Category Archives: Investments

Peanut Labs closes its Series A round of funding

Yesterday we were tipped off that both LeapFrog Ventures and BV Capital have invested in San Francisco start-up called Peanut Labs. The funding is in the $3.2M range and is the company’s Series A round.

Peanut Labs helps social networks monetize, not through the traditional ad-based models, but via market researches and online surveys. The company also says that publishers — more than 70 found on social networks, applications and online communities like Facebook, MySpace, and members of Google’s OpenSocial — receive on average $20,000 per publisher a month.

CEO and Founder Murtaza Hussain isn’t new to the business. Peanut Labs developed their technology based on their own efforts to monetize Xuqa, the now-profitable social network in Turkey. By expanding this business model across several social networks, Peanut Labs proves that social networks and Facebook apps can create profitable revenue streams.

Peanut Labs is said to be profitable but no public information as to the revenues and profits is available, aside claiming profitability and seven figure revenues. The same is for the next year – Peanut Labs expects eight figure revenues in 2008. It can be anything between $1M and $9M and it could also mean anything between $10M and $99M respectively!?

The $3.2 million cash infusion will be used for continued product development towards Peanut Labs’ patent pending market research sampling technology, which is highly effective at reaching the sought after 13-25 year-old demographic known as Gen-Y.  The funding will also be used to actively service Peanut Labs’ burgeoning list of market research clients and enhance the survey-taking experience, a crucial part of Peanut Labs’ Sample3.0 technology.

“With surveys from the gaming, consumer products, entertainment, automotive and cellular industries, the demand for our uninhibited access to this taste-making demographic is exploding.  This round of funding will allow us to expand service to our active list of premier market research clients to give them the highest quality sample,” said Murtaza Hussain, chief executive officer and co-founder of Peanut Labs.  “We feel our business model proves that social networks have alternative ways to maintain profitability that yield revenue increases up to five times higher than with ineffective, ad-based models.”

Found across more than seventy social networks, Peanut Labs helps web publishers create revenue streams through market research surveys.  Each time a member of the social network completes a survey, the publisher earns a sum of money.

“Partnering with Peanut Labs has proven to be a most profitable way to monetize our Facebook applications,” said Josh Liptzin, CEO of Phase 2, Inc., a Peanut Labs publisher.  “There has been much talk surrounding the effectiveness of advertising as a means of revenue, but there is no question that Peanut Labs’ market research surveys are an excellent source of income and appealing to our users to enhance their overall experience.”

More about Peanut Labs

Peanut Labs is a rapidly growing provider of market research services backed by the investors of Skype, Yahoo eGroups and Del.icio.us. We provide access to hard-to-reach demographics for market researchers – and are the leading provider of Gen Y sample for market researchers today.
 
We have developed a research technology integrated across 70+ social networks and an online community that has demographically profiled, aggregated, and engages with millions of members each day. Our technology provides access to a recruitment audience of more than 27 million users.
 
Peanut Labs has partnered with many of the most popular MySpace, FaceBook and Google Open Social applications.

The company claims their network is able to reach more than 10 million users. Their platform enables publishers to better monetize their communities by allowing their users to participate in market research studies. On the other side their platform enables market researchers to gather high-quality data from Gen Y users by reaching them where they spend most of their time – on the Net. Because of their recruiting methods, their panel is free of professional survey takers. Peanut Labs enables access to hard-to-reach groups for the market research community.

Peanut Labs claims to have more than 70 sites participating in their network with total audience of 27M where the daily reach is said to be 4M. The site also claims to have 58 new sites applying to join the network monthly with only 10% of them being accepted.

The company also claims to be able to increase your revenues 3x – 5x more than what your are earning from advertising, which means 100,000 – $1 million in net profit for your organization in one year.

To be eligible, your site needs to have an Alexa ranking of 10,000 or better. At least 25% of your users must be from the US. You must have some way to communicate with individual, registered users (such as on-site messages or emails) on your site. And you need to have some type of incentive system (point, virtual items, community rankings, premium content, locked features etc).
 
Alexa ranking is seriously discredited so we do not understand why Peanut Labs is relying on Alexa to determine the real number of visitors a web site has.

The People

Murtaza Hussain, Chief Executive Officer Murtaza Hussain is the co-founder and CEO of Peanut Labs, provider of advanced market research services and developer of Sample3.0. In his role, Murtaza leads the company’s overall strategy and product direction. Murtaza has been instrumental in forming industry changing partnerships that bridge social media and online communities with the business application needs of the market research community.
 
In recent years, Murtaza has been heavily involved in the technologies supporting social media, and is has developed expertise in the practice of building online communities. Murtaza participates regularly as a speaker at industry events, including the Facebook Developer’s Conference, Widget Summit 2007, SNAP Summit, and Community Next.
 
He was most recently co-founder of XuQa.com, a leading online casual gaming community, which was built to 2M+ users and profitability. In 2001, Murtaza founded Gaming Ventura, an international entrepreneurship holding group which he has successfully been leading in his capacity as President for the previous 6 years.
 
Murtaza is a natural inventor and web developer, leading his team to three consecutive first-place finishes in the Intel International Schools Educational Olympiad from 1999-2001. He was the captain of Team Pakistan in the International Enterprise Olympics, where his team finished third globally. For two seasons, Murtaza also hosted a national youth TV show in Pakistan that boasted a viewership of more than 10 million.
 
He was pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology at Williams College, MA prior to leaving academia to start the company.

Other members of the management include Ali Moiz, Prosper Nwankpa, Sean Case, M. Noman Ali and Lisa Duryea.  Board of Directors include Murtaza Hussain, Prosper Nwankpa, Thomas Gieselmann, Pete Sinclair and Simon Chadwick.

Investors

BV Capital
Silicon Valley and European based BV Capital invests in new opportunities and innovations in the internet space. BV Capital’s portfolio includes companies that are significantly changing the landscape of business and communication today including Angie’s List, Cranite, and shopping.com (eBay).
LeapFrog Ventures
Enablers of great ideas, LeapFrog Ventures has invested in companies that are well positioned for high growth. Known for their commitment to excellence, LeapFrog has had a selective portfolio companies including Octel, Symantec, Intrisa, Striva Software and Netli.

The company has also been named one of 50 “Companies to Watch in 2008” by the Dow Jones VentureOne Summit advisory board.

Similar companies include AdFish, PollDaddy.com, Constantcontact.com/survey, surveyclub.com and BoxTticker.com, among others. 

More

http://www.peanutlabs.com
http://www.peanutlabs.com/peanutlabs/files/documents/PeanutLabs_Sample3.pdf
http://ventureonesummit.dowjones.com/
http://en.oreilly.com/gspwest2008/public/schedule/speaker/2026
http://www.pehub.com/article/articledetail.php?articlepostid=10405
http://sanfrancisco.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/gen/company.html?gcode=74717C66139341F49A7F47D27A548B82
http://sanfrancisco.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/stories/2008/02/18/daily6.html
http://www.leapfrogventures.com
http://www.bvcapital.com/

Microsoft’s stock has fallen 13% since its offer for Yahoo

We have read tons of stories and points of views about the potential deal between Microsoft and Yahoo over the past weeks. We guess all people did. Everything seems already being said about the deal. Yet, something interesting popped up in the news today. It turns out that Microsoft is the big loser from the situation with Yahoo’s acquisition because it has lost 13% of its market capitalization since it has announced its bid to buy Yahoo almost a month ago.

After Microsoft’s stock has fallen 13% since its offer for Yahoo, the Microsoft’s offer price seems to have also been reduced to $29 – $41.7B as of today. Yahoo shares, by contrast, closed at $29.66 on the NASDAQ on Friday, indicating that investors’ expectations are for Microsoft to raise its bid.

While the software giant’s founder and chairman has taken a back seat to CEO Steve Ballmer in the Yahoo bid, Gates wasted no time in tempering expectations if Microsoft failed in its effort to buy Yahoo.

Chairman Bill Gates said yesterday that they are not planning to raise the bid for Yahoo and called the current offer “very fair.” Instead Bill Gates said they are having plans to invest heavily — and they said they can afford it — in anything but web search to compete against Google, with or without Yahoo. Just like what we have always been thinking — it is all about Microsoft vs. Google and Yahoo was only an instrument — Gates’s statement reconfirms it: “Google is the only company with “critical mass” in Web search.”

Yet, he admits that they’d get there faster if the great engineering work that Yahoo has done and the great engineers there were part of the common effort

“There is nothing new in terms of the process. We’ve sent our letter and we’ve reinforced that we consider that it’s a very fair offer,” said Gates, who remains the public face of Microsoft, even though he plans to switch to a part-time role at the company in June to focus on his philanthropic work.

What will happen with the stock prices of both companies if a deal does not go thru? We think both companies will get punished by the public market and have their stock prices reduced. Yahoo’s hit is expected to be stronger. 

More

http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=MSFT
http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=yhoo
http://uk.reuters.com/article/technology-media-telco-SP/idUKN1819990520080219
http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9588_22-6231021.html
http://mashable.com/2008/02/18/bill-gates-were-not-raising-the-yahoo-bid/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/01/yes-we-were-right-yahoo-was-seriously-undervalued-microsoft-offers-446b-for-the-company-a-62-premium-over-their-value-from-yesterday/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/02/is-google-going-to-be-the-winner-from-the-microsoft-yahoo-deal/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/04/google%e2%80%99s-chief-legal-officer-vs-microsoft%e2%80%99s-general-counsel/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/08/one-after-another-the-potential-competitive-bidders-for-yahoo-drop-off-is-yahoo-going-to-surrender-to-microsoft/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/09/end-of-speculations-yahoo-rejected-microsoft%e2%80%99s-offer/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/11/yahoo%e2%80%99s-official-response-to-microsoft%e2%80%99s-offer-no/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/12/and-here-is-what-microsoft-has-to-tell-yahoo/
http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/080211/aqm241.html
http://finance.yahoo.com/q?d=t&s=msft
http://money.cnn.com/2008/02/09/magazines/fortune/yahoo_rejects_bid_report.fortune/?postversion=2008020914
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fffc1006-d5e8-11dc-bbb2-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1
http://blogs.barrons.com/techtraderdaily/2008/02/05/yahoo-the-five-scenario-analysis/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/08/yahoo-board-to-determine-fate-of-company-today/
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
http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=206107168
http://mashable.com/2008/02/10/yahoo-aol-merger/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/10/wait-yahoo-and-aol-i-was-looking-forward-to-something-moreintelligent/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/09/microsofts-80-billion-and-growing-yahoo-headache/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/09/end-of-speculations-yahoo-rejected-microsoft%e2%80%99s-offer

Sharing digital media start up has raised $2.5M

A couple of months ago a tiny start up called Treemo has taken its first round of funding in the $2.5M range. The funding was led by JK&B Capital. The company is a media sharing service for the Web and mobile phones service and like many other players in the space Treemo looks to appeal to musicians and artists and build online communities around them. The company recently held a contest with Sony featuring the band Velvet Revolver.

The site’s users can chose whether to allow advertising on video and audio pages and receive part of the revenue derived therein or decide to keep ads off their video pages. Company founder Brent Brookler says that revenue sharing will start once a critical mass is reached and that the split will probably be 50/50. Beyond advertising revenue, some sort of premium service level will be made available. There is also drag and drop file management, flash embedding and public or friends network permission levels.

Treemo has secured deals with a few US mobile carriers including AT&T.

The company plans to use the additional funding to help expand its entertainment partnerships as well as gain further distribution with mobile carriers. Known angel investors in the company include Intermix/MySpace co-founder Brett Brewer.

The company, known prior to launch as HyperMob, is made up of executives with extensive experience in mobile technology. The company’s founder is Brent Brookler.

We have consulted with Quantcast to see how popular the site is today and it turns out to be not popular one reaching less than 10,000 American visitors. The site is not quantified so that this traffic number might not be accurate.

More about Treemo

Treemo is an online and mobile community dedicated to sharing digital media, empowering self-expression, and transforming creativity into action. By offering an ever-evolving gallery of video, audio, photography, words, and visual art, Treemo inspires visitors to create their own digital expressions, and to share those creations with the world – on the web and on mobile phones.

The Treemo team is comprised of passionate individuals, pioneers in creating Internet and mobile applications with companies like Mobliss, MountainZone, MSN, AT&T Wireless, Cingular, McCaw, Lucent, and a wheelbarrow full of others. With our combined know-how, we’ve built a flexible, intuitive platform to usher in the golden age of ubiquitous broadband; an innovative infrastructure that enables everyone everywhere to broadcast their unique life experience to the whole wide world.

Treemo believes in the freedom of expression, the sanctity of diversity, and the brain-boggling possibilities inherent in new technology. We also have a yearning for learning, a desire to oblige our planetary obligation, and a drive to do our part for art. We believe in the Accountability Trifecta: people, planet, profits – in that order.

Let’s work together and harness all that creative energy. Let’s share stories, energize our communities, and preserve this perfect planet.

Treemo is located in Seattle, WA.

Similar companies include Mobango, Juice Wireless, PixSense and Zedge.net, which was rumored to have been acquired by a telecom company called IDT.

More

http://treemo.com/ 
http://blog.treemo.com/
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2003284456_btinterface02.html
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/09/treemo_transfor.php
http://mashable.com/2007/10/16/treemo-funding/
http://mashable.com/2007/07/10/treemo/
http://mashable.com/2006/12/17/zedgenet-acquired-by-idt/
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/284106_treemo08.html
http://mobilecrunch.com/2006/09/07/treemo-launching-today-new-mobile-content-network-opens-public-beta
http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/09/07/treemo-to-build-a-home-for-concerned-multimedia-producers/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/treemo
http://www.quantcast.com/treemo.com
http://mashable.com/2006/09/07/treemo-launches-youtube-plus-photobucket-on-your-phone/

fix8 has taken $3M for animated avatars for your cam

A couple of months ago the tiny start up company fix8 has raised $3 million in a series A round of funding from Vickers Venture Group, which is a Singapore-based private equity firm. Fix8 is a web cam avatar community that lets you create animated avatars with your web cam by reading your expressions and gestures. When we took a look into their web site we have discovered tons of tools that you can play around with, including fix8’s wide selection of pre-made avatars and other accessories like voice manipulation, graphics and editing tools. Those clips can easily be embedded in your website or social networking profile, or use it for your instant messaging client like AOL, MSN, Skype or Yahoo Messenger.

Fix8 has recently teamed up with a couple of other companies like Pringo and Stickam. fix8 has also expanded its signature technology through a key partnership with Shanghai Media Group (SMG) offering Auditions(TV) to create a new world of Interactive TV where audiences can submit fix8 content for insertion into LIVE or taped programming. fix8 will further bridge the gap between communication devices with the launch of fix8 MOBILE.

Fix8 has also teamed up with Camfess, the premier site for online confessions. The ability to choose your own level of “incremental anonymity” and “confess” without anyone knowing who you are makes Camfess and Fix8 the “perfect fit.”

“Our investment in fix8 is in response to ever-increasing consumer demand for User Generated Content from instant messaging to video sharing and interactive TV,” said Managing Director, Jeffrey Chi, Vickers Venture Partners. “fix8 is well-positioned to lead virtual communications for UGC, and we look forward to supporting their expansion.”

In-Stat estimates global UGC revenues will grow from $80 million in 2006 to $1.6 billion by 2011. IDC estimates enterprise IM will grow from 40 million users in 2007 to more than 140 million by 2009, making it the fastest growing communications medium of all time.

“From camera-to-camera chats to webcasting, video blogging to interactive TV — fix8 allows consumers to unlock their creative desire for expression through a new world of unique, rich animated content,” said CEO, Linh Duy Tang. “We are pleased to be aligned with Vickers, which understands the significance and monetization of User-Generated Content, a phenomena that has broad international appeal.”

While we kept on researching around for more information we came across the following user review on the service. Gave it a try for fun. The idea is great but they have a way to go.

  1. It does not work if you have glasses on, and some people’s eyes do not work with them off.
  2. I did not play around long enough to have my body in the picture also, but from the image above it seems the avatar sits in front of the user. It needs to be placed around them so that when users turn their heads sideways, you can not see their head, but the side of the avatar’s head.
  3. It could not see my mouth moving unless I tilted my head backwards so as to get more light on my face (I have a fluorescent light above me so my room aint dark).

Fix8 is based in Sherman Oaks, CA and is a division of Mobinex, Inc.

More about fix8

Fix8 is a unique interactive communication application that allows people to customize their on-screen virtual appearance in real-time using avatar technology and creative accessories. Fix8 integrates human expression analysis and rendering capabilities, avatar/facial sculpting and animation technology, voice manipulation, and one click 3D face maker design capabilities in one package. Fix8 can create live streaming enhanced video to integrate into IM or other broadcast (such as TV) experiences, or record still images and fully-rendered videos.

While certain elements of the Fix8 product line can be found in the competitive landscape, the core technology to provide real-time animation in a consumer oriented application is unduplicated. Further, the specific feature set(s) offered in the Fix8 product line is unique and disruptive.

