.

Other experts have expressed concerns that Microsoft’s audacious bid for Yahoo reveals the extent to which the Seattle giant has failed to adapt to the Internet age.

On the other side when Yahoo! was created by Jerry Yang and David Filo in 1994, Microsoft was already 21 years old and the largest software developer in the world and indeed Yang by that time was known to go against Microsoft’s technologies and clearly disliking them.

Other questions that have popped up publicly are as follows, including but not limited to.

  • Live search or Yahoo search?
  • Live mail or Yahoo mail?
  • Live messenger or Yahoo messenger?
  • Live spaces, Yahoo 360 or Facebook?
  • MSN Dating (Match) or Yahoo personal?
  • Microsoft’s AdCenter or Yahoo’s Panama advertising platform?
  • .Net or java?
  • Live ID or Open ID?
  • Anyone else?

Microsoft publicly disclosed its cash-and-stock offer in hopes of rallying support from Yahoo’s shareholders, making it more difficult for Yahoo’s board to turn down the bid.

Below is enclosed the entire email as it was sent from Microsoft’s Steven Ballmer to Yahoo’s board of directors and to Jerry Yang. It somehow made the public and appeared on multiple news sources and blogs.  

January 31, 2008

Board of Directors
Yahoo! Inc.
701 First Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
Attention: Roy Bostock, Chairman
Attention: Jerry Yang, Chief Executive Officer

Dear Members of the Board:

I am writing on behalf of the Board of Directors of Microsoft to make a proposal for a business combination of Microsoft and Yahoo!. Under our proposal, Microsoft would acquire all of the outstanding shares of Yahoo! common stock for per share consideration of $31 based on Microsoft’s closing share price on January 31, 2008, payable in the form of $31 in cash or 0.9509 of a share of Microsoft common stock. Microsoft would provide each Yahoo! shareholder with the ability to choose whether to receive the consideration in cash or Microsoft common stock, subject to pro-ration so that in the aggregate one-half of the Yahoo! common shares will be exchanged for shares of Microsoft common stock and one-half of the Yahoo! common shares will be converted into the right to receive cash. Our proposal is not subject to any financing condition.

Our proposal represents a 62% premium above the closing price of Yahoo! common stock of $19.18 on January 31, 2008. The implied premium for the operating assets of the company clearly is considerably greater when adjusted for the minority, non-controlled assets and cash. By whatever financial measure you use – EBITDA, free cash flow, operating cash flow, net income, or analyst target prices – this proposal represents a compelling value realization event for your shareholders.

We believe that Microsoft common stock represents a very attractive investment opportunity for Yahoo!’s shareholders. Microsoft has generated revenue growth of 15%, earnings growth of 26%, and a return on equity of 35% on average for the last three years. Microsoft’s share price has generated shareholder returns of 8% during the last one year period and 28% during the last three year period, significantly outperforming the S&P 500. It is our view that Microsoft has significant potential upside given the continued solid growth in our core businesses, the recent launch of Windows Vista, and other strategic initiatives.

Microsoft’s consistent belief has been that the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! clearly represents the best way to deliver maximum value to our respective shareholders, as well as create a more efficient and competitive company that would provide greater value and service to our customers. In late 2006 and early 2007, we jointly explored a broad range of ways in which our two companies might work together. These discussions were based on a vision that the online businesses of Microsoft and Yahoo! should be aligned in some way to create a more effective competitor in the online marketplace. We discussed a number of alternatives ranging from commercial partnerships to a merger proposal, which you rejected. While a commercial partnership may have made sense at one time, Microsoft believes that the only alternative now is the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! that we are proposing.

In February 2007, I received a letter from your Chairman indicating the view of the Yahoo! Board that “now is not the right time from the perspective of our shareholders to enter into discussions regarding an acquisition transaction.” According to that letter, the principal reason for this view was the Yahoo! Board’s confidence in the “potential upside” if management successfully executed on a reformulated strategy based on certain operational initiatives, such as Project Panama, and a significant organizational realignment. A year has gone by, and the competitive situation has not improved.