Fix8 differentiates itself from the competitive set by offering a unique easy to use application that incorporates avatar technology, 2D/3D facial accessories and flash animated accessories, voice masking and altering, and the ability to for a user to create their own individual set of avatars through use of photorealistic images all married with Fix8’s own IP that analyzes and renders human expressions so that the rich animated creations match the movements of the user in real-time for use in video and streaming.

Fix8 has coined the term user-generated reality to define the broad spectrum of creative self-expressive user-generated animation in real-time. Fix8 enhances the entertainment and enriches the communication experience of its clients’ customers by breathing new life into digital channels across multiple mediums.

The team

Linh Duy Tang, but you can call him “TANG”
President / CEO
 
Mr. Linh Tang is a senior executive (but he is really quite young at heart) with a demonstrated record of accomplishment in worldwide business operations. Tang’s vast experience in technology, operations and management make him the ideal fit to lead Fix8 on its mission to revolutionize virtual communication and expression. Tang is responsible for more than just Fix8’s vision and strategy; he is responsible for driving the “Innovation Bus” all the way to the user. A veteran of several startups with 15+ years in IT and consumer goods industries, Tang is – quite simply – THE MAN.
 
Chuning Ho, our very own voice of reason
Vice President of Operations
 
Ms. Chuning Ho brings over 17 years experience in application development, project deployment, executive management and business operations to the Fix8 team. As a founding member of the management team from initial start-up to present, Chuning knows where all the bodies are buried. Her main responsibilities include (but are not limited to) resources management, process standardization and communication strategy establishment and implementation. Chuning also manages to keep the entire team in check almost effortlessly. She is Fix8’s own secret weapon.
 
Scott Freeman, he sees dead people
Vice President of Finance
 
Mr. Scott Freeman brings extensive financial management experience to the Fix8 team. Scott did hard time with Deloitte & Touche, working in their entrepreneurial division, before he made his move to California Suncare, Inc. where he was instrumental in growing the company from $3M in revenue to $45M and assisted in its sale to a private equity firm for approximately $88M. Long story short, Scott knows how to make money and can see a deal well over a mile away. With a wife that is a successful interior designer, a daughter who is an artistic savant and a son who is a terror on the soccer field, Scott doesn’t have to work but he believes in Fix8 and, honestly, someone needs to keep Jake and Dinesh in check.
 
Dinesh Bhatia, proving that there are nice guys in sales
Vice President of Sales
 
Mr. Dinesh Bhatia brings direct experience in the wireless, television, Internet and software industries to the Fix8 team. Dinesh is a pretty smart guy; he graduated from Washington University with double degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering from Imperial College, London. Dinesh loves the disruptive creation and generation process of the software development community and is responsible for building strong partnerships to enhance the Fix8 user experience through added competitions and connectivity. In his spare time, he loves fiddling around with computers, gadgets, his saxophone and keyboards, photography, astronomy and spending time with his family. Dinesh also loves long walks on the beach – but this is not a personals ad – so let’s stop here.
 
Raphael Ko, it is rumored that he has brothers named Donatello, Leonardo and Michelangelo
Vice President of Engineering
 
Mr. Raphael Ko brings extensive experience in software development and information technologies management to the Fix8 team. Directly responsible for Fix8’s engineering activities, Raphael has drawn upon his 10+ years in software development as well as managing key projects in wireless applications, ERP, and IT services. Raphael’s love of photography and digital imagery fit right in with the Fix8 mission. Not much is known about Raphael’s past, in fact we can’t exactly put our finger on his start date either. One day he just suddenly appeared, fully formed and working (in all honesty) harder than the rest of us, so we let him stay. We still don’t know how he has the time to do what he does and still read all those issues of “Conan the Future Boy;” but some questions are best left unanswered.
 
Hao Zhou, Kevin Bacon stole the idea of six degrees from this guy
Vice President for Sales – China
 
Hao Zhou is a senior executive with an outstanding background in digital television and the new media industry. Shortly after learning how to crawl, Hao began his career as a system engineer, and quickly his work history grew to include sales and promotions of CATV, digital TV, broadband business, indoor and lift media and wireless value-add business. You know that guy who can do anything and has somehow managed to have successfully had every job available in the time it took you to pour your morning coffee? Yeah, well, Hao’s that guy. Hao’s ambition is what has brought him to the Fix8 team with one simple mission: Make Fix8 the next star shining over greater China. If anyone can do it, it’s certainly Hao. He’s our very own Hercules.

About Vickers Venture Partners.

The Vickers Financial Group is the venture capital arm of the Vickers Capital Group, an Asian investment house investing in alternative assets. Vickers Venture Partners is a leading venture capital firm focusing on early stage, high growth companies focused on Asian markets. The firm’s competency stems from the fact that its decision-makers have been part of and hence well-acquainted with the pulse of diverse domains.
 
The market

From what we were able to dig up it seems the space is extremely crowded. The competition include weblin.com, Meez.com, SecondLife, mypictr, gizmoz.com, miieditor, simpsonsmovie.com, gickr.com, Gravatar.com, imvu.com, Zwinky, digibody.com, Faketown, doppelme, SitePal, gaiaonline, imbee, myrl.com, Kaneva, blogoscoped.com, mojikan, frenzoo.com, clickbeurs.nl, Mr. Picassohead, whyrobbierocks.com, weeworld, and voki.com, among others.

More

http://fix8.com/
http://www.vickersfinancial.com/
http://mashable.com/2007/10/15/fix8-funded/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/15/fix8-raises-3-million/
http://mashable.com/2007/09/12/avatars/
http://mashable.com/2007/06/26/fix8-stickam/
http://webmaster.stickam.com/2007/06/fix8_partners_with_stickam_to.html
http://www.camfess.com/contents.php?cid=16
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/05/31/fix8-brings-computer-generated-animation-to-the-webcam/

Qunar, a Chinese travel search engine, raised $10 million

Chinese web 2.0 market is hot up to the point where large-scale financial institution like Lehman Brothers has jumped on a travel start-up. Qunar.com is an online travel search engine that we’ve just found out it has raised $10M in its 2nd round a couple of months ago. The investment in the company was led by Lehman Brothers Private Equity and was joined by return backers GSR Ventures and Mayfield Fund.

The company is based in Beijing, China and was launched in 2005 and means “where are you going?” in Mandarin Chinese. The company was founded by Douglas Khoo, CC Zhuang, and Fritz Demopoulos who had founded and sold the CSEEK search engine to News Corporation and founded and sold the Shawei.com portal to The Tom Group.

Essentially Qunar provides a price comparison engine that leads users to transactions. Qunar makes most of its income from advertising fees. That concept and business model is not something new on Internet but is perhaps in its infancy in the huge Chinese market and Qunar is trying to tap into it.

Qunar is said that it expects to break even consistently in 2008 and it may seek an IPO listing in 2010 or 2011, either in Hong Kong or on the Nasdaq in US.

The market

As from what we were able to dig up Qunar competes with Ctrip and eLong, but analysts predict that it will grow 40%-50% year-over-year for the next couple of years. Qunar has been developing partnerships to get into the Japanese and Korean markets. Under no doubt the major global players on the online travel market are companies like Expedia.com, Hotwire.com, Orbitz.com, Priceline.com, Travelocity.com, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Mobissimo, among others.

Travel remains the single largest component of e-commerce according to Forrester Research, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass. But despite the dominance of online travel agency heavyweights as the companies cited above, most users consult multiple Web sites when shopping online for travel. The average consumer visits 3.6 sites when shopping for an airline ticket online, according to PhoCusWright, a Sherman, CT-based travel technology firm. Yahoo claims 76% of all online travel purchases are preceded by some sort of search function, according to Malcolmson, director of product development for Yahoo Travel. The 2004 Travel Consumer Survey published Jupiter Research released an interesting fact that “nearly two in five online travel consumers say they believe that no one site has the lowest rates or fares.”

More about Qunar

Qunar.com was founded in early 2005 by three entrepreneurs with a number of years experience operating exclusively in the Asian region – Fritz Demopoulos, Douglas Khoo, and CC Zhuang.

With a technology and product development team based in Beijing and directly located next to Beijing University and Tsinghua University, Qunar.com has developed its own proprietary multi-language price comparison search engine in conjunction with these leading institutions.

Qunar.com represents a significant step in the development of the constantly changing, albeit rapidly growing online travel industry within the region. For the first time, through Qunar.com consumers can quickly, easily and in real-time compare virtually all available prices for air tickets, hotels, car rentals and tour packages. In other words, Qunar.com allows consumers to get the best choices and value.

Qunar.com is the market leader in Asia, and we look forward to meeting the needs of the fast growing travel industry.

Currently, Qunar.com searches almost 400 Chinese-language travel web sites. These search results provide our consumers with real-time pricing information and other descriptive details from more than 100 airlines and 10,000 hotels servicing mainland China.

As the recognized “new star” in the online travel industry, Qunar.com will continue to provide outstanding service and dramatically change the way consumers search and purchase travel services.

The Company’s founders

Frederick “Fritz” Demopoulos has been involved in the Chinese media, internet and wireless industries for over seven years. He is currently a co-founder of Qunar.com. In addition to these current entrepreneurial business activities, Fritz has been an advisor to an array of well-known Chinese and international media companies including Titan Sports, Hai Run Media Group and InterActive Corp. Previously, Fritz was also interim head of business development at Netease.com. He joined Netease in 2001, and was part of the management team that oversaw a period of significant growth for the company, which eventually became the NASDAQ’s best performing equity in 2002. In 1999 Fritz co-founded and became CEO of Shawei.com. Financially backed by Intel Capital, Softbank and IDG, Shawei grew to become China’s largest sports internet portal. Shawei was subsequently acquired by Hutchison Whampoa affiliate The TOM Group in 2000. Fritz began his career in China in 1997 as Business Development Manager for The News Corporation Limited. He was actively involved in a range of initiatives with various News Corp-affiliated companies including ChinaByte.com, STAR TV, NDS and Twentieth Century Fox. A native of Los Angeles, Fritz was educated at UCLA, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Karls-Ruprecht University and Cal State Fullerton. He is an avid golfer, tennis player and supporter of the Arsenal Gunners of the English Premier League.

Zhuang Chenchao “CC” is a recognized expert in internet technologies. He is currently a co-founder of Qunar.com and leads the company’s technology and product development. Prior to Qunar, CC was a member of the Systems Architecture team at the World Bank and was based in Washington DC. At the World Bank he was instrumental in developing a 130-country, 25-language intranet that was awarded “Best Intranet” by Nielsen Norman in 2003. Prior to relocating to Washington, CC was a founding employee and CTO of Shawei, China’s leading sports portal which was acquired by The Tom Group in 2000. In 1998 while still at university, he also co-founded Shanghai Wei Bo Technologies, a first generation text search engine. Shanghai Wei Bo secured early stage investment from IDG, and the company was eventually acquired by ChinaByte, an affiliate of The News Corporation. A native of Shanghai, CC was educated at Beijing University where he received a degree in Electrical Engineering. Among other pursuits, CC enjoys developing mathematical trading models and investing in the stock market.

Douglas Khoo has been involved in both the interactive and traditional advertising and marketing communications business for almost 20 years. He is currently a co-founder of Qunar.com and leads the company’s sales, marketing and business development activities. In addition to Qunar, Douglas is also a co-founder and investor in a range of online marketing service firms, including online advertising agency OneXeno and search engine optimization (SEO) firm Pixel Direct. Douglas is also Asia Director of Unicast, an internet advertising company specializing in rich media that was recently acquired by Viewpoint. Prior to these activities Douglas was a co-founder and Director of Shawei.com. Before pursuing these entrepreneurial opportunities, Douglas had a number of senior management positions during a 15-year career with the WPP group of companies, including Ogilvy & Mather, J. Walter Thompson, M-Digital and Mindshare. Notably he was responsible for Asia for building M-Digital, the online media buying and planning arm of WPP. Additionally, Douglas was GM of China for Mindshare. At WPP he was assigned to work in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. A native of Malaysia, Douglas earned a diploma in architecture from Jaya Institute of Technology. In his spare time Douglas is an enthusiastic golfer and traveler, and an avid reader of Booker Prize winners.
More

http://www.qunar.com
http://venturebeat.com/2007/11/21/china-roundup-youku-facebook-and-qunar/
http://www.thealarmclock.com/mt/archives/2007/11/chinese_online.html
http://www.mobissimo.com/
http://www.kayak.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travel_search
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/10/yahoo-travel-chases-kayak-with-farechase/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/20/breaking-kayak-raises-196-million-buys-rival-sidestep/
http://www.tomgroup.com/eng/

 

InfoSpace has sold its mobile unit for $135M to Motricity, the second prepares to go public

One of the Internet’s oldest companies InfoSpace is probably not performing well since they are largely selling out their businesses. With its switchboard and local directory business having already been sold to Idearc for reportedly $225M, what’s left of InfoSpace was the mobile services division, which serves up managed services infrastructure for mobile carriers. This involves the technology needed for mobile search, storefronts, messaging services and portals. This sale appears to leave InfoSpace with only its Dogpile and other desktop search properties, which have a very small market share. One can’t help but think that CEO Jim Volker and his team are selling off the company piece by piece — because that’s literally what seems to be happening.

InfoSpace Inc. is publicly traded company on NASDAQ with $346M market capitalization where the 52 week high / low is $27.76 and $8.14 respectively. The revenues have dropped to $140.54M for 2007 from $153.80M in 2006. During the first weeks of the current year the InfoSpace’s shares have slightly grown up on 4Q results rise from year ago on the assets sale.

A couple of months ago Motricity, a mobile content solutions service, has acquired the mobile services business unit of InfoSpace for what is said to be $135M in an all cash transaction. From what we have found out it seems the acquisition is being funded largely by Carl Icahn and Advanced Equities since the company has then announced the completion of its $185M a round of funding, which was led by Advanced Equities, Inc., Carl Icahn and New Enterprise Associates, Inc.

Ryan Wuerch is said will stay on as Chairman and CEO of Motricity and Steve Selman, the current executive vice president of InfoSpace’s mobile services business unit, will be appointed as President, Chief Operating Officer of Motricity. With the deal, Motricity will gain access to InfoSpace’s clients, which already includes AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Alltel, and more.

“Two of the best companies in the industry are now being integrated to create the premier provider of mobile platform infrastructure,” said Ryan Wuerch, chairman and CEO of Motricity. “We have unparalleled experience in mobile platform development, systems integration, innovation and building world class technology with a proven ability to scale – powering the mobile marketplace including the largest operators and media companies in North America and Europe.”

The acquisition expands Motricity’s customer base to include 11 of the top 13 carriers in North America including AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, Bell Mobility, Tracfone and Alltel. Motricity’s managed service infrastructure powers storefronts and communities for 9 of the top 13 carriers in North America and has generated over $1 billion of gross content sales to date. Motricity now powers 5 of the top 6 carrier “start screens” with its mobile portal product which will support billions of page views this year alone. The transaction enhances Motricity’s FuelTM platform, which is a unified suite of solutions that includes content storefront, portal, search, community and messaging services. In addition, it expands Motricity’s international presence by adding offices in the U.K., Paris, and the Netherlands and leading customers throughout Europe including Virgin UK, KPN and Vodafone.

Experts are saying the company is in preparation to go public at near future and such consolidation of their core business in terms of more mobile content, more carriers signed up, more revenues and the reach is perhaps the key towards that direction.

More about InfoSpace Inc.

InfoSpace, Inc. [NASDAQ:INSP] s a developer of tools and technologies that assist consumers with finding content and information on the Internet or mobile phone. The Company uses its technology, including metasearch, to power its own branded Websites and provide private-label online search and directory services to distribution partners. In addition, its mobile applications provide programming and sales opportunities to the Company’s mobile carrier partners, while providing consumers with relevant mobile functionality and mobile media content, including ringtones, graphics and games. The Company operates through two units: Online, which comprises the Company’s search and directory properties, as well as its private label distribution service, and Mobile services, including portal, storefront, messaging and mobile search. InfoSpace maintains facilities in the Los Angeles, California; Westborough, Massachusetts; Woking and Eastleigh, United Kingdom, and Papendrecht, The Netherlands.

Our mission is to make the discovery of information faster, easier, and more relevant. We’ve been doing it for over 10 years. Now, with more than 100 distribution partners and proven relationships with Google, Yahoo!, Ask, and Windows Live Search, InfoSpace is uniquely equipped to be a leader in the rapidly growing Internet search market. In fact, the recent sale of our Mobile and Directory divisions has solidified our focus and leadership solely in the online space.

Better Results with Metasearch Technology
By delivering best-of-the-best results from the Internet’s top search engines, our metasearch technology separates us from competitors and provides an experience that users prefer. Research backs it up.

For the second consecutive year, our leading metasearch site, Dogpile, has been awarded “Highest in Customer Satisfaction Among Internet Users with Primary Search Engines/Functions.” And when users are presented with more meaningful information, they’re more likely to click a result—which leads to increased revenue for advertisers and listings partners.

We have established offerings in two different areas:

Consumer Products
Our four branded search sites include our flagship metasearch engine, Dogpile, as well as MetaCrawler, WebCrawler, and WebFetch.

Our metasearch technology delivers end users the most relevant results on the Web by searching more than 12 of the top search engines, including Google, Yahoo!, Ask, Windows Live Search, and more.

Business Solutions
We provide customized metasearch solutions, downloadable toolbars, and portal services for destination sites, Internet service providers, and international news organizations.

Our private-label solutions help partners quickly and cost-effectively tap into the profit potential of search and online local advertising by providing search capabilities and services under their own brand.

More about Motricity

Motricity is a leading provider of mobile content services and solutions that enable consumers to receive the right content at the right time, every time. The company’s offerings span the content delivery chain, enabling compelling end user experiences and delivering profitable and reliable mobile content offerings for mobile operators, media and entertainment companies, mobile specialists and more. Motricity’s customers include 11 of the top 13 carriers in North America and 20 of the top television networks with marquee partners such as MTV, BET, Turner, AT&T, Alltel, Bell Mobility and others. Products and services range from mobile portals and storefronts to messaging aggregation with access to more than 200 million mobile subscribers.

Motricity now emerges as the only company with proven and scalable offerings across multiple key mobile content solution categories, including: storefronts, search, managed-web, portals, messaging, content aggregation, marketing campaign management and community solutions. By offering these world-class services, Motricity is able to create compelling user experiences and deliver profitable mobile content services to companies seeking to leverage the emerging mobile channel, interact with consumers and build brand loyalty.

In addition, Motricity operates a network of consumer Web sites that offer applications for mobile devices, including: eReader.com, PalmGear.com, Pocketgear.com, Smartphone.net, SymbianGear.com and Mobile2day.de, and powers similar web sites for customers such as the Sony Ericsson application shop, the Palm Software Connection and the PalmSource shop.

The company is headquartered in Durham, N.C., with offices in Bellevue, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Munich and the Netherlands.

Motricity was formed in 2001 by Ryan Wuerch and has since become a leading provider of mobile content services and solutions.

In 2001, Wuerch founded Nashville, Tennessee-based PowerByHand, which would soon become the leading global provider of information, entertainment and education content for handheld and mobile devices. PowerByHand acquired a number of leading commercial Internet sites, including PalmGear.com in October 2002, eReader.com in September 2003 and PocketGear.com and Smartphone.net in March 2004.

In April, 2004, PowerByHand merged with Pinpoint Networks, a provider of software and services for the management and delivery of mobile data services, based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The new company combined PowerByHand’s consumer reach and strong content and developer partnerships with Pinpoint’s carrier-grade technology and international wireless carrier experience, creating the market leader for integrated mobile content solutions.

In October, 2004, the company changed its name to Motricity and announced the acquisition of European mobile content portal Mobile2Day.de. The Mobile2Day.de acquisition complemented Motricity’s content base of more than 60,000 applications by adding an additional 6,000 Symbian applications and localized cross-platform content for the European market while expanding our network of online mobile content storefronts. Throughout 2005, Motricity generated tremendous momentum and excitement, announcing a number of major customer and financial wins while also expanding globally and successfully entering new markets. In October 2004, Motricity closed $27 million in venture funding led by Silicon Valley-based Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV).

In July, 2005, Motricity closed its second major private funding round by collecting $30 million from Chicago-based Advanced Equities Inc., as well as such existing investors as Technology Crossover Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and Intel Capital.

In August, 2005, Motricity announced the acquisition of M7 Networks, the leading provider of advanced wireless services that connect wireless operators, content providers and end users around mobile content based communities, such as games and music. This acquisition strengthened Motricity’s mission to accelerate the adoption of mobile content worldwide.

In April, 2006, Motricity secured its third major round of funding of $40 million to fuel the company’s aggressive expansion in the mobile content industry. This third round was led by Advanced Equities Inc. with participation from other existing investors including New Enterprise Associates and Technology Crossover Ventures.

In July, 2006, Motricity announced the acquisition of GoldPocket Wireless, the leading provider of mobile technology solutions for media and entertainment companies. GoldPocket extended Motricity’s content distribution capabilities and enhances Motricity’s award-winning Fuel™ platform with a distribution gateway that connects more than 200 million subscribers and a mobile marketing campaign manager that has been chosen by over 20 television networks and 45 media companies to power large scale interactive campaigns with real-time requirements. The deal gave Motricity an unmatched customer footprint and positions the company as the leading provider of on-deck and off-deck solutions for mobile operators and media & entertainment companies.

In August, 2006, Motricity received an additional $32 million in funding, led by Advanced Equities Inc. with participation from other existing investors. In February 2007, Motricity received $50 million in equity funding from Carl Icahn. This brings the company’s total funding to over $200 million.

In December, 2007, the company acquired the Seattle-based mobile services business unit of InfoSpace, Inc. (NASDAQ: INSP), a leading developer of mobile technologies and infrastructure services and raised more than $180 million to complete the all cash transaction.

The acquisition expands Motricity’s customer base to include 11 of the top 13 carriers in North America including AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, Bell Mobility, Tracfone and Alltel. Motricity’s managed service infrastructure powers storefronts and communities for 9 of the top 13 carriers in North America and has generated over $1 billion of gross content sales to date. Motricity powers 5 of the top 6 carrier “start screens” with its mobile portal product which will support billions of page views this year alone. The transaction enhances Motricity’s FuelTM platform, which is a unified suite of solutions that includes content storefront, portal, search, community and messaging services. In addition, it expands Motricity’s international presence by adding leading customers throughout Europe including Virgin UK, KPN and Vodafone.

Motricity has received numerous awards and constant recognition honoring the commitment and leadership that the company continues to exhibit, including:

  • 2007 North Carolina Technology Association (NCTA) Private Company of the Year
  • 2006 GSM Association Award for Best Service Delivery Platform
  • 2006 Mobile Entertainment’s Award for Best Content Service Delivery Platform
  • 2005 Frost & Sullivan Award for Premium Mobile Content Platform of the Year
  • 2005 Red Herring 100 Private Companies of North America

Today, Motricity has the support of strong institutional and strategic investors and the industry’s leading customers, including CBS, Turner, CNN, Fox, the NBA, AT&T, Sprint, Alltel, Virgin Mobile, Leap, Mobilcom, BET, Palm and Sony Ericsson.

More

http://motricity.com/
http://www.motricity.com/press/releases.php?rID=07_1228_motricity
http://www.infospaceinc.com/
http://mashable.com/2007/10/15/motricity-infospace/
http://searchengineland.com/071015-132510.php
http://www.idearc.com/
http://searchengineland.com/070917-073055.php
http://finance.google.com/finance?q=NASDAQ:INSP
http://www.forbes.com/markets/feeds/afx/2008/02/06/afx4622765.html
http://moneycentral.msn.com/inc/news/providerredir.asp?feed=AP&date=20080206&id=8148999
http://stocks.us.reuters.com/stocks/fullDescription.asp?rpc=66&symbol=INSP.O
http://www.advancedequities.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Icahn

YuMe, a broadband video advertising network, has taken $16M so far to tackle the video advertising

Yesterday we have covered BlackArrow, which offers an advertising management platform for video, allowing web sites to monitor their inventory while enabling advertisers to insert ads on-the-fly. They have taken $12M and are somehow relying on the cable companies to do its business. The company wants to insert targeted ads into on-demand viewing by placing a piece of hardware between cable operators and consumers While we were researching on BlackArrow online we came across YuMe Networks and realized it is worth writing about.

The well-funded YuMe Networks is aiming to match video publishers with video advertising using a bit of contextual analysis. The company said video content is targeted based on tags and metadata, something that generally works much better for established content creators who label their work well. YuMe uses such information to slot videos into ad-friendly content buckets such as auto, finance, and entertainment.

It’s not quite a highly automated process though, as ad placements are based on broad categories and in fact YuMe employs actual humans to screen content and group it into such categories. That’s in contrast to companies such as TVEyes’ Podscope and Nexidia, which are applying speech recognition tools to decipher what’s going on in a video and place an ad next to it.

The company is based in Redwood City, Calif and has taken more than $7 million in its first round of funding from Khosla Ventures, Accel Partners, and BV Capital. With the current funding their total financing is already $16 million and makes them a well funded contender in the realm of video advertising. The new participant here is DAG Ventures. VideoEgg, by contrast, is one of the largest players in terms of funding having attracted over $34 million over four rounds.

The ads are also included with the video as it’s syndicated on other sites. All distribution is monitored through their analytics package, which also allows geographical targeting down to the zip code. YuMe currently supports video on the web, downloads, mobile and IPTV. Some of their clients include HouseValues.com, True.com, Southwest Media Group, MSN Video, BitTorrent, Azureus, and Pando.

YuMe is building out its own ad inventory, though much of it consists of repurposing 30-second television slots, pretty much like SpotRunner’s ads, into shorter bits appropriate for the web.

YuMe has won “Best In Show Judges Choice” at the Under The Radar Entertainment and Media Conference in 2007.

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 YuMe Networks

YuMe is the first dedicated broadband video advertising network built from the ground up that offers a brand safe advertising experience that can be delivered to any device – PC, TV, mobile and more – whether streamed or downloaded.

YuMe co–founders Jayant Kadambi and Ayyappan Sankaran realized early on that a strong broadband and IP–based video ad monetization infrastructure did not exist. Whereas today’s video advertising solutions are incremental modifications of existing text and banner networks, Ayyappan and Jayant recognized that video is fundamentally different and in order to properly monetize, transport, traffic and reliably report against video, a new type of advertising network was necessary.

Web advertising has evolved from text, to display and now to video. YuMe is the only ad network built exclusively for the new web video world, providing advertisers and publishers the unprecedented ability to identify, classify and track content to ensure brand safety, contextual relevance, controlled syndication and consistent delivery across all digital media platforms – web, downloads, mobile and IPTV.

YuMe provides publishers the unique ability to identify, classify and track content to ensure brand safety, contextual brand relevance, controlled syndication and consistent delivery to any device – PC, TV, Mobile – whether streamed or downloaded.

YuMe brings order to what is currently chaos in online video. Our solution enables publishers to instantly organize all the video on their site into content channels – automotive, financial services, entertainment, family friendly and more – unlocking new inventory for monetization and allowing advertisers to more precisely target their message to content.

Publisher Benefits?

Enable advertisers to precision target their video ads within your content, increasing the value of your inventory and CPMs. You can now offer more than just run–of–site campaigns.

Syndicate video assets with confidence. YuMe’s proprietary tracking technology allows you to track, monitor and control the distribution and monetization of your video

Deliver richer experiences to customers and communities by tying brand messaging to positioning. No more brands associated with content that is inappropriate or not contextually relevant to the advertiser.

Strike the right balance of advertising and content. YuMe separates the serving of content from the serving of ads, allowing you to determine the best mix of ad types across your channels of content.

YuMe delivers a brand safe, monitored and measured experience across all digital media platforms – Web, Downloads, Mobile and IPTV.

Management Team

Jayant Kadambi, Co–founder and CEO

Jayant Kadambi has over 18 years of experience in the areas of networking, hardware architecture and semiconductors. Prior to co-founding YuMe in 2004, Jayant was Vice President R&D and Officer of Netopia, Inc., a publicly held manufacturer of DSL equipment and service provider for ISP’s and carriers. Jayant joined Netopia upon its acquisition in 1999 of StarNet Technologies, a VoDSL company he had co-founded. Prior to co-founding StarNet, Jayant held various technical and marketing positions in AMD’s networks division, and AT&T Bell Labs, where he worked on high-speed LAN systems, hardware and DSL technologies. Jayant received his BSEE and Masters in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic. Jayant is the co-author of a book on Gigabit Ethernet and the holder of several patents in the networking arena.

Ayyappan Sankaran, Co–founder and CTO

Ayyappan Sankaran has over 18 years of experience in software architecture, design and development in the areas of real time embedded systems, voice and data networks and medical instrumentation. Prior to co-founding YuMe in 2004, Ayyappan was Director of software development at Netopia, Inc., a publicly held manufacturer of DSL equipment and service provider for ISP’s and carriers. Ayyappan was a co-founder of StarNet Technologies, a VoDSL company that was acquired by Netopia in 1999. Prior to co-founding StarNet, Mr. Sankaran held various technical positions in Octel communications (acquired by Lucent technologies), Abbott Labs, and Ready Systems. Ayyappan holds a BSEE from the College of Engineering, Madras, India and a Masters in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas.

Grant Ries, Vice President of Business Development

Grant Ries has over 10 years of experience in business development, sales and product marketing. Prior to joining YuMe, Grant was VP of Business Development at Revenue Science. Grant was a member of Revenue Science since its inception and served in a variety of strategic roles, from sales and marketing and account management to business development. Grant holds both a Bachelor of Arts and Masters Degree from The University of Washington.

Steven Comfort, Vice President of Sales

The last 13 of Steven’s 18 years in advertising have been spent in the interactive sector. He has run sales teams at a string of successful young companies: Wired Digital, 24/7 Real Media, eGroups, Tickle and hi5. Prior to 1994, Steven worked in the media planning departments of MediaVest and Euro RSCG in New York City. Steven holds a BA from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Bob Bahramipour, Vice President of Ad Operations

Bob has 15 years of experience at major media & internet companies, as well as start-ups. Most recently, as a senior member of the Yahoo! Search team, Bob managed the toolbar business and was responsible for overseeing product, distribution, and partnerships. Prior to Yahoo!, Bob served as the Director of Business Development at 3721 Technology Co Ltd., a Chinese search engine which was acquired by Yahoo in 2003. Bob was also a co-founder & VP of Business Development for Switchouse Inc, an online marketplace for consumers. Prior to Switchouse, Bob held of variety of positions in Volpe Brown Whelan & Company’s M&A advisory group, within SBC’s (now AT&T) corporate development team, and at Braxton Associates, a boutique strategy consulting firm. Bob received his BS from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and attended Northwestern’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Business.

Molly Glover Gallatin, Director of Marketing

Molly brings over 15 years of media and marketing management experience to the YuMe team. Molly began her work in interactive media in 1997 when she launched Granite Broadcasting’s Internet Division, overseeing operations and sales for ten network-affiliated TV station websites. Molly joins YuMe from Knight Ridder Digital, where she managed marketing and communications for the Real Cities Network. Prior to joining Knight Ridder Digital Molly worked for start-ups in the digital media management and Internet TV space – eMotion and RespondTV. Molly began her career in advertising, working in account management at BBDO and D’Arcy Masius Benton Bowles in New York. Molly received her BS from the University of Colorado at Boulder and her MBA from Columbia University.

Investors

Khosla Ventures offers venture assistance, strategic advice and capital to entrepreneurs. The firm helps entrepreneurs extend the potential of their ideas in both traditional venture areas like the Internet, computing, mobile, and silicon technology arenas but also supports breakthrough scientific work in clean technology areas such as bio–refineries for energy and bioplastics, solar, battery and other environmentally friendly technologies. Vinod Khosla was formerly a General Partner at Kleiner Perkins and founder of Sun Microsystems. Vinod has been labeled the #1 VC by Forbes and Fortune recently labeled him as one the nation’s most influential ethanol advocates, noting “there are venture capitalists, and there’s Vinod Khosla.” Vinod Khosla founded the firm in 2004 and was joined by partners David Weiden and Samir Kaul, as well as chief scientific officer Doug Cameron in 2006.
 
Founded in 1983, Accel Partners is one of the world’s leading venture capital firms. The firm is dedicated to partnering with outstanding entrepreneurs to build world–class Internet, software and networking companies. Accel Partners has more than $4bn under management from its offices in Palo Alto, London, and China, and its portfolio companies have completed IPOs that have created well over $150 billion in market capitalization.
 
BV Capital, headquartered in San Francisco, CA and Hamburg, Germany, is an early–stage venture capital firm. Established in 1997, BV focuses exclusively on the intersection of the consumer Internet, digital media and communication software sectors worldwide. BV’s team adds significant expertise and service to entrepreneurs who strive to turn ideas into long–term, sustainable growth companies. Investments include many successes such as Angieslist, del.icio.us, eGroups, Expertcity (gotomypc), K2 Networks and shopping.com. The firm backed by several high profile US, Asian and European investors has been named “one of the most influential investors on either side of the Atlantic” by the Wall Street Journal. To learn more about BV Capital, please visit www.bvcapital.com.
 
DAG Ventures is a venture capital partnership investing in and helping outstanding entrepreneurs create leading, long-term companies across a range of markets. With roots from the 1980’s in cable TV, infrastructure, media, and wireless industries, the partnership today is privileged to work with world-class entrepreneurs as they build tomorrow’s leaders in the information technology, energy, and life science sectors.

More

http://yumenetworks.com/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/16/yume-closes-9-million-series-b/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/yume
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/07/06/video-ads-somebody-needs-to-solve-this-problem/
http://www.undertheradarblog.com/wp_blog.html?fb_2042860_anch=2648520
http://newteevee.com/2007/03/05/yume-launches-video-ad-network/
http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?id=1004258
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/05/11/youtube-video-advertising-no-pre-roll-no-context/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/09/blackarrow-took-12-million-to-tackle-the-video-advertising-relies-on-cable-companies/
http://venturebeat.com/2007/10/14/blackarrow-ad-management-for-modern-tv-unstealths-with-12m-financing/
http://adsense.blogspot.com/2006/05/introducing-video-ads.html
http://adwords.blogspot.com/2006/05/click-to-play-video-ads-for-adwords.html
http://adsense.blogspot.com/2007/05/adsense-coming-to-video-near-you.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/22/technology/22google.html
http://mashable.com/2007/08/21/youtube-reinvents-video-ads/
http://mashable.com/2007/05/11/youtube-ads-2/
http://www.forbes.com/2007/02/22/video-ads-youtube-tech-media-cx_lh_0223video.html
http://venturebeat.com/2006/11/08/skipping-the-ads-black-arrow-raises-1475m-to-defy-you/
http://www.khoslaventures.com/
http://www.accel.com/
http://www.bvcapital.com/

BlackArrow took $12 Million to tackle the video advertising, relies on cable companies

A couple of months ago BlackArrow has taken a big round of money – $12 million in Series B funding.