While online advertising growth continues, there are significant benefits of scale in advertising platform economics, in capital costs for search index build-out, and in research and development, making this a time of industry consolidation and convergence. Today, the market is increasingly dominated by one player who is consolidating its dominance through acquisition. Together, Microsoft and Yahoo! can offer a credible alternative for consumers, advertisers, and publishers. Synergies of this combination fall into four areas:

Scale economics: This combination enables synergies related to scale economics of the advertising platform where today there is only one competitor at scale. This includes synergies across both search and non-search related advertising that will strengthen the value proposition to both advertisers and publishers. Additionally, the combination allows us to consolidate capital spending.

Expanded R&D capacity: The combined talent of our engineering resources can be focused on R&D priorities such as a single search index and single advertising platform. Together we can unleash new levels of innovation, delivering enhanced user experiences, breakthroughs in search, and new advertising platform capabilities. Many of these breakthroughs are a function of an engineering scale that today neither of our companies has on its own.

Operational efficiencies: Eliminating redundant infrastructure and duplicative operating costs will improve the financial performance of the combined entity.

Emerging user experiences: Our combined ability to focus engineering resources that drive innovation in emerging scenarios such as video, mobile services, online commerce, social media, and social platforms is greatly enhanced.

We would value the opportunity to further discuss with you how to optimize the integration of our respective businesses to create a leading global technology company with exceptional display and search advertising capabilities. You should also be aware that we intend to offer significant retention packages to your engineers, key leaders and employees across all disciplines.

We have dedicated considerable time and resources to an analysis of a potential transaction and are confident that the combination will receive all necessary regulatory approvals. We look forward to discussing this with you, and both our internal legal team and outside counsel are available to meet with your counsel at their earliest convenience.

Our proposal is subject to the negotiation of a definitive merger agreement and our having the opportunity to conduct certain limited and confirmatory due diligence. In addition, because a portion of the aggregate merger consideration would consist of Microsoft common stock, we would provide Yahoo! the opportunity to conduct appropriate limited due diligence with respect to Microsoft. We are prepared to deliver a draft merger agreement to you and begin discussions immediately.

In light of the significance of this proposal to your shareholders and ours, as well as the potential for selective disclosures, our intention is to publicly release the text of this letter tomorrow morning.

Due to the importance of these discussions and the value represented by our proposal, we expect the Yahoo! Board to engage in a full review of our proposal. My leadership team and I would be happy to make ourselves available to meet with you and your Board at your earliest convenience. Depending on the nature of your response, Microsoft reserves the right to pursue all necessary steps to ensure that Yahoo!’s shareholders are provided with the opportunity to realize the value inherent in our proposal.

We believe this proposal represents a unique opportunity to create significant value for Yahoo!’s shareholders and employees, and the combined company will be better positioned to provide an enhanced value proposition to users and advertisers. We hope that you and your Board share our enthusiasm, and we look forward to a prompt and favorable reply.

Sincerely yours,

/s/ Steven A. Ballmer

Steven A. Ballmer

Chief Executive Officer

Microsoft Corporation

Big question here is will the anti trust authorities in US and the EU’s ones allow this to happen. Microsoft has previously shown, not only once, an interest in Yahoo, with reports in May 2007 saying that Microsoft had approached Yahoo about a friendly takeover, rumored to have offered $50B by that time. Some other sources go even further down to offers dated from 2006, according to the CNet article. Mediapost.com has some perspective on the deal from the point of view of ads and eyeballs. Such an acquisition, which would be Microsoft’s largest by far — it bought aQuantive last year for $6 billion — would, as we mention above, need approval by US and EU authorities. A European Commission spokesman declined to comment to Reuters. There’s also a conference call at 8:30am EST where more details will be publicly reveled.
Really more