The company offers an advertising management platform for video, allowing web sites to monitor their inventory while enabling advertisers to insert ads on-the-fly. BlackArrow’s money for its Series B funding came from Comcast Interactive Capital, Cisco Systems, Intel Capital, Mayfield Fund, and Polaris Venture Partners.

The company wants to insert targeted ads into on-demand viewing by placing a piece of hardware between cable operators and consumers. Prior to the user watching an on-demand show, BlackArrow helps deliver a brief ad, tailored to the theme of the show and the user’s apparent preferences. For example, a teenage boy might be delivered an ad for an upcoming game like Halo 3.

While DVRs like the TiVo will still allow users to fast forward past advertising, BlackArrow will open up the field for cable companies to profit from acting as remote ad servers. BlackArrow will count on the cable companies to offer their own DVR technology. The advantage for the consumer is that one does not have to worry about buying or installing a DVR. A majority of viewers still haven’t anyway.

The company is known to have spent more than a year in stealth mode developing its product, and online sources originally suggested that the original aim of the company was to destroy the ad-skipping capabilities of the TiVo. It later turned out it is no longer the case, if it ever was.

The previous round is known to be $5 million, which has been taken back in 2006 and was led by Mayfield Fund. The company’s total funding should already be $17M. The company has offices in both locations San Mateo, CA and New York.

More about BlackArrow

We are independent advertising-technology company that provides multiplatform ad-management for viewer-controlled video.

We’ve seen the future, and the future is now for on-demand video programming with dynamic, personalized advertising. In the world of viewer-controlled video, where the consumer controls the play, pause, fast-forward and rewind buttons, BlackArrow provides the answer for a dynamic video ad-management that supports broadband, video-on-demand (VOD) and DVR playout.

One with the ability to reach the right audience with a laser-focused message — across any on-demand platform. And rapid-fire reporting to provide powerful “apples-to-apples” analytics across playout environments, helping you evaluate and optimize brand campaigns in entirely new ways.

BlackArrow is your partner on the path to multiplatform monetization. With the new world order of on-demand video comes a corresponding set of new advertising and revenue opportunities.

Management team

Dean Denhart: president and chief executive officer

Dean Denhart has extensive technology leadership expertise in telecom, media and technology-related industries across large, medium and start-up companies. Denhart has been directly involved in the acquisition and operation integration of over 18 technology companies with expertise in off-shore, joint ventures and partnerships. As president and CEO of BlackArrow, Denhart is responsible for all business operations, technology development, financial management, business development and governance of BlackArrow. Previously, Denhart oversaw the strategic development of product and technology at Knight Ridder Digital. Denhart was also CIO and executive vice president of product and technology for HomeStore, an online real estate marketing company. Prior, he served as vice president of AirTouch Communications’ software systems group, held a vice president of network systems role during a 17-year tenure with SBC Communications/Pacific Bell, was CIO of Telecel (a wireless company) in Portugal and was an integral research and development executive at Bell Communications Research.

Other management team members are as follows.

  • Sharon Mandell: senior vice president and chief technology officer
  • Tracy Martin: chief financial officer
  • Chris Hock: senior vice president, product management
  • Patrick Carter: vice president, operations
  • Courtenay Harry: vice president, advertising business development
  • Bill Niemeyer: chief of analysis and research
  • Kelly Ryan: vice president, content business development
  • David Stengle: vice president, distribution
  • Thérèse Bruno: senior director, marketing

The Investors

Cisco Systems, Inc.
Cisco Systems, Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in networking for the Internet. Today, networks are an essential part of business, education, government and home communications, and Cisco Internet Protocol-based (IP) networking solutions are the foundation of these networks. Cisco hardware, software, and service offerings are used to create Internet solutions that allow individuals, companies, and countries to increase productivity, improve customer satisfaction and strengthen competitive advantage. The Cisco name has become synonymous with the Internet, as well as with the productivity improvements that Internet business solutions provide.

Comcast Interactive Capital
Comcast Interactive Capital (CIC) is a venture capital fund focused on broadband, enterprise and interactive technologies. CIC is affiliated with Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA), a diversified global leader in cable, broadband services, telecommunications and entertainment. CIC’s primary goal is to generate superior financial returns from private equity investments in early-stage technology companies. To achieve this goal, CIC works to foster the success of its portfolio companies by bringing to bear the unique resources, experience, and insight of both CIC and the Comcast family of companies.

Intel Capital
Intel Capital (Nasdaq: INTC), Intel’s global investment organization, makes equity investments in innovative technology start-ups and companies worldwide. Intel Capital invests in a broad range of companies offering hardware, software and services targeting enterprise, home, mobility, health, consumer Internet and semiconductor manufacturing. Since 1991, Intel Capital has invested more than US$6 billion in approximately 1,000 companies in more than 40 countries. In that timeframe, about 157 portfolio companies have gone public on various exchanges around the world and another 187 have been acquired by other companies. In 2006, Intel Capital invested about US$1.07 billion in 163 deals with approximately 60 percent of funds (excluding Clearwire) invested outside the United States.

About Mayfield Fund
Mayfield Fund provides “venture capital with impact” by partnering with exceptional individuals to create industry-leading companies. Mayfield has domain expertise in communications/wireless, consumer/media, enterprise software and semiconductors. The firm has over $2.7 billion under management and a team of eleven investing professionals. Since Mayfield’s founding in 1969, the firm has invested in more than 470 high-growth companies, taken more than 100 public and more than 150 have merged or were acquired.

Polaris Venture Partners
A national venture capital firm with over $3 billion under management, Polaris invests in seed, early stage and growth equity businesses in the technology, life science, digital media, enertech and consumer sectors. Through a philosophy of lead investing and active, long-term partnering with entrepreneurs and management teams, Polaris has helped a number of companies achieve outstanding success. Among them are: Accordant Health Services, Acusphere, Advanced Inhalation Research (AIR), Akamai Technologies, Allaire Corporation, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, American Superconductor, Archivas, Aspect Medical Systems, Avici Systems, Centra Software, Classifieds2000, Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Cushcraft Corporation, deCODE genetics, Exchange.com, GlycoFi, Matrics, Momenta Pharmaceuticals, Paradigm Genetics, Powersoft, Solidworks, and TransForm Pharmaceuticals.

The Competition

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, post-roll 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 BrightRoll, XillianTV, YuMe, Podaddies, VMIX and MeeVee. BrightRoll video ad network itself has raises $5 Million while YuMe raised $9 Million for yet another video ad network. VMIX, yet another video network company has also raised a whopping amount of money $16.5M to expand its business.

More

http://www.blackarrow.tv/
http://mashable.com/2007/10/15/blackarrow-funding/
http://venturebeat.com/2007/10/14/blackarrow-ad-management-for-modern-tv-unstealths-with-12m-financing/
http://adsense.blogspot.com/2006/05/introducing-video-ads.html
http://adwords.blogspot.com/2006/05/click-to-play-video-ads-for-adwords.html
http://adsense.blogspot.com/2007/05/adsense-coming-to-video-near-you.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/22/technology/22google.html
http://mashable.com/2007/08/21/youtube-reinvents-video-ads/
http://mashable.com/2007/05/11/youtube-ads-2/
http://www.forbes.com/2007/02/22/video-ads-youtube-tech-media-cx_lh_0223video.html
http://venturebeat.com/2006/11/08/skipping-the-ads-black-arrow-raises-1475m-to-defy-you/
http://www.cisco.com
http://www.civentures.com
http://www.intelcapital.com
http://www.polarisventures.com

Sequoia Capital invested in TokBox, hoping for Web’s next big communication tool

Sequoia Capital has recently provided $4 million in Series A round of funding to Tokbox – a new startup providing real-time video chat via a browser. Sequoia joins an already impressive collection of angel investors including founding members of YouTube, Bebo, and Netscape along with execs from Slide, PayPal and Cisco. This investor network alone will likely propel the startup to partnerships and acquisition discussions.

The same backers who helped catapult YouTube to glory wants to do for live video chats what YouTube did for video watching.

The company, TokBox, allows people with Webcams and broadband Internet connections to conduct face-to-face chats inside a Web browser. Users can visit its site, www.tokbox.com, or add a TokBox module to their pages on social Web sites like MySpace or Facebook.

Several other services, including AOL’s AIM, Yahoo Messenger and Skype, allow live video chats but require that each party download the software and be online at the same time. On TokBox, if one party is not present, users can send a video mail message of up to five minutes in length that the other party can later retrieve at the site.

“Video communication has never really taken off, despite the fact that people talk about it as a part of the future,” said Serge Faguet, TokBox chief executive, who is a 21-year-old native of Russia and co-founded the company after attending one semester of Stanford business school.

The six-month-old (by that time – Oct ’07) TokBox would probably be just another dot-com with ambitious dreams were it not for an impressive pedigree that includes many of the same names as YouTube. Jawed Karim, a YouTube co-founder who left the video sharing site early on, is backing the company financially and sits on its board.

Roelof Botha, the Sequoia partner who invested in YouTube, is also guiding TokBox and, not surprisingly, plays up the similarities. “Part of the beauty of YouTube is that we all have browsers and we are all on the Internet, so you can click on a link and video will start to play,” he said. “TokBox offers the same easy solution inside the browser.”

Under no doubt some of the people engaged with the company do know one or more things about the online video market, but it is also pretty clear that if TookBox takes off and gets to be popular it is going to face scale up challenges.

As YouTube’s popularity skyrocketed, it had to keep up with the bulging cost of storing and playing all those videos. TokBox will have to do that as well, and will also have to ensure that live video chats flow seamlessly.

However TokBox has attracted high-profile talented technical advisers to help it overcome those obstacles. Rajeev Motwani, a Stanford professor and an early adviser to Google, is an investor and is counseling the company. Tony Bates, a senior vice president at Cisco, is also an investor and is helping TokBox to develop the underlying technology to support a large number of users.

The company has also a Facebook application that was developed by Ryan Merket and allows you to video chat with your friends or leave video mail and voice mail for your friends directly from your own Facebook profile.

Investors include: Sequoia Capital, Rajeev Motwani, Roelof Botha, Tony Bates and Jawed Karim, presumingly some of the individuals are angel investors.

The company is based in Palo Alto and what is interesting as fact is the company is housed in the same offices that was used by YouTube to start off.

Competitors include Skype, WebEx, Zorap and Userplane, among others. 

Of course, the company did not yet figure out what to make money from but this is not uncommon for most of the start ups in the Silicon Valley. The founders say they are looking at advertising and selling advanced versions of the service to companies that can use it to communicate with their customers online.

More

http://www.tokbox.com/
http://blog.tokbox.com/
http://www.sequoiacap.com/
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/15/business/media/15video.html?ei=5088&en=59b45c9e60a88aee&ex=1350100800&adxnnl=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1192446339-6J23Kqqnew4p1VFrtrkAJg
http://gigaom.com/2007/10/15/tokbox/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/tokbox
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/08/14/use-tokbox-to-set-up-instant-video-chat/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/14/tokbox-gets-some-nytimes-love/
http://www.crunchgear.com/2007/10/15/tokbox-live-video-web-chat-is-the-latest-next-youtube/
http://mashable.com/2007/10/15/tokbox-funding/
http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2007/10/15/tokbox-receives-4-million-in-funding
http://ukwebfocus.wordpress.com/2007/09/19/tokbox-a-useful-video-conferencing-tool-or-something-sinister/
http://lifehacker.com/software/video-conferencing/in+browser-video-chat-with-tokbox-310734.php
 

An online collaboration tool built around Microsoft Excel took $2M, plans for $2M more

eXpresso, an online collaboration tool around Excel spreadsheets, has raised $2M round of financing from Novus and Rocket Ventures. This is on top of another couple of millions they’ve made off the sale of their original product, Smart DB, to Rocket Software (no relation to the VC firm). The money will be put towards expanding their current Excel product and building an online Powerpoint application due out next summer as well. The company has also announced they have plans to raise $2M more at the near future.

Expresso Corp is bringing new capabilities to Microsoft Excel. Using their software users can manage, compare and collaborate on Excel documents – features that Microsoft surprisingly hasn’t added on their own.

eXpresso is built upon AJAX functionality and combines a series of collaboration tools and back-end database wrapped around Microsoft’s own online spreadsheet editor, Microsoft Excel Web Component. The company seems oddly positioned by leaning heavily on Microsoft’s technology, but CEO George Langan points out that they can continue to develop the component without Microsoft’s support, or disturbance, and have a great deal of patented intellectual properties in the database system they run on. On the other side Microsoft has abandoned the technology themselves, announcing an end to development of the Office Web Components. Instead, they are focusing on developing new technologies around Microsoft Sharepoint. So, will Microsoft consider buying them or will just copy/cat their features and functionalities or is Microsoft heading towards different direction and will leave eXpresso behind? Let’s put it that way it has never been good to have your business model built upon and relying on third party company’s technology, service or solution.

However, the spreadsheet editor works smoothly, provides a familiar interface, and brings most of the Excel’s desktop functionality online. You can edit cells, add formulas, sort, filter, and format. Google and Zoho have been aggressively adding a lot of these features themselves, but support auto-fill and charts as well. eXpresso also offers more applications. You can create a new file from within the program or sync one directly from Excel using their plug-in. eXpresso also offers file permissions (down to cell ranges), enables real time chat, and file management (version control, spreadsheet comparison). It’s currently free in beta, but will cost $10 or less per user when it’s finally released.

More about eXpresso

eXpresso is led by an experienced team with decades of collective experience in data management, and enterprise software applications. eXpresso’s team comprises Founders and Corporate Executives who have successfully developed and delivered award-winning business solutions for Fortune 500 companies.

About eXpresso Spreadsheet Communities
Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet application is one of the most popular on the planet. Millions of people use Excel on a weekly – or even daily – basis for simple personal tasks as well as for enterprise-critical functions such as managing supply chains, reporting corporate finance, or complying with regulatory requirements. eXpresso is a hosted workspace for real-time Excel collaboration in secure, structured communities. eXpresso brings sophisticated spreadsheet version management, comparison and collaboration capabilities to the world’s standard data interchange solution.

What can you do with eXpresso Spreadsheet Communities?

  • Upload, securely store and organize your Excel spreadsheets online
  • Authorize colleagues to view or edit your spreadsheets anytime from anywhere
  • Have a virtual meeting where invitees simultaneously view or edit Excel
  • Take advantage of powerful eXpresso features like group chat, email, alerts, and audit trails
  • Visually compare two or more spreadsheets for cell or formula changes.

eXpresso does compete with other services such as Google Spreadsheets, Zoho Sheet and XCellery. Investors include Individuals Venture Fund, Novus Ventures and Rocket Ventures. As we learned Xcellery has joined eXpresso and here is what the press releases said: “As a startup, Xcellery was committed to finding a better way for people to share and use Excel spreadsheets online. eXpresso has taken that idea to a new level of power and convenience, which is why we can wholeheartedly recommend that Xcellery users adopt eXpresso.”

eXpresso has won a number of industry awards and recognitions. 

eXpresso was honored with InfoWorld’s 2008 Technology of the Year Award: “These Technology of the Year award winners represent the best business process management system, best enterprise service bus, best database middleware, and the best SaaS collaboration and community platforms we tested in 2007.” eXpresso was also among The 2008 PC World 25 Most Innovative Products.
More

http://www.expressocorp.com/
http://blog.expressocorp.com/
http://www.expressocorp.com/download/eXpresso_Second_Round_Funding.pdf
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/expresso_web_office.php
http://www.infoworld.com/slideshow/2008/01/144-2008_technology-5.html
http://blogs.msdn.com/excel/archive/2006/07/17/668544.aspx
http://blog.expressocorp.com/2008/01/28/expresso-and-microsoft-office-web-components/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/12/expresso-gets-2-million-to-grow-an-online-office-suite/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/expresso
http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,140663-c,technology/article.html
http://www.paloaltodailynews.com/article/2008-1-7-expresso
http://www.sltrib.com/technology/ci_7907885
http://blogs.computerworld.com/share_excel_files_saas_style
http://www.expressocorp.com/download/XcelleryPressRelease.pdf

The Washington Post Company acquired CourseAdvisor.com

The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO) has acquired the education site CourseAdvisor.com, which is an online lead generator serving the education industry. However, the financial details and terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

The Wakefield, MA.-based company matches up students with suitable degree or certificate-granting programs across 800 institutions. CourseAdvisor founder and CEO Greg Titus was formerly the head of online education firm Acadient. The Washington Post Company is also the owner of education services firm Kaplan, which is an educational prep service and hence the synergy to justify the acquisition. Kaplan is already among those institutions listed as a potential for match using CourseAdvisor’s search wizard.