http://www.yahoo.com/
http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=YHOO
http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=msft
http://www.microsoft.com/en/us/default.aspx
http://money.cnn.com/2008/02/01/technology/microsoft_yahoo/?postversion=2008020108
http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080201/microsoft_yahoo.html?.v=22
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=asbqLJQTL8eI&refer=us
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/technology/2008/02/microsoft_and_yahoo_perfect_pa.html
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/01/wow-microsoft-offers-446-billion-to-acquire-yahoo/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/30/lets-trash-yahoo-during-happy-hour/
http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5htQYlMQMYqZmuCMJwt514rqKceVw
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/05/04/microsoft-pursues-yahoo-takeover/
http://uk.techcrunch.com/2008/02/01/if-microsoft-buys-yahoo-what-does-it-mean-for-europe/
http://www.mercurynews.com/localnewsheadlines/ci_8137285
http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/article/futures-jump-microsoft2fyahoo-bid_461090_2.html
http://in.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idINIndia-31718720080201
http://www.forbes.com/markets/feeds/afx/2008/02/01/afx4602885.html
http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/microsoft-offers-446-bln-yahoo/story.aspx?guid=035B5DA4-6DDD-44A9-95D6-2EFF58F6EB04&dist=SecMostRead
http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/technology/article3289188.ece
http://slashdot.org/article.pl?no_d2=1&sid=08/02/01/1353211
http://publications.mediapost.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.showArticleHomePage&art_aid=75612
http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssTechMediaTelecomNews/idUSBRU00628720080201
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120186587368234937.html?mod=yahoo_hs&ru=yahoo
http://www.bigmouthmedia.com/live/articles/semel-steps-down-from-yahoo-board-of-directors.asp/4401/
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/01/technology/01cnd-subyahoo.html?em&ex=1202014800&en=ce4ce395e1c80eb4&ei=5087%0A
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jan/31/yahoo.digitalmedia
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/7b2043ba-cf68-11dc-854a-0000779fd2ac.html
http://news.zdnet.co.uk/internet/0,1000000097,39292572,00.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Ballmer
http://news.tigerdirect.com/2008/02/01/microsoft-proposes-acquisition-of-yahoo-for-31-per-share/
http://www.fierceiptv.com/story/microsoft-bids-45-billion-yahoo/2008-02-01?utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss
http://blog.edge.be/uncategorized/microsoft-koopt-yahoo
http://jimstroud.com/2008/02/01/microsoft-bids-4500000000000-for-yahoo/
http://www.pixelapes.com/2008/02/01/breaking-news-microsoft-offer-to-buy-yahoo/
http://gigaom.com/2008/02/01/dear-yahoo-i-pwn-you-xo-microsoft/
http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080201/NEWS/80201015/-1/rss
http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/2008/02/microsoft-propo.html
http://blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/2008/02/01/microsoft-hands-off-my-yahoo/
http://thenextweb.org/2008/02/01/microsoft-offers-446-billion-for-yahoo-why-yahoo-will-accept/
http://sandeepvenu.wordpress.com/2008/02/01/microsoft-offers-to-buy-yahoo-for-446-bln/
http://www.buzzmachine.com/2008/02/01/microsoft-yahoo-the-deal-of-the-dinos/
http://domainnamewire.com/2008/02/01/what-would-microsoft-yahoo-mean-for-domainers/
http://www.istartedsomething.com/20080202/microsoft-yahoo-big-mess-comparison/
http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/080201-100256
http://www.gadgetell.com/tech/comment/microsoft-offers-to-acquire-yahoo-for-446-billion-dollars/
http://www.seobook.com/what-microsoft-acquisition-yahoo-means-webmasters-web-publishers
http://www.paidcontent.co.uk/entry/419-microsoft-makes-446-billion-cash-and-stock-bid-for-yahoo-62-percent-pre/
http://webworkerdaily.com/2008/02/01/microsoft-offers-to-buy-ailing-yahoo-for-446-billion/

Secretive video site has raised $800,000 seed round

A couple of months ago a secretive video site has raised $800,000 seed round from Concept Ventures and its founder and managing director, Julien Nguyen, according to multiple sources on Web. The company was rumored they were in quest for its series A round of funding for some time across the Silicon Valley.

The company name is XillianTV and is based in Santa Clara, Calif. The site is said to be focused on video delivery to consumers. An interesting fact worth mentioning here is XillianTV’s chief executive and co-founder, Mitchell Berman, is a former executive from Home Box Office Inc., E! Entertainment Television Inc. and other television companies, which definitely brings in some practical hand-on experience to the start-up.

We have tried to dig something up for the company but there is basically nothing publicly available on Internet. So we leave the time to tell all us what the company is up to and does it worth the money spent on anyway.
 
The video sector is well overcrowded and was the hottest one for the entire 2007. If we need to guess work what the company is dealing with we would bet on anything but either technology or concept that helps publishers monetize their video inventory. Another possible area the company might be working on could be some vertical online video channel.

About Concept Ventures

Concept Ventures invests in early stage companies in digital media, communications, semiconductors, software and services, and healthtech.

Their Investment Focus is in early stage entrepreneurs, who sometimes only have a rough idea of what to do, and help them formulate a crisp business strategy that addresses an important problem, with a business model that will fuel the growth of the company. The explosion of consumer electronics has created large opportunities in digital media, communications, and semiconductors. Applications for consumer electronics devices are crucial to the success of these devices, and entrepreneurs are coming with new ideas of software and services.

With U.S. healthcare industry consuming $2 Trillion per year of the nation’s resources, we believe that new efficiencies can and must be applied to the healthcare sector. That is why we are investing in companies that deploy scalable technologies to increase the efficiency of healthcare, a sector we call HealthTech.

Call To Action

We work closely with entrepreneurs from as early as the seed level. Startups can benefit from our operational experience to help them define markets and business strategies. We can also help build a top tier investment syndicate for all rounds of financing.

Reading through the profile of their investors could it be that XillianTV is trying to get something worked out within the so-called by Concept Ventures HealthTech sector?

More

http://www.xilliantv.com/
http://www.bandangels.com/members/downloads/Volume13Issue6.pdf
http://venturebeat.com/2007/10/10/xilliantv-secretive-video-firm-searching-for-first-round/
http://mashable.com/2007/10/10/xilliantv-funded/
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/5/411/670
http://www.conceptvc.com/

After Samwer brothers Nokia is also going to invest in Facebook

It has been deal time for Facebook over the past months, or year? After Microsoft, the Honk Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing  and the Samwer brothers Nokia is now rumored to be in talk to invest in Facebook. Let’s however first take a look at what the Samwer brothers have gotten last week for their money.

The Samwer brothers, Marc, Oliver, and Alexander, have reportedly taken a stake in the social networking site, according to online sources including Reuters. The three German Internet entrepreneurs, the Samwer brothers, have taken a stake in the social networking site Facebook, Alexander Samwer said. Mr. Samwer, who declined to reveal the size of the stake, said the brothers would now become Facebook’s strategic partners in Europe. “We are going to support the expansion of Facebook in Europe,” It has also been disclosed that the Samwer brothers have offered up less than the $240 million that Microsoft paid for a 1.6% stake in Facebook, but the Samwer brothers’ investment amount, was rumored, is still sizable. Samwer have basically given the following comment: it was a “significant” amount, and less than the $240 million Microsoft paid for a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook in October, which valued the site at $15 billion. Analysts are left to speculate on the exact numbers.

“We think Facebook is, after Google, the most innovative company to have emerged in the last few years. We think it will be the phenomenon for the Internet that Windows was for the desktop,” Samwer said. Pretty serious claim, but it has to be taking into consideration the huge amount of money being poured in Facebook on reportedly less than $200M in revenues for 2007.