The company is known to have raised $12 million investment, which was the company’s first institutional round of financing. The investment was led by ABS Capital Partners, a leading private equity firm focused on investing in established and profitable growth companies, and The Washington Post Company. The money was then said to be used to fund the Company’s continued rapid growth by increasing investment in its sales force and strengthening its balance sheet. As a result of the financing, Deric Emry, a General Partner at ABS Capital, joined CourseAdvisor’s Board of Directors. Ralph Terkowitz, also a General Partner at ABS Capital and Caroline Little, chief executive officer and publisher of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive (WPNI), will serve as observers on the Company’s Board of Directors.

The company was founded in 2004 and is basically an online research directory for postsecondary education, career training, and professional development. We offer more than 7,000 programs through nearly 500 accredited colleges, career schools, training centers, and universities.

With over 1.5 million unique visitors per month, CourseAdvisor has become a leading online education directory (OED). The Company has significant technological advantages which enable it to manage complex search campaigns to source high quality leads. Since all site visits are generated from paid and organic search, each visitor is actively seeking information about colleges, universities and career and professional training. In addition, the Company’s advanced technology platform with superior filtering capabilities offers student profiling, geo-targeting and multi-stage data verification to maximize lead quality for CourseAdvisor’s customers.

Search CourseAdvisor for:

  • Online and Campus Degrees
  • Professional Diploma and Certificate Programs
  • Nursing and Allied Health Schools
  • IT Training
  • Business Degrees
  • Online Master’s in Education
  • Criminal Justice and Homeland Security

The CourseAdvisor Approach
CourseAdvisor’s objective is to be a useful, effective resource for furthering your education and enriching your life. We work hard to make researching higher education easy. Our guided search Wizard finds only those programs that meet your interests, requirements, and qualifications. The basic information you provide helps us connect you with the schools that can best serve you.

Our unique advantage is our team of education, technology, social sciences, and Internet experts. We continually research career fields and employment trends and actively seek out schools that offer exciting new programs in the fastest-growing fields.

We also develop our own custom search technologies to help you find the best opportunities in your chosen career. More than 2 million students visit CourseAdvisor every month! Think of CourseAdvisor as a search engine that runs in both directions… we make it easier for students and schools to find each other.

CourseAdvisor is located in Wakefield, Massachusetts and is now an independent subsidiary of The Washington Post Company since October 11, 2007.

CourseAdvisor.com claims it attracts over 1.5 million unique visitors per month, but a quick look into Quantcast reveals much better numbers – Courseadvisor.com is a top 1,000 site that reaches over 2.8 million U.S. monthly uniques.

The market

Competitors include GlobalScholar, SmartThinking, Tutor.com, and TutorVista.

GlobalScholar, by the way, has today announced a $27 million B Round from existing investors Ignition Partners and Knowledge Universe Education. This is on top of a previously undisclosed $15.5 million A Round the company raised early last year. Board members include Ignition’s Brad Silverberg and former Drugstore.com CEO Peter Neupert.

In conjunction with the investment round, GlobalScholar is also announcing that it has acquired Excelsior Software for an undisclosed amount (although it was less than half the total money raised). Excelsior makes student assessment software used by teachers in 1,000 school districts nationwide. GlobalScholar said it will be adding the Excelsior’s business to its existing Web-based tutoring platform, which it launched quietly last fall.

About ABS Capital Partners

ABS Capital Partners is a private equity firm that was founded in 1990 to invest in mid- to later-stage growth companies in order to create significant, market-leading companies. The firm’s investment strategy focuses on companies in the business services, health care, technology and media & communications sectors. ABS partners with strong management teams to help build businesses with substantial revenues, near-term profitability and solid customer bases. The firm has created long-term value for management and investors. ABS leverages over 100 years of combined investing and operating experience among its partners and provides a range of investment structures, including expansion financing, management buyouts and recapitalizations. With an extensive history and knowledge of equity and mergers & acquisitions markets, ABS Capital provides strategic guidance and helps companies to capitalize on their business opportunities. ABS has $1.5 billion under management and nine investing partners within offices in Baltimore, San Francisco and Boston. Over the past fifteen years, ABS has invested in over 70 portfolio companies, including American Public Education, Inc., DoubleClick, Inc., NeuStar, Inc., Rosetta Stone, Inc. and Vibrant Media, Inc..

About the Washington Post Company

The Washington Post Company (NYSE:WPO) is a diversified education and media company whose principal operations include educational and career services, newspaper and magazine publishing, television broadcasting, cable television systems and electronic information services. The Company owns The Washington Post; Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive (WPNI), the online publishing subsidiary whose flagship products include washingtonpost.com, Newsweek.com, Slate, BudgetTravel.com and Sprig.com; Express; El Tiempo Latino; The Gazette and Southern Maryland newspapers; The Herald (Everett, WA); Newsweek magazine; Post-Newsweek Stations (Detroit, Houston, Miami, Orlando, San Antonio and Jacksonville); Cable ONE, serving subscribers in midwestern, western and southern states; and CourseAdvisor, an online lead generation provider. The Company also owns Kaplan, Inc., a leading international provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. The Company has an ownership interests in the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service and Bowater Mersey Paper Company.

More

http://courseadvisor.com/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-washington-post-acquires-lead-generator-courseadvisorcom/
http://corporate.courseadvisor.com/archive/press_11_06.php
http://mashable.com/2007/10/11/washington-post-courseadvisor/
http://www.abscapital.com
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/30/globalscholar-raises-27-million-b-round-to-tackle-online-education/
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/31/fashion/31CYBER.html?ex=1359522000&en=7e55fe77d4377379&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink
http://www.washpostco.com/company-profile.htm
http://finance.google.com/finance?q=NYSE:WPO

The Founders Fund creates Founders Fund II

Founders Fund, a non-traditional investment group, has raised an institutional fund in the amount of $220 million. The new fund, Founders Fund II, will allow this team of four managing partners, who themselves are founders and entrepreneurs, to leverage their individual expertise and deliver their unique business model, which puts the entrepreneurs first. Founders Fund has developed a comprehensive package designed to create near perfect alignment of interests between founders and their investors.

Founders Fund II will be invested in approximately 15-20 innovative early-stage start-up companies. This is the first institutional money raised for the Founders Fund, representing a significant increase over the original fund of $50 million, which was raised from personal investments by the managing partners and select outside investors.

San Francisco based Founders Fund launched in 2005 with a $50 million venture fund. They’ve had two liquidity events since then, and a number of other very high profile participations like Facebook, Powerset, Ooma, Quantcast, Slide, Geni and Causes.

“We believe entrepreneurs are looking for people like themselves, people who also have taken ideas and made them a reality. This second fund allows us to invest in areas for which we have deep insight, personal experience and passion for seeing the companies succeed,” said Luke Nosek, a Founders Fund managing partner. “Our collective experience starting companies and funding innovative start-ups positions the Founders Fund as a unique, valuable resource at the early investment stage.”

The Founders Fund will continue to offer Series FF stock, which is being adopted across the industry adding to the unique approach to funding entrepreneurs. The stock is offered to start-up founders who can convert Series FF stock to preferred stock during subsequent rounds of funding. This allows Series FF stock holders to sell a portion of their stock and aligns their interests with their investors.

“The traditional venture capital model is broken,” said Sean Parker, a Founders Fund managing partner. “By offering tools like the Series FF stock, we are helping create a new model of investment and alignment of interests, confirming our commitment to the founders of our companies. This fund is truly for founders by founders.”

A couple of investments have been made out of the new fund, they say, but have not yet been disclosed.

The four managing partners have all started their own companies and between them have seen the process from inception to start up to IPO.

“Founders Fund was started to make a difference for companies looking for funding to execute on their big ideas. We believe the alignment of interests with our portfolio companies is the next step in the evolution of collaborative investments,” said Ken Howery, a Founders Fund managing partner. “Founders Fund II will give us the opportunity to continue to invest in the people and ideas that are truly bringing innovation to the Internet industry.”

Peter Thiel, one of four managing partners for The Founders Fund and an early backer and board member of the social network Facebook said, “This is one of the most innovative venture teams ever assembled. Our unique skill set, expertise and perspective support our shared desire to build and invest in great companies from the ground up.”

Parker says he learned a powerful lesson about the importance of taking time to build a business from observing the trajectories of some of the valley’s most successful businesses. What would have happened if the founders had sold those companies before fine-tuning them? PayPal started out as an encryption product that beamed money between mobile devices before hitting on the online payment business that it ultimately sold to eBay for $1.5 billion. Google didn’t strike Internet ore until the paid search market had time to fully develop.

“Largely because we were all founders ourselves, we’re inherently more interested in helping new entrepreneurs develop into successful leaders than we are in getting rich,” Parker said. “As someone who has started and run a few companies myself, my primary interest is in helping creative people build companies and run those companies over the long-term. I also happen to believe that this is the best way to create value for my limited partners, and by extension, for myself.”

However, some institutional investors were skeptical of the partners and passed on the opportunity to put in money. Parker confirmed that the fund-raising process turned out to be more time consuming than the firm had expected. But he also said limited partners had invested because their model — namely, a venture firm run by founders with experience — was needed in the industry. The firm originally sought to raise $150 million, but ended up raising $220 million.

More about The Founders Fund

Based in San Francisco, Calif. and founded in 2005, Founders Fund is a group of four proven entrepreneurs with a shared vision: to change the way venture investments are made. Founders Fund seeks to provide the capital, insights and support required to build a company from the ground up and sustain successful enterprises with a non-traditional, founder-focused approach. Their current portfolio includes Facebook, Geni, Powerset, Ooma, Quantcast, Slide and others.

The Managing Partners

Peter Thiel
Peter’s experience with venture finance began in the 1990s, when he ran Thiel Capital Management, a Menlo Park-based hedge fund that also made private equity investments. In 1998, Peter co-founded PayPal and served as its Chairman and CEO until the company’s sale to eBay in October 2002 for $1.5 billion. Peter’s experience in finance includes managing a successful hedge fund, trading derivatives at CS Financial Products, and practicing securities law at Sullivan & Cromwell. Peter sits on the Board of Directors of the Pacific Research Institute and on the Board of Visitors of Stanford Law School. Peter received his BA in Philosophy and his JD from Stanford.

Peter Thiel is a 39-year-old maverick money manager who in the past four years has turned his $60 million payout from the sale of the PayPal online payment service he co-founded into a growing financial fiefdom. He runs Clarium Capital Management LLC, one of the nation’s most successful and daring hedge funds with $3 billion in assets, and The Founders Fund, a tiny but increasingly influential venture capital firm with a laser-beam focus on consumer Internet startups.

In late 2004, Peter Thiel made a $500,000 angel investment in Facebook. Microsoft recently purchased 1.6 percent of the company for $240 million, which values Facebook at roughly $15 billion and Thiel’s stake at roughly $1 billion.

Ken Howery
Ken is a co-founder of PayPal and served as the company’s first CFO. While at PayPal, Ken helped raise over $200 million in private financing, worked on the company’s public offerings, and assisted in the company’s $1.5 billion sale to eBay. Ken has also been a member of the research and trading teams at Clarium Capital Management, a global macro hedge fund based in San Francisco with over $3 billion under management, and at Thiel Capital Management, a multistrategy investment fund, where Ken made venture investments beginning in 1998. Ken received a BA in Economics from Stanford.

Luke Nosek
Luke Nosek is a co-founder of PayPal and served as the company’s Vice President of Marketing and Strategy. While at PayPal, Luke oversaw the company’s marketing efforts at launch, growing the user base to 1 million customers in the first six months. Luke also created “Instant Transfer,” PayPal’s most profitable product. Prior to PayPal, Luke was an evangelist at Netscape. Luke has also co-founded two other consumer Internet companies, including the web’s first advertising network, and has made a number of venture investments since 2000. Luke received a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Sean Parker
Sean Parker is the co-founder and Chairman of “Project Agape,” a new network that aims to enable large-scale political and social activism on the Internet. Previously, Sean was the co-founder of the category defining Web ventures Napster, Plaxo, and Facebook. At Napster, Sean helped to design the Napster client software and led the company’s initial financing and strategy. Under Sean’s leadership, Napster became the fastest adopted client software application in history. Following Napster, Sean co-founded and served as President of Plaxo, where he pioneered the viral engineering techniques used to deploy Plaxo’s flagship smart address book product, ultimately acquiring more than 15 million users. In 2004, Sean left Plaxo to become the founding President of Facebook, one of the most rapidly growing sites on the Internet today. Sean sits on the boards of several private companies.

More

http://www.foundersfund.com/
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/12/13/MNGECMUMRE1.DTL
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/17/founders-fund-closes-220-million-second-fund/
http://www.businesswire.com/news/google/20071217006220/en
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Thiel
http://www.latimes.com/business/investing/la-fi-founders18dec18,1,6840237.story?coll=la-headlines-business-invest&ctrack=2&cset=true
http://venturebeat.com/2007/12/18/founders-fund-raises-new-fund-aims-for-more-vc-disruption/

After Internet Brands, LogMeIn, now Al Gore’s Current TV files for an IPO and plans to go public

It seems it is time for small-sized Internet and technology IPOs. After Internet Brands, Inc. went public on NASDAQ, LogMeIn, Inc. filed to do so now Al Gore’s Current is looking forward to do the same. Unlike Internet Brands Inc and LogMeIn, Inc, Current TV is purely from the web 2.0 age, so it would be of particular interest for all companies from the web 2.0 sector to see how the company goes public and what is going to happen after their IPO. The company is planning to raise $100M on $63.8M revenues for the last year with operating losses in the $6M range.

Current TV is, under no doubt, mostly popular due to its co-founder the ex Vice President Al Gore. The registrant is Current Media, Inc., which is the parent company for current.com and Current TV. It has filed to trade on the NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol CRTM.

Current is a global participatory media company with the goal of democratizing media by engaging, informing and enriching our young adult audience and encouraging their participation across platforms. The company operates a television network, Current TV, and a website, Current.com, where they all distribute viewer-created content as well as internally developed and acquired content that is relevant to the lives of young adults. The company believes the combination of their television and Internet platforms creates an immersive and interactive viewer experience for our growing global audience, where the audience participates in both the creation and selection of the content it engages with on both Current TV and Current.com.

The company’s primary sources of revenue are affiliate fees and advertising. Affiliate fees are derived from long-term distribution agreements with cable, satellite and telecommunications operators who pay Current Media, Inc. a monthly fee for each subscriber household that receives Current TV. In the United States, the company’s affiliate customers include DirecTV, Comcast, EchoStar, Time Warner and AT&T. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, affiliate customers include British Sky Broadcasting, or BSkyB, and Virgin Media. In the Spring of 2008, the company has plans to launch in Italy on Sky Italia. Advertising revenue is derived from advertisers who pay for sponsorships and spot advertisements. Selected advertising customers include Toyota, T-Mobile, Johnson & Johnson, General Electric, Geico and L’Oreal. Affiliate revenues accounted for 84% of the company’s total revenues for 2007.

Current TV was launched in August 2005 in approximately 19 million subscriber households in the United States and is now available in approximately 51 million subscriber households in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland. In 2006 and 2007, the company recorded revenue of $37.9 million and $63.8 million, respectively where the operating losses were $4.8 million in 2006 and $6.1 million in 2007.

The company intends to use a portion of the net proceeds from this offering to repay in full the principal and accrued interest on an outstanding loan from Dylan Holdings, Inc., which amounted to $30.4 million as of December 31, 2007. The loan is in the form of a senior purchase money note, has an interest rate of 9.25% and matures in May 2008. The company issued this note in May 2004 as part of the purchase price for our acquisition of the NWI television network. NWI television network was purchase in 2004 for $70.9 million, including intangible assets consisting of affiliate distribution arrangements valued at $13.7 million.

The company also intends to use a portion of the net proceeds from this offering to repay in full the principal and accrued interest on their outstanding promissory notes, which amounted to $6.1 million at December 31, 2007. The entered into a note purchase agreement in September 2006 with a consortium of lenders pursuant to which they issued the revolving promissory notes. All of these lenders are currently equity investors in the company. Under the terms of these notes, they borrowed $5M and have made no payments. These notes bear interest at a rate of 15% for the first year and 18% thereafter, which compounds quarterly. In accordance with the terms of these notes, interest is added to the principal through May 4, 2008, at which time the unpaid principal and interest become payable in full.

The company intends to use a portion of the net proceeds from this offering to repay in full the principal and accrued interest on an outstanding note payable to Oracle Credit Corporation, which amounted to $64,000 at December 31, 2007. The company entered into this note payable in May 2006 in connection with the purchase of software and support. The note bears interest at the rate of 9.83%. Under the terms of the note, interest is added to the principal balance. The note requires annual payments of $36,000 on the first day of September of each year until 2009, at which time the final payment of $36,000 is due.

The remaining net proceeds from this offering is planned to be used for working capital and other general corporate purposes. Additionally, the company might also expand their existing business through acquisitions of other complementary businesses, products, services or technologies, although no agreements are currently in place for such acquisitions at this time.

Basically Current relies on its innovative approach, although it is called in their prospectus “innovative but unproven”.

Current was founded with the goal of cost-effectively engaging young adults with news, entertainment and lifestyle programming centered on what is going on in their world. We recognized that to reach young adults it was necessary to reach them via television, where they spend a lot of time and where there is a proven business model, as well as on the Internet, a medium where they are also very active. To do this, we launched a television channel, Current TV, and more recently a website, Current.com. The two serve as distinct consumer destinations, but they are also symbiotic and form a combined platform with which Current engages its audience. Key aspects of our solution include:

Current’s new network model.
Our focus on user-generated content provides a unique connection with our young adult audience. We engage young adults by telling stories in their voices and from their perspectives. We have redefined the scope of “news” for young adults, and broadened our programming to include an array of subjects that are important to our audience.

Current’s programming.
Current has developed a programming model built on several unique content offerings, all designed to reflect the tastes and lifestyles of our target 18-34 year-old audience. Our programming is presented in short segments that we call “pods,” which are typically 2-10 minutes in length, rather than traditional half-hour or hour-long programming blocks.

Current’s innovative advertising solution. 
Our advertising model is designed to appeal to the lifestyles, tastes and needs of young adults. A key solution that we provide advertisers is the ability to let our young adult viewers create commercials that we then air on Current TV. In addition to these viewer created ad messages, or VCAMs, we offer other attractive sponsorship solutions, in which advertisements are integrated with and embedded into our content, providing advertisers a marketing forum that is free from ad-skipping.

Current’s all digital broadcast facility. 
Our TV broadcast facilities are built on an open IP architecture as opposed to traditional broadcast television legacy systems. Unlike high-cost production facilities at traditional cable networks, we have deployed a new, all-digital infrastructure that allows us to produce, acquire and distribute high quality content at a low cost.

Current.com.   
Current.com serves several purposes: it is a news, information and entertainment source for young adults online; it is a real-time connection to programming on Current TV; and it is a platform for collaborative media production. At its core, Current.com is a social news feed.

More about Current TV

Since its inception in 2005, Emmy award-winning Current TV has been the world’s leading peer-to-peer news and information network. Current is the only 24/7 cable and satellite television network and Internet site produced and programmed in collaboration with its audience. Current connects young adults with what is going on in their world, from their perspective, in their own voices.

With the launch of Current.com, the first fully integrated web and TV platform users can participate in shaping an ongoing stream of news and information that is compelling, authentic and relevant to them.

Current pioneered the television industry’s leading model of interactive viewer created content (VC2). Comprising roughly one-third of Current’s on-air broadcast, this content is submitted via short-form, non-fiction video “pods”. Viewer Created Ad Messages (VCAMs) are also open to viewer’s participation.

Current’s programming ranges from daily pop culture coverage to political satire in “SuperNews,” unprecedented music journalism in “The Current Fix,” and unique insights into global stories through Vanguard and Citizen Journalism.

Current is now viewed in the U.S. and U.K. in more than 51 million households through distribution partners Comcast (Channel 107 nationwide), Time Warner (nationwide), DirecTV (channel 366 nationwide), Dish Network (channel 196 nationwide), Sky (channel 193) and Virgin Media Cable (channel 155).

The company is headquartered in San Francisco, California and as of December 31, 2007 employed 391 full-time employees. They also have an office in London, production studios in Los Angeles and an advertising sales office in New York City. The company was initially formed as a limited liability company in Delaware in September 2002 named INdTV, LLC. On May 4, 2004, they have purchased Newsworld International, or NWI, a traditional cable and satellite network. This acquisition enabled the company to gain access to cable and satellite distribution as an independent network. In connection with that acquisition of NWI, they’ve changed their name to INdTV Holdings, LLC and concurrently formed a wholly owned subsidiary INdTV, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, and transferred all of their operations to INdTV, LLC. Since that time, they have had no operations because all operations are conducted by their subsidiaries. On April 4, 2005, they changed the name of INdTV Holdings, LLC to Current Media, LLC and INdTV, LLC to Current TV, LLC. On August 1, 2005, they terminated NWI’s existing programming and launched Current TV in the United States.

The company faces significant competition in both the cable television and online markets in which they operate. Current TV competes with other television networks that target young adults. These networks include Comedy Central, Fuse, G4, MTV, Spike TV and other major cable networks that are owned by large media conglomerates, such as Comcast, Disney, Time Warner and Viacom. Current.com faces competition from companies that are consumer destination websites, such as AOL, Google, MSN and Yahoo!, online video aggregators, such as Hulu and YouTube, and news and social network platforms, such as del.icio.us, digg.com, Facebook and MySpace.

Executive officers

Albert Gore, Jr. co-founded Current in 2002. He has served as our Executive Chairman and as a member of our board of directors since September 2002, and was elected as Chairman of our board of directors in May 2004. Mr. Gore has served as a Senior Advisor to Google, a global Internet company, since February 2001, and a member of the board of directors of Apple, a consumer electronics company, since March 2003. He has also served as Chairman of Generation Investment Management, an investment management firm, since 2004 and joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capital firm, as a partner in November 2007. He has served as a visiting professor at Middle Tennessee State University. Mr. Gore served as the 45th Vice President of the United States from 1993 to 2001, during which time he also served as President of the United States Senate and as a member of the Cabinet and the National Security Council. Prior to 1993, he served eight years in the United States Senate and eight years in the United States House of Representatives. Mr. Gore was co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Gore holds an A.B. from Harvard University.

Joel Hyatt co-founded Current in 2002. He has served as a member of our board of directors and as our Chief Executive Officer since September 2002. Mr. Hyatt has served as a member of the board of directors of Hewlett-Packard Company, a computer electronics company, since May 2007 and as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Brookings Institution since May 2001. From September 1998 to June 2003, Mr. Hyatt was a Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Previously, Mr. Hyatt was the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hyatt Legal Plans, Inc., a provider of employer-sponsored group legal plans, and of Hyatt Legal Services, a multi-state legal services firm. Mr. Hyatt holds an A.B. from Dartmouth College and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Mark Goldman has served as our Chief Operating Officer since December 2003. From July 1999 to December 2003, Mr. Goldman served as a consultant in the media and communications industries. Prior to that time, Mr. Goldman served as Chief Operating Officer for Sky Latin America, a division of News Corp., which provides satellite television service to Latin America, and as an executive at MCA/Universal Television, where he was responsible for business development and the launch of several international cable networks. Mr. Goldman has a B.S. in Economics from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Paul Hollerbach has served as our Chief Financial Officer since October 2007. From August 1997 to January 2007, Mr. Hollerbach worked at Yahoo!, a leading global internet company, where he held a broad range of senior financial roles. At Yahoo!, Mr. Hollerbach most recently served as Vice President, Finance and Investor Relations, and previously served as Vice President, Corporate Controller. Prior to Yahoo!, Mr. Hollerbach held various finance positions at Silicon Graphics, a computer electronics company, and served at KPMG LLP and Ernst & Young LLP, managing technology clients in their assurance practices. Mr. Hollerbach holds a B.S. in Business Administration from California State University, San Luis Obispo and is a licensed CPA in California.

David Neuman has served as our President of Programming since October 2004. From October 2003 to October 2004, Mr. Neuman researched the development of several television and feature film projects and incorporated his own production company, Blackrock Productions, working on primetime television and feature film projects. From January 2001 to October 2003, Mr. Neuman was Chief Programming Officer of CNN Networks, an international television news organization. Prior to that time, Mr. Neuman served as President of Walt Disney Television and Touchstone Television, a television studio. Mr. Neuman graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1983 with an A.B. in Communication Studies.

Joanna Drake Earl joined us in September 2002 and has served as our President of New Media since October 2004. From September 2002 to October 2004, Ms. Drake Earl served as our Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships. From February 2001 to July 2002, Ms. Drake Earl was Vice President, Content Strategy, at Digeo, Inc. (formerly Moxi Digital, Inc.), which develops multi-media devices and consumer media applications. Previously, Ms. Drake Earl served as a senior media industry consultant at Booz Allen & Hamilton, an international consulting firm. Ms. Drake Earl holds a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.A. from Stanford University.

Joshua Katz has served as our President of Marketing since December 2006. From February 2006 to December 2006, Mr. Katz served as Chief Marketing Officer at TiVO, a provider of digital video equipment and services. From July 2005 to January 2006, Mr. Katz was Vice President of Marketing for Lucasfilm, a film studio. From March 1999 to June 2005, Mr. Katz was President of The Halo Effect, a marketing and brand consulting firm. Previously, Mr. Katz served as Senior Vice President of Marketing at both the Cartoon Network and VH1 cable networks. Mr. Katz has a B.A. from Tulane University.

Directors

Richard C. Blum has served as a member of our board of directors since May 2004. He is the Chairman and President of Richard C. Blum & Associates Inc., the general partner of Blum Capital Partners, L.P., a long-term strategic equity investment management firm that acts as general partner for various investment partnerships and provides investment advisory services, which he founded in 1975. He has also served as the Chairperson and a member of the board of directors of CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc. since 2001. Mr. Blum holds a B.A. and an M.B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Ronald Burkle has served as a member of our board of directors since May 2004. Mr. Burkle is managing partner and majority owner of The Yucaipa Companies, a private investment firm that he co-founded in 1986. Mr. Burkle has also served as a director of Occidental Petroleum Corp. since 2005, KB Home Corporation since 1995, and Yahoo! since 2001.

Edward Renwick has served as a member of our board of directors since May 2004. Mr. Renwick is a partner of The Yucaipa Companies, a private investment firm where he has worked since 1999. Prior to that, Mr. Renwick served as a consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, a strategic consulting firm. Mr. Renwick holds a B.A. from Stanford University and a J.D. and M.P.P. from Harvard University.

Mark Rosenthal has served as a member of our board of directors since May 2004. From June 2005 to December 2006, Mr. Rosenthal served as Chairman and CEO of Interpublic Media, the media operations organization of the the Interpublic Group of Companies. From July 1996 to July 2004, Mr. Rosenthal served as President and Chief Operating Officer of MTV Networks, a cable network. Prior to becoming President and COO of MTV Networks, Mr. Rosenthal rose through positions of increasing responsibility in the affiliate sales and marketing organization at MTV Networks and its predecessor company, Warner Amex Satellite Entertainment Company, ultimately supervising the sales, distribution and marketing for all of MTV Networks’ domestic television networks. Mr. Rosenthal joined Warner Amex Satellite Entertainment Company in 1982. He has also served as a member of the board of directors of CNET Networks since April 2007. Mr. Rosenthal has a B.A. from Kenyon College and an M.F.A. from Yale University.

Orville Schell has served as a member of our board of directors since May 2004. Since January 2007, Mr. Schell has been the Director of the Center on U.S.-China relations at the Asia Society. From January 1997 to January 2007, Mr. Schell served as the Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. Mr. Schell holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Major stockholders include Al Gore, entities affiliated with Blum Capital Partners, L.P., Yucaipa Corporate Initiatives Fund I, L.P., DirectTV, Inc. and Comcast CTV Holdings, LLC. Underwriters include J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., Lehman Brothers Inc. and Pacific Crest Securities Inc.

More

http://current.com
http://current.com/tv
http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1424470/000104746908000572/a2182152zs-1.htm
http://current.com/items/88827879_current_files_for_100m_ipo
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-current-media-files-for-100-million-ipo/
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/current_files_for_ipo.php
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/current_tv.php
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/al_gore_current_re-defining_television.php
http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=technologyNews&storyid=2007-10-16T030718Z_01_N15319230_RTRUKOC_0_US-INTERNET-TELEVISION-CURRENT.xml [the story is down]
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/01/15/logmein-files-for-an-ipo-hoping-to-raise-86m/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/01/14/internet-brands-inc-went-public-on-nasdaq/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Gore
http://www.hoovers.com/yucaipa/–ID__40153–/free-co-factsheet.xhtml

A big question: is Alibaba.com overvalued or Yahoo is seriously undervalued?

Let’s put it that way Alibaba lost $13B from its market cap in just one month, yet the company’s market value is close to 50% from what Yahoo!’s current value is!

When Alibaba went public on the Honk Hong Stock Exchange a couple of months ago everything was more than perfect and the company has raised from the public sector the whopping amount of $1.49 Billion. Alibaba’s market capitalization then skyrocketed to the $25.7B range, just not too far from what Yahoo!’s market capitalization looked like by the time of the IPO of the Chinese Internet company. All those numbers made it the largest Internet IPO in Asia and the second largest globally. Yahoo! was then happy too.

Shares of Alibaba.com, the Chinese B2B marketplace, nearly tripled in their Hong Kong debut, closing at HK$39.50 (US$5.09), after its IPO priced at HK $13.50 (US$1.74). The steep rise was easy to see coming, considering the groundswell of enthusiasm for the company preceding the IPO. The company quickly reached a $25.7 billion market cap, which brings it close with Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Japan as the largest internet company in Asia, according to online sources. 

Alibaba.com and its parent company Alibaba Group initially offered a total of 858,901,000 shares under the Global Offering, of which 227,356,500 shares were offered by the Company and 631,544,500 shares were offered by Alibaba Group. An additional 113,678,000 shares were sold by Alibaba Group upon exercise by the International Underwriters of their Over-Allotment Option.

The eight Cornerstone Investors which participated in the Global Offering included Yahoo! Inc., AIG Global Investment Corporation (Asia) Limited, Foxconn (Far East) Limited, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Asia) Limited, Cisco Systems International B.V., and entities affiliated with Mr. Peter Kwong Ching Woo (Chairman of The Wharf (Holdings) Limited), the Kwok family (controlling shareholders of Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited) and Mr. Kuok Hock Nien.

The total cornerstone investment was HK$2.1 billion (US$274 million) and all Cornerstone Investors agreed to a lock-up period of 24 months from the date of listing.

Goldman Sachs (Asia) L.L.C. and Morgan Stanley Asia Limited were the Joint Global Coordinators and Joint Sponsors, and with Deutsche Bank AG, Hong Kong Branch, Joint Bookrunners and Joint Lead Managers of the Global Offering while N M Rothschild & Sons (Hong Kong) Limited was the Financial Advisor to the Company.

Let’s take a look at how the things looked like for the US Internet giant by that time.

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’s about 16.7% of Yahoo’s then $42 billion valuation.

What happened next? A few days after the IPO things appeared to be worsening. Many investors took the money and ran, driving shares of Alibaba.com Ltd. down 17% a day after their debut, when they nearly tripled from their initial-public-offering price. Analysts said the flagship business-to-business unit of Alibaba Group is likely to fall further on continued profit-taking for a while, as the stock is still overvalued. The shares of Alibaba.com then fell to 32.60 Hong Kong dollars (US$4.20) from almost 41.50HKD. Aside the fears of the investors that the stock price was unsustainable the company’s stock was also hit by Yahoo!’s CEO Jerry Yang’s appearance on Capitol Hill, defending the company’s handling of Chinese censorship probe. The major support, however, for the company’s falling stock price came earlier this month when Yahoo! announced to lay off hundreds of employees. The final number of people to be laid off from Yahoo’s work force of about 14,000 is yet to be determined and is likely to be announced around the end of the month, perhaps during Yahoo’s January 29 conference call with analysts after it reports fourth-quarter financial results, but it for sure had influenced the stock performance of its smaller Chinese brother Alibaba. Over the weekend, some blogs reported that Yahoo was considering layoffs of 10 percent to 20 percent of its work force. But the people close to the company, who discussed Yahoo’s layoff plans on condition that they are yet to be identified, said the cuts would likely be in the “hundreds.” Yahoo’s stock itself declined 20 percent in the last quarter.

Alibaba’s today stock price is 20.20HKD fallen down from 40.50HKD as what the price was in its best days. The company’s market capitalization is close to $13B (US Dollars), which is a major decline from what the company’s highest value was – close to $26B. 

So, let’s now take a look at how the things look like for the US Internet giant today. Logically Yahoo!’s interest total market value in Alibaba.com is now close to $3,5B falling down from the previous $7B mark. A couple of months ago Alibaba’s value was about 16.7% of Yahoo’s then $42 billion valuation. Today Yahoo!’s market capitalization is $27.77B, which makes Alibaba’s today value close to 50% of Yahoo!’s market value.

The big question here is 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 show big difference, no?

All calculations are made on the 1 HKD = 0.128087 USD and 1 CNY (RMB) = 0.138941 USD basis respectively.

More about Alibaba.com

Alibaba.com (HKSE:1688), a member of the Alibaba Group of companies, is one of the world’s premier e-commerce brands and the number one online marketplace for global and domestic China trade. We provide an efficient, trusted platform connecting small and medium-sized buyers and suppliers from around the world. Our international marketplace (www.alibaba.com) focuses on global importers and exporters and our China marketplace (www.alibaba.com.cn) focuses on suppliers and buyers trading domestically in China. Together our marketplaces form a community of more than 24 million registered users from over 200 countries and regions.

Our operational headquarters is based in Hangzhou in eastern China. We have field sales and marketing offices in more than 30 cities in China, Hong Kong, Switzerland and the United States. The company had more than 4,400 full-time employees as of June 30, 2007.