More about Samwer brothers

After selling the German Internet auction site Alando.de to eBay for $50 million in shares, the brothers have made names for themselves and have become even more involved with startups since. After a brief spell working for eBay, they then set up ringtone firm Jamba, which they sold to the U.S. company Verisign for $273 million in shares and cash in 2004. Little later they have also invested in the German Twitter clone, Frazr, and a handful of other startups. Interestign fact to note is that the Samwer brothers also invested in the Facebook clone StudiVZ, which was sold about a year ago for $112 million. Taking these facts and achievements into consideration we would not be that far in our conclusions if we say the guys are successful serial entrepreneurs and they have something to do with the social networking, at least in Europe. It already comes as no surprise they are interested to bring the most popular social site into Europe and lock down exclusivity for the market.

As the Samwer brothers are becoming the strategic partners for Facebook in Europe means that Facebook is getting even more serious about its European expansion. With the Samwer brothers having a large, vested interest in the success of Facebook’s growth across Europe, this seems like a pretty good fit considering the interests for all parties involved.

Just a week later and we are seeing today Nokia is also ready to jump the bandwagon of Facebook investors. However, this deal seems to be structured/offered in a little bit different way than pure investment where Nokia is rumored to be in talk for a deal with Facebook to bring the social site on to Nokia handsets in a major way. The Facebook placement could be as prominent as the YouTube button on the main screen of iPhone, online sources indicate. In addition, the deal is said to involve giving Facebook a major slot within Nokia retail products’ displays.

Nokia purchasing a stake in the company was said on several news sites and professional blogs is something yet to be confirmed. This now makes a little more sense in the light of Facebook’s recent strategic funding by Sawmer Brothers, in an effort to expand in Europe. The Nokia-Facebook deal would probably give the social network instant big-time mobile distribution: Nokia is the world’s largest maker of mobile phones after all.

A senior Nokia executive, speaking on background, declined to go into details about the pact with Facebook: “There is talk of a partnership in the works… it’s safe to say we’re testing the waters and things still have to be worked out.”

Nokia has of late been working on a number of services for the mobile, including its mobile web service Ovi, its mobile social network Mosh, and its most recent acquisitions in the larger media applications space. In October last year, it bought digital mapping provider Navteq for $8.1 billion to eventually offer customers location-based services. Also in October, it announced a deal to provide a year’s free access to Universal’s music catalog on certain Nokia phones. Also, it bought three other smaller companies last year: Avvenu (file sharing on mobiles and between mobile-PC); Twango (media sharing service for the hefty amount of $100 million); and Enpocket (mobile advertising and marketing services). 

On the content side, the potential deal with Nokia could be seen in very positive light for Facebook to drive the site’s usage on the mobile web.

The investment side, although nothing is for sure yet, isn’t that surprising given how many companies and high profile investors have already bought stakes into the Facebook over hyped site. “The remarkable part is how many companies are willing to invest in Facebook at a $15 billion valuation. At best Facebook may be worth even more than that, particularly when you consider sites like Baidu have a market cap in excess of $9 billion.”  Said Duncan Riley, who is an author at Techcrunch.

We don’t know when Facebook may move to an IPO; in his 60 Minutes interview a week ago Mark Zuckerberg said that it might be this year, or next year, or even 2010. What we do know is that an IPO in the current market will unlikely provide a strong valuation for Facebook.

Taking into serious considerations the current stock market conditions and all the US recession talk lately Facebook is highly unlikely to IPO this year. 2009/ 2010 are spoken out as the earliest dates for the Facebook’s IPO, presuming that the market eventually recovers.

Other less optimistic people are commenting that an investment at that $15B valuation is nothing less than idiotic and give the following details in support of their claims.

  1. When MSFT made investment in FB, YHOO was trading at $25/share. That is 20% higher than todays price. No way is FB worth 55% of Yahoo’s valuation of $27B today.
  2. Yahoo has revenue of over $6.5 Billion. FB generated $150M.
  3. Yes, FB is growing. But, YHOO has a real business and FB is trying to figure out how to make money.
  4.  Competition: FB has more competition than YHOO. YHOO has to deal with GOOG, MSFT and ASK. FB has to deal with the 15+ social networking sites plus GOOG and ASK (expected soon!?). 

In opposition to these claims and comparisons, other people find it quite shocking that this isn’t apparent to most people why FB is put at such high valuation and is being chased by major companies.

A stake in FB to certain companies is a priceless gamble. They are not trying to own a stake so that if/when FB becomes a revenue source they too can share in the benefits and see an incredible ROI. What they are doing is trying to solidify a relationship (as exclusive as possible) so that as FB carves out their experimental business model these companies will be able to couple themselves to it somehow. It’s more of a bribe than an investment, sources claim.

Companies like Microsoft and Nokia are essentially saying “We will pay you a few hundred million to establish the beginnings of what will be a mutually beneficial and exclusive relationship. A small portion of your company will be an added benefit and you can use that to broadcast a large valuation to the world to further legitimize your business despite an unproven and incomplete model”.

Facebook would like to continue to own and exploit their users’ private data without sharing in these profits and simply providing a useful service. Unfortunately, consumers are quickly learning that this may be something to be concerned about. There is a fast growing demand for openness that will hurt their walled garden philosophy. At some point an open and selfless alternative will arise and Facebook will shrink in order to remain a viable player for the long run. The catch 22 will lead to the inevitable deflation of Facebook.

Facebook is hugely popular social networking site, second only to MySpace in terms of users. Other popular social networking sites are Bebo and Friendster, the second one tried to acquire Facebook in 2004 for just $10M.

The latest comScore metrics, we have seen, revealed that Facebook is actually site #16 (others claim it is #6 today) in US with nearly 70M unique visitors per month and more than 50M registered and active users.
 
Peter Thiel, cofounder of PayPal and managing partner of the Founders Fund was the first angel investor in the company. He invested $500,000 into Facebook in early 2004. Later Accel Partners poured $12.7 million more in funding, at a valuation in the $100 million range.

The next year [2006], Facebook received $25 million in funding from Greylock Partners and Meritech Capital, as well as returning investors Accel Partners and Peter Thiel. The pre-money valuation for this deal was in the $525 million range.

Facebook is reported to have turned deals down from Friendster, Yahoo, Viacom  and the mighty Google a couple of months ago when Zuckerberg has chosen Microsoft to partner with. Microsoft de-facto has invested $240 million into Facebook for just 1.6 percent of the company in October 2007. This put the company’s valuation at over $15 billion on just $150 million in annual revenues.

Total funding for the company is now exceeding $400M as this number is highly speculative given the fact no public information is available for both the Samwer brothers’ investment and the Nokia’s eventual equity purchase.

It would really be interesting to find out what’s the equity position Mr. Li Ka-shing, Samwer brothers have secured and eventually Nokia will have for their money considering what Microsoft has bought for their $240M.

More

http://www.facebook.com
http://www.nokia.com/
http://mashable.com/2008/01/15/facebook-samwer-brothers/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/20/nokia-to-invest-in-facebook/
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-nokia-and-facebook-working-on-mobile-deal-could-involve-investment/
http://www.reuters.com/article/rbssTechMediaTelecomNews/idUSL1562367720080115
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/01/16/facebook-hits-europe_n_81730.html
http://web2innovations.com/money/2007/11/30/hong-kong-billionaire-li-ka-shing-invests-60m-in-facebook-funding-totals-33820m-to-date/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/facebook
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/30/another-60-million-for-facebook
http://kara.allthingsd.com/20071130/facebook-nabs-60-million-investment-from-li-ka-shing
http://www.hutchison-whampoa.com/eng/about/chairman/chairman.htm
http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/12/03/business/brothers.php
http://venturebeat.com/2008/01/15/samwer-brothers-invest-in-facebook/
http://www.moconews.net/entry/419-nokia-to-buy-navteq-for-77-billion/
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-facebook-gets-investment-from-german-online-entrepreneurs-samwer-brothe 
http://www.moconews.net/entry/419-nokia-buys-file-sharing-service-avvenu