History & Milestones
Jack Ma, our lead founder and chairman, and 18 other founders launched Alibaba.com in his Hangzhou apartment in 1999. Originally, Alibaba.com operated as a bulletin board service for businesses to post buy and sell trade leads, and later became a vibrant marketplace for small and medium enterprises around the world to identify potential trading partners and interact with each other to conduct business online. Alibaba.com listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on November 6, 2007 and is the flagship business of the Alibaba Group.

  • October 2000 Gold Supplier membership launched to serve China exporters.
  • August 2001 International TrustPass membership launched to serve exporters outside of China.
  • March 2002 China TrustPass membership launched to serve SMEs engaging in domestic China trade.
  • July 2002 Keyword services launched on our international marketplace.
  • November 2003 TradeManager instant messaging software launched to enable users to communicate in real time on our marketplaces.
  • March 2005 Keyword bidding launched on our China marketplace.
  • April 2007 Gold Supplier membership launched to serve Hong Kong exporters.
  • November 2007 Alibaba.com listed on the Main Board of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited, under stock code 1688.

Below is what the Alibaba’s CEO David Wei stated at the time of their IPO.

We have just celebrated our successful listing on the Main Board of The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited and I’d like to welcome all our new investors and many thanks for your visionary investing commitment.

Alibaba.com’s mission is to make it easy to do business anywhere. Over the years, we focused on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (“SMEs”) sector, which have been the key driving forces for China’s economic growth and playing an increasingly important role in China’s economy. Through our world’s leading B2B e-Commerce marketplaces, we have made it possible for SMEs to grow their business and reach out to the world. We will maintain such long term focus by providing the best user and customer experience.

We take our responsibility to our shareholders very seriously. We adhere to the highest levels of ethical practices and create optimal corporate governance. Our Board of Directors include a number of experienced and high caliber independent directors who chair and run our board committees.

Going public is another a milestone in Alibaba.com’s history. Our belief of being a public company is to create growing sustainable value for customers and shareholders. I look forward to the ongoing support of our shareholders as we continue to build the world’s number one online marketplace for international and China trade.

More

http://blogs.barrons.com/techtraderdaily/2007/11/06/huge-surge-in-alibabacom-stock-price-following-ipo-could-spur-tuesday-rally-in-yahoo-shares/
http://sanjose.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stories/2007/01/29/daily22.html?from_msn_money=1
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&sid=aLtQSTnRGzdw&refer=asia
http://www.alibaba.com/
http://www.yahoo.com/
http://ir.alibaba.com/ir/stock_information.html
http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=1688.hk
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119446125893585466.html?mod=yahoo_hs&ru=yahoo
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-alibabacom-prices-at-top-of-the-range
http://www.news.com/Hundreds-of-layoffs-expected-at-Yahoo/2100-1038_3-6227041.html?tag=nefd.top
http://yhoo.client.shareholder.com/
http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=YHOO
http://www.tjacobi.com/50226711/alibabacom_revenue.php
http://money.cnn.com/2006/12/31/news/international/alibaba/index.htm
http://startuplay.com/tag/alibaba
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/fn/5491544.html
http://www.forbes.com/business/2008/01/09/china-internet-media-biz-media-cx_pm_0109notes.html
http://online.barrons.com/article/SB119931045594863115.html?mod=googlenews_barrons
http://www.hkex.com.hk/
http://www.247wallst.com/2008/01/the-coming-inte.html
http://www.hkex.com.hk/Alibaba.htm
http://www.alibaba.com/aboutalibaba/releases_071106.html

Mobivox takes $11M series A round from IDG Ventures

A couple of months ago IDG Ventures Boston led an $11 million series A round of funding for a Canadian company called Mobivox, which lets registered members make cheap or free phone calls around the world. The Montreal-based company is essentially letting members call to a number of countrieres free of charge and to other countries at around 2 cents.

IDG was joined by IDG Ventures China and IDG Ventures Vietnam. Previous investors include Brightspark Ventures of Toronto and Skypoint Capital Corp. of Ottawa. More information about all investors involved can be found below.

Earlier last year Mobivox launched the beta of its new mobile-to-Skype service. Registered Mobivox users with Skype accounts can call local access numbers to be connected via a virtual operator to their Skype contacts, for free. The service works with landlines and mobile phones, and it requires no download to your phone or PC. To use the service, just give Mobivox your telephone numbers and Skype account info.

Mobivox’s business model makes revenue from international calls. Users buy into a credit system that lets them purchase chunks of up to $100 international mobile-to-landline credit at a time, without having to buy it from Skype directly. There are no charges for using the service beyond any minutes you use up on your mobile or domestic-calling plan, and since Mobivox gives you a local number, you’re likely to avoid any long-distance charges on landlines.

Mobivox, reviewed by different testers and bloggers, was said to be a little kludgy to set up originally, probably cause its still in Alpha, but the easy part about it is it can use voice commands over a regular local phone call, so one just dials and says “my contact” and “Skype” and the service will connect you to an available Skype user — or one’s other contacts’ mobile and landline numbers. It automatically syncs with your Skype contacts after the sync is triggered by calling in to see if your Skype contacts were online or not.

The most frustrating part of trying to access Skype mobile solutions over some of the other services is downloading the client on the often select number of handsets available. It’s getting better as the startups add more handsets, but it’s still limited. Well, Mobivox also says they will have a mobile client available starting in April (2007), so we guess they’ll be jumping on that bandwagon too, for users that want a mobile interface.

Other users have checked out a number of VoIP mobile SPs and claimed they have finally found one that really knows what the users want. For example, one doesn’t want to open another account and purchase credits to use a facilitator for your existing Skype account and contacts. You don’t want to go through another operator no matter how intelligent it may be, you just want to go to your mobile and call your Skype contacts as you would a normal contact in your phone book and if you are WiFi connected, great, because that’s the way we want to go and stop being exploited by high mobile cost carriers.

The same user, we have read online about, advocated by that time that the only company he was aware of does this and that is fring.com.

Another one is asking: am I missing something about why I need a 3rd party? So I just installed Skype for Windows Smart Phones on my T-mobile Dash and it works flawlessly! Some other sources, however, explained the smart phones are in usage of no more than 1% of the mobile users worldwide.

The Management

Stéphane Marceau | President and CEO

Stéphane Marceau brings over 12 years of global experience to Mobivox in building and marketing IP communications to consumer markets. As Vice-President with Bell Canada, he built several new business lines, including the residential VoIP operating unit. Stéphane served as VP and head of many different Bell groups – consumer strategy, e-commerce, online SME markets and corporate development – and led several acquisitions and partnerships. Prior to his time at Bell Canada, he advised many of the largest wireless and telecom companies in Western Europe, the U.S. and Canada on Internet strategy and technology opportunities. Stéphane is also on the board of several web 2.0 start-ups in Montreal. He holds a Master’s degree in Management of Technology from the University of Waterloo, which he obtained in 1994 after earning a BA in Finance from the Université du Québec à Montréal in 1992.

Eric Reiher | Founder and CTO

Eric Reiher has spent the last 15 years contributing his vision to several leading-edge Research and Development projects. Since 2002, he has devoted himself to the development of MOBIVOX core technology. Prior to that, Eric acquired in-depth telecom and automatic speech recognition experience at Locus Dialogue, a fast-growing high-tech company that was ultimately acquired by Scansoft. Eric started his career at the Centre de Recherche Informatique de Montréal (CRIM), where he rapidly became a project leader and led various projects to completion, including an advanced image analysis mandate. He holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the Université de Montréal, which he obtained in 1990 after earning a BA in Computer Science, with a minor in mathematics, from the Université de Sherbrooke in 1988.

Mark MacLeod | Chief Financial Officer

Mark MacLeod brings 16 years of management and corporate finance experience to MOBIVOX, including over 8 years with technology start-ups. Most recently, Mark was Vice President, Finance for networked storage vendor Terrascale Technologies Inc. which was acquired by Rackable Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: RACK) in September 2006. Mark was previously Chief Financial Officer at IP networking vendor Hexago Inc. Prior to Hexago, he led Finance and Corporate Development for electronic signature software vendor Silanis Technology Inc., the market leader in its space. Mark is a seasoned operator and transaction specialist with broad experience in cross border financings, acquisitions and strategic alliances. He is a Chartered Accountant and holds an MBA in Corporate Strategy & Organizational Behavior from McGill University.

Nitzan Shaer | Chief Operating Officer

Nitzan Shaer brings to MOBIVOX more than 14 years of global business experience in the mobile and consumer software space. As Head of the Mobile Product Group at Skype, Nitzan led the development and marketing efforts focused on making Skype available on mobile phones. Prior to his tenure at Skype, Nitzan served as Senior Product Manager at Microsoft, where he managed the development of three emerging businesses in the company’s Mobile and Embedded Division. Previously, Nitzan also managed Business Development and Marketing in Europe at Brightcom Technologies, a company focused on the development of Bluetooth applications. Nitzan served as a Captain in the Israel Air Force, and graduated first in his class from the Air Force Academy. Most recently, as Entrepreneur In Residence at IDG Ventures Boston, Nitzan focused on identifying new investment opportunities in the telecommunications and consumer Internet industries. Nitzan graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. He lives in Boston with his wife and son and enjoys mountain climbing in his spare time.

Maxime Julien | Senior Vice President, Research & Development

Maxime brings over 17 years of senior management and engineering excellence to Mobivox. Most recently, Maxime was COO for Electronic Arts’ Montreal Studios where he was responsible for all aspects of studio operations and grew the team from 75 to over 300 people within 12 months. In addition, he participated in development of the most advanced game development framework of the industry. Prior to EA, Maxime led operations for Ubisoft where he reorganized and revitalized 6 operating groups covering over 300 team members, introducing best practices for software development and product delivery. Maxime also held several executive and leadership roles in the management of high-tech enterprises and blue-chip companies such as Ericsson, Motorola, Teleglobe and CAE. Maxime holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering (B.Eng.) from Laval University.

The investors

The company was founded in 2005 and has raised funds before its series A, which is known to be $3 million from both Brightspark Ventures and Skypoint Capital. All investors with brief information about them are included below.

IDG Ventures Boston

IDG Ventures Boston is an independent partnership that enables entrepreneurs to grow innovative, global companies. With $280 million under management, the firm is focused on investing in early stage information technology and life sciences companies and is led by a team with more than half a century of combined experience in venture capital. IDG Ventures Boston is affiliated with the IDG Ventures network of funds, a global $2+ billion network of independently managed funds spanning Asia and North America.

BrightSpark 

Brightspark is a leading early-stage software venture capital fund. Brightspark works closely with entrepreneurs to develop and build market-leading software companies. Brightspark’s innovative investment approach focuses on working closely with early-stage companies through their development and growth phase. Brightspark’s team brings years of investment and technology expertise in creating and operating software companies in the areas of application and infrastructure software, enterprise software and communications software. Brightspark’s investments range from “concept”-stage companies, led by domain experts looking to commercialize an idea or technology, to working with experienced entrepreneurs looking to scale their existing businesses. With offices in Toronto and Montreal, Brightspark is backed by leading institutional investors who share its approach to early-stage software investing.

Skypoint 

Skypoint Capital forms and manages venture capital funds that stimulate and leverage the ever-changing telecommunications and information technology sector. The investment team begins by investing time with the entrepreneur long before committing capital. After investing, the team brings its vast operating experience and passion for growing businesses to portfolio companies. The members of the Skypoint Capital investment team have participated in more than 80 technology start-ups in the Ottawa and Montreal regions.

IDG Venture China

IDG Venture Investment China is a premier venture capital firm in China focused on helping early to growth stage companies become significant players in the IT, consumer, media and life sciences industries. The firm has demonstrated success with over 30 IPO’s and successful M&A transactions and a portfolio that includes Baidu, CTrip, Sohu, Tencents, HomeInns, and KingDee. With a 14 year history of investing in China and $1.3B under management, IDG Venture Investment China is proud to have won the trust of entrepreneurs, investors, business communities and government organizations alike.

IDG Ventures Vietnam

Established in 2004, IDG Ventures Vietnam (IDGVV) is the first and leading technology venture capital fund in Vietnam. With $100M under management, the fund invests in market leading companies in the technology, media, and telecommunications sectors in Vietnam as well as select parts of Southeast Asia. As part of the network of IDG Ventures funds worldwide, IDGVV has been at the forefront in the development of the venture capital industry in the region as well as promoting technology entrepreneurship. In addition to Mobivox, some of its current investments include VinaGame, Punch Entertainment, Clip.vn, VinaPay, and SanOTC.com.

The market

The market is extremely overcrowded and Mobivox is facing staggering competition in the mobile VoIP space. The competition seems to guarantee cheaper phone calls for the rest of us as well as more used minutes for the cell phone companies. Companies include from Google and Tellme’s free 411 services to an army of small to mid level companies. Tellme, by the way, was recently bought by Microsoft. Other players include EQO that used to have a similar PC-style Skype version, IdeaSIP (which supports video), Gizmo Project (which has a very cool client), Fring.com, Stanaphone, Sunrocket (2nd largest to Vonage), globedialer.com, which has taken an even easier route by simply letting people call internationally via the PSTN network and Barablu, which is yet another company dealing with Skype but is based in Europe. iSkoot seems like its becoming Skype’s chosen mobile solution and among other startups with Skype mobile solutions, like Mobivox itself, they are all trying to figure out the differentiators and spread the market shares among themselves. iSkoot, by contrast, is based in Massachusetts and has more than $13.2 million in financing and is backed by Charles River Ventures, Khosla Ventures, ZG Ventures, and Jesselson Capital Corp.
More

http://www.mobivox.com/
http://www.mobivox.com/rates/
http://techcfo.blogspot.com
http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/provider/providerarticle.aspx?Feed=ACBJ&Date=20071011&ID=7614418
http://gigaom.com/2007/03/19/mobivox-more-skype-on-mobile/
http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/techbeat/archives/2007/05/new_voip_player.html
http://www.webware.com/8301-1_109-9718526-2.html
http://labs.google.com/goog411/
http://www.tellme.com/products/TellmeByVoice
http://www.bspark.com/pages/default.asp?Section=1
http://www.skypointcorp.com/
http://blogs.msdn.com/maamktg/archive/2007/03/19/revolutionary.aspx
http://markevanstech.com/2007/05/10/mobile-skypefinally/
http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r19165054-Skype-Video-leak-Whos-taking-up-a-battle-with-skype
http://www.myvoipprovider.com/VoIP_Provider_Graveyard/
http://www.idgvc.com
http://www.brightspark.com
http://www.idgvb.com
http://www.skypointcorp.com

Yet another seed round, this time for MyLifeBrand

MyLifeBrand, the social network that offers private label solutions for online community-building, has received $750,000 in seed money. However, the angel investors were not disclosed. We have also read on a few blogs the company is still looking to raise more in another round, for an unspecified amount. In addition to creating online communities for established groups, the site allows users to manage their accounts at various social networking sites. Both sides of the business face plenty of competition. From what we have read below the company is brining in $300,000 in revenues and is on its way to $1M for its first year of operations. 

The site itself is very modest on what the company is doing. MyLifeBrand, the site says, is a new site offering the next generation of social networking and social media services.

Digging further one understands that it’s got a profile aggregation tool, a group-formation tool, private label options and more. In this way, it looks to appeal to individuals that already have existing profiles on other networks, those that would like to create their own network, businesses that are looking to offer an online group for networking purposes, and businesses that would like to incorporate social networking modules into their existing website.

It is also said that MyLifeBrand has teamed up with the Utah Jazz to offer a branded social network for team fans.

The company is based in Seattle, Washington but the firm is currently in the midst of moving down to Southern California. The company was in talks with local investors, and also has all of its business development folks there in Los Angeles. Here is what the firm’s Executive Vice President Daniel Scalisi has stated in an online interview with socalTECH’s Ben Kuo.

Daniel Scalisi explained MyLifeBrand was created to solve a few problems we saw in the market, and to take advantage of the opportunities. At the core, MyLifeBrand is a social browser platform. It’s a website that allows users to manage external and internal communities. That includes MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The internal communities’ pieces are being created on our platform by companies who are looking to engage their member base. It’s a single platform, where you can seamlessly navigate your external and internal sites they may want to join. What we recognize, is that people are part of multiple social networks. We are trying to create a single browsing experience for managing someone’s social life. For communities, who have recognized that their member bases are going to social networks which allow them to create their own groups around associates or companies, why shouldn’t they find a way to engage their member base in a similar form?

We launched in June of this year (2007), and were in Alpha mode until August, when we went into beta. Typically, our focus has been on building membership, where we have been partnering with communities of interest–faith based, nonprofit, sports, entertainment, and other communities by providing a free community tools platform. We’re essentially seeding our member community with their member base. That way, we are adding people thousands as a time, rather than as individuals. On the other side, we have started a search engine optimization and search engine marketing push to drive adoption from the individual user side.

That’s really what our platform does–number one, it’s a service which provides free aggregation, browsing, and syndication of all of your communities, social networking sites, and services. Number two, it’s a customizable tool to create a community; and number three, it’s a marketing platform that communities and users can leverage to market their own community and build membership.

The community is advertising based. Unlike other social networking sites, if you’re helping to drive traffic, we’re giving you a percentage of revenue. Individuals actually get rewarded in a number of ways, including converting rewards to cash, and for things like building their friends list.

The company has been in stealth mode for the past year, building out the platform. We brought in alpha testers, and have been shaping the user experience based on user feedback. We went live publicly in June (2007), announcing our platform. To date, we’ve raised three quarters of a million in seed funding, and have another quarter million committed. Since June, we’ve been producing revenues, and have accrued $300,000 in revenues so far. We expect to have more than $1M in revenues for our first year. In parallel with our bridge round of $1M, we’re now seeking a Series A. From a technology standpoint, we’re based in Seattle, but from a business development and marketing background, we’re based in Los Angeles. Jeff Jani, our CEO, is out of Disney, and he built and sold a company around some unique technology to Microsoft. I myself, have built three different startups–this is my fourth–all of them in the digital media/Internet space. Some of the rest of the team come from Kintera, which is a SoCal company, and our other folks have deep community building experience through their own prior experience as well.
More

http://mylifebrand.com/
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-private-label-social-networking-service-mylifebrand-takes-in-750000-pur/
http://mashable.com/2007/10/10/mylifebrand-funded/
http://www.socaltech.com/interview_with_daniel_scalisi_mylifebrand/s-0011667.html
http://mashable.com/2007/09/21/utah-jazz-mylifebrand/

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/

Inform receives $15 Million investment from Spark Capital

Inform Technologies, a technology solution for established media brands, has received a $15 million investment from Spark Capital, a Boston-based venture fund focused on the intersection of the media, entertainment and technology industries.

The company said in their PR they are going to use the funds to accelerate growth. The company also claims nearly 100 media brands use Inform’s journalistic technology to enhance their sites.  

Founded in 2004, Inform currently works with nearly 100 major media brands to help them ensure that their sites are content destinations and offers editorial-quality features that keep readers engaged on their sites longer – and that increase page views and revenue potential.

Inform’s key offering is a technology solution that acts as an extra editor. It starts with a page of text, and then, with editorial precision, it automatically creates and organizes links to relevant content from the media property’s site, its archives, from affiliate sites and/or anywhere else on the Web. As a result, each page on a site becomes a richer multimedia experience.

Said James Satloff, CEO of Inform, “Media companies face significant challenges online. They need to attract new unique visitors, create an experience that compels those readers to spend more time consuming more pages, and then turn those page views and time on site into revenue. We believe that the Inform solution enables them to do exactly that.”

Longstanding Inform clients include Conde Nast, Crain Communications, IDG, The New York Sun and Washington.Post.Newsweek Interactive. In recent months, 30 additional media properties have engaged Inform – many already running Inform’s technology on their sites.

Inform uses artificial intelligence and proprietary rules and algorithms to scan millions of pages of text and read the way a journalist does – identifying key “entities,” such as people, places, companies and products, and recognizing how they connect, even in subtle and context-specific ways. The software continually teaches itself – in real time – how information is related and automatically updates links and topics as the context changes.

Santo Politi, Founder and Partner at Spark Capital, commented on the following “Established media brands need cost-effective ways to compete with each other and, importantly, with other online presences, such as search. They need depth and richness in their content so they’re true destinations and so readers spend more time on the sites and click through more pages. Inform provides a truly elegant – and so far very successful – solution for that. While allowing the publication to remain in full control of its content and editorial integrity, Inform automatically enriches a site by enabling it to leverage its own content, its archives, archives of affiliates and the web overall. In effect, it enables a publication to expand its editorial capabilities without expanding its staff. We believe the potential for Inform’s growth is substantial.”

 “We’re delighted that our new investor understands how effectively we partner with media companies and how our technology serves their business and editorial objectives. We will use the capital to expand our operations and implement our approach to accelerating our growth.” Said Joseph Einhorn, Co-Founder and CTO of Inform.

We went over Web and researched a bit over the company. It turns out the company has shifted the focus quite often over the past several years. In 2005 the company once said to be around to provide a useful news interface – both blog and non-blog – and to show the interconnectedness of all of the content. Later the same year a major re-launch and re-design struck the company and they have given up on the Ajax based pop-up and have also added vide and audio, which hardly fits into the concept of contextual connection between two content areas/texts based on their semantic textual analysis, unless they have come up to an idea how to read inside and understand image and video files. Google, by contrast, seems to have come up to technology that claims to recognize text in images. In late 2006 the company brought to the market their so called Inform Publisher Services, which was aimed at big web publishers, and was designed to help them increase page views by adding relevant links to other, hopefully related, content in their archives.

The new service was meant to automatically create links in existing articles, which link to a results page containing relevant content from the site as well as from the web, including blogs and audio/video content. Sounds like Sphere and LinkedWords. Basically their latest offering comes closer to what the Inform.com is today.

Some critics on the service have published the following doubts online over a few blogs we have checked out in regard to Inform.

Isn’t this the opposite of semantic web, since they’re sucking in unstructured data? How does their relatedness stuff compare to Sphere and how do their topic pages compare to Topix?

Marshall Kirkpatrick from RWW has put it that way when the question about standards and openness was raised.

“Inform crunches straight text and outputs HTML. I asked whether they publish content with any standards based semantic markup and they said that actual publishing is up to publishers. That’s a shame, I don’t see any reason why Inform wouldn’t participate in the larger semantic web to make its publishers’ content more discoverable. Perhaps when you’ve got 100 live clients and now $15m in the bank, it feels like there’s no reason to open up and play nice with a movement of dreamers having trouble getting other apps out of academia.”

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

More about Inform

Inform Technologies is a new technology solution for established media brands that automatically searches, organizes and links content to provide a rich, compelling experience that attracts and retains readers.

With editorial-quality precision, the technology understands textual content and recognizes subtle differences in meaning. Further, the technology automatically creates links – in articles and on instantly generated topic pages – to relevant content. This deepens a site and engages readers.

Inform’s Essential Technology platform is an artificial intelligence and natural language-based solution that serves almost as an “extra editor” using rules and algorithms to “read” millions of pages of content, identify entities, such as people, places, companies, organizations and products, and topics, to create intelligent links to other closely related information. The technology is also able to recognize subtle differences in meaning and distinguish people, places and things based on local geographies or unique identities.

Inform’s Connected Content Solution and Essential Technology Platform are used by major media brands including CNN.com, WashingtonPost, Newsweek Interactive, Conde Nast, Meredith, IDG and Crain Communications.

Founded in 2004, the company is privately held and has approximately 60 employees, including mathematicians, linguists, programmers, taxonomists, library scientists and other professionals based in New York and India.

About Spark Capital

Spark Capital is a venture capital fund focused on building businesses that transform the distribution, management and monetization of media and content, with experience in identifying and actively building market-leading companies in sectors including infrastructure (Qtera, RiverDelta, Aether Systems, Broadbus and BigBand), networks (College Sports Television, TVONE and XCOM) and services (Akamai and the Platform). Spark Capital has over $600 million under management, and is based in Boston, Massachusetts. Spark has committed to investing $20 million in CNET equity.

More

http://www.inform.com/ 
http://www.inform.com/pr.012308.html
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/inform_funding.php
http://www.micropersuasion.com/2005/10/a_new_rss_reade.html
http://www.paidcontent.org/pc/arch/2005_10_16.shtml#051884
http://www.techcrunch.com/tag/inform.com/
http://blog.express-press-release.com/2007/10/19/a-bunch-of-intelligent-and-smart-content-tagging-engines/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/19/twine-launches-a-smarter-way-to-organize-your-online-life/
http://blog.nosyjoe.com/2007/09/06/nosyjoecom-is-now-searching-for-tags/
http://nextnetnews.blogspot.com/2007/09/is-nosyjoecom-next-clustycom.html
http://kalsey.com/2007/10/jiglu_tags_that_think/
http://mashable.com/2007/10/15/jiglu/
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/17/technology/17ecom.html
http://www.techcrunch.com/2005/10/16/informcom-doesnt/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2005/10/24/a-second-look-at-informcom/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2005/12/05/informcom-re-launches-with-major-feature-changes/
http://business2.blogs.com/business2blog/2006/07/scoop_inform_re.html
http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/07/30/informcoms-latest-offering/
http://www.quantcast.com/inform.com
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/07/04/when-search-results-include-more-search-results/

More deals in the enterprise search sector

A couple of weeks after Microsoft announced its $1.2 billion acquisition of FAST Search & Transfer, enterprise search competitor Endeca is getting a $15 million cash infusion from both Intel Capital and SAP Ventures. This is on top of the $50 million Endeca has already raised in the past few years from Lehman Brothers, Granite Global Ventures, Ampersand Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Venrock Associates and DN Capital.

“In just more than seven years, Endeca went from one customer and modest revenue to 500 customers and $100M-plus in sales. The next target is the elusive $500M milestone,” said Bruce Richardson, chief research officer at AMR Research, in his January 11, 2008 report entitled Endeca Set to Lead the Information Visibility Revolution. “What makes Endeca unique is its ability to provide visibility for everyone that needs it, whether for finding a part or selling to a customer or prospect… It could be years before Endeca faces products comparable to its own.”

“Visibility into enterprise-wide information assets is a key area of interest for customers,” said Jennifer Scholze, Investment Partner at SAP Ventures. “By taking a fundamentally new approach to accessing and analyzing enterprise-wide data, Endeca is poised to disrupt multi-billion dollar markets and is uniquely suited to address the core opportunity of the information economy.”

“No company better understands the importance of enterprise data to today’s information-centric businesses than SAP. Our collaboration will open new doors and accelerate the realization of our vision to arm all knowledge workers with the critical enterprise data they need to inform daily decision making, regardless of source or format,” said Steve Papa, chief executive officer of Endeca. “As an SAP customer and now a key part of their investment portfolio, Endeca is on a favorable path to learn from — and work closely with — the most influential information applications company of our time.”

“Information access platforms play a crucial role in linking vast collections of data,” said Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital. “Our investment in Endeca will further their capabilities by capitalizing on Intel’s next generation multi-core platforms in this market segment.”

“Endeca’s success to date would not have been possible without the innovations Intel has brought to market. Multi-core computing will play one of the greatest enabling roles for adoption of next generation information access technology,” said Steve Papa, CEO of Endeca. “This investment from Intel Capital has the potential to accelerate Endeca’s success in gaining adoption for information access.”

More about Endeca

The Endeca Information Access Platform is a new platform built specifically to address an emerging market that is poised to fundamentally change the way people access and interact with information. The platform is designed to help people explore, analyze, and understand information in ways not possible with search engine, database, and business intelligence solutions. Powered by Endeca’s MDEX Engine™ technology, it unites the ease of search with the analytical power of business intelligence, bringing Endeca’s trademark Guided Navigation® user experience to new classes of applications. As a result, organizations can increase revenue, decrease costs, and streamline operations by helping their customers, employees, and partners answer high-value questions with unprecedented ease and confidence.

The Endeca Information Access Platform aids information-based problem solving across a wide variety of business processes, including eCommerce, marketing-campaign analysis, product design and parts reuse, knowledge management, customer service, and more. To meet highly specific industry and application requirements, Endeca offers a range of market solutions, each designed to accelerate time-to-market and maximize return.

Discovering our name

The company name “Endeca” is derived from the German word “entdecken” meaning “to discover.” Viewed in the context of information integration and navigation, Endeca technology not only allows users to find what they are looking for, but also to discover the possibilities they never knew existed along the way.

Over 500 leading global organizations including ABN AMRO, Boeing, Cox Newspapers, The (US) Defense Intelligence Agency, Dell, Ford Motor Company, Hyatt, IBM, John Deere, The Library of Congress, Texas Instruments, and Walmart.com rely on Endeca to power business-critical applications that increase revenue, reduce costs and streamline operations.

Headquartered in Cambridge, MA, Endeca has operations in North America, Europe and Asia. It has 500 employees and over $100 in sales for the last year. The company was founded in 1999.

About SAP Ventures

Since 1996, SAP Ventures has been investing in companies that offer exciting new technologies and applications. Leveraging years of experience and drawing on a network of powerful business relationships, SAP Ventures helps entrepreneurs and management teams recruit the best people, make the right technology decisions, win new business, and build their own partner networks. The goal of SAP Ventures is to grow businesses that create shareholder value for everyone involved.

About Intel Capital

Intel Capital, Intel’s global investment organization, makes equity investments in innovative technology start-ups and companies worldwide. Intel Capital invests in a broad range of companies offering hardware, software and services targeting enterprise, home, mobility, health, consumer Internet, semiconductor manufacturing, and cleantech. Since 1991, Intel Capital has invested more than US$6 billion in approximately 1,000 companies in more than 40 countries. In that timeframe, about 157 portfolio companies have gone public on various exchanges around the world and another 187 have been acquired by other companies. In 2007, Intel Capital invested about US$639 million in 166 deals with approximately 37 percent of funds invested outside the United States.

Interesting information has popped up online while we were researching on the deal for more details. It seems that their product empowers IBM while IBM appears to be developing their own in joined forces with Yahoo!: http://omnifind.ibm.yahoo.net/  & http://omnifind.ibm.yahoo.net/productinfo.php

Other commentaries we have dug up from Web reveal some rumors that Endeca was pretty close to do an IPO last year. The same sources claimed something must be going not very well with the company since they have chosen to go in bed with bigger names in the business and raise VC money rather than going the IPO road. 

More

http://endeca.com/
http://endeca.com/corporate-info/press-room/pr/pr_2008-1-23.html
http://endeca.com/corporate-info/press-room/pr/pr_2008-1-23-SAP.html
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/23/intel-and-sap-put-15-million-into-enterprise-search-company-endeca/
http://endeca.com/_assets/pdf/AMR_Endeca_Revolution.pdf
http://www.sapventures.com
http://www.intelcapital.com
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/01/08/microsoft-bets-on-enterprise-search-offers-to-buy-fastno-for-12b/

Wall Street plunged but does it affect the Web 2.0

Wall Street plunged at the opening of trading Tuesday, propelling the Dow Jones industrials down about 300 points after an interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve failed to assuage investors fearing a recession in the United States.

U.S. markets joined stock exchanges around the world that have fallen precipitously in recent days amid concerns that a downturn might spread around the world. U.S. bonds were mixed, with investors seeking safer investments as stocks plummeted. The oil price, by contrast, fell amid expectations that a downturn would depress demand for energy.

The Fed’s decision to cut its federal funds rate to 3.50% and the discount rate, the interest it charges to lend directly to banks, came a week before the central bank’s regularly scheduled meeting, a sign that the Fed recognized the seriousness of the world financial situation. But there were already fears in the markets before the Fed move that an interest rate wouldn’t be enough to prevent a recession. The cut was the biggest one-day rate move by the Fed since it lowered rates by a full percentage point in December 1991, when the country was trying to emerge from recession.

In the first hour of trading, the Dow was down 293.70, or 2.43 percent, at 11,805.60. The Dow was last below 12,000 in March 2007. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index was off 32.49, or 2.45 percent, at 1,292.70, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 66.82, or 2.86 percent, to 2,273.20.

It was the first time the Fed altered the target federal funds rate between scheduled meetings since the markets reopened after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

It’s been a black year so far for stocks. The SP 500 index, the broadest measure of the stock market, has suffered its worst annual start ever, giving up about 13 percent in just three weeks. The Dow is down about 12 percent since the beginning of the year, and the Nasdaq is down approximately 15 percent.

On the other side the government bond prices surged as stocks fell and investors fled to safer securities. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, sank to 3.53 percent from 3.63 percent late Friday.

Both Asian and European markets have also fallen seriously where the Asian market was hit harder. Japan’s Nikkei stock average closed down 5.65 percent — its biggest percentage drop in nearly a decade. The German’s DAX for instance fell to the level of mid 2007, yet higher than the levels of January 2007.

Did the crisis affect the major Internet players anyway?

Below is a quick outlook of some of the more important Internet players and how their stocks performed for today. Clearly everything was colored in red.

Company / Stock Symbol / Last Trade / Change / Mkt Cap

  • Microsoft Corporation  MSFT  32.05   -0.96 ( -2.91% )  299.84B
  • Google Inc.  GOOG  590.14   -10.11 ( -1.68% )   184.62B
  • News Corporation  NWS.A  18.59   -0.10 ( -0.54% )  58.05B
  • Time Warner Inc.  TWX  15.07   -0.47 ( -3.02% )  54.62B
  • eBay Inc.  EBAY  27.13   -1.20 ( -4.24% )  36.68B
  • Amazon.com, Inc.  AMZN  77.62   -2.14 ( -2.68% )  32.31B
  • Yahoo! Inc.  YHOO  20.02   -0.76 ( -3.66% )  26.78B
  • Baidu.com, Inc. (ADR)  BIDU  270.40   -2.64 ( -0.97% )  9.12B
  • IAC/InterActiveCorp  IACI  24.14   +0.02 ( 0.08% )  6.85B
  • SINA Corporation (USA)  SINA  38.95   -0.26 ( -0.66% )  2.13B
  • Sohu.com Inc.  SOHU  39.99   -2.06 ( -4.90% )  1.49B
  • CNET Networks, Inc.  CNET  7.78   -0.38 ( -4.66% )  1.18B 

Alibaba.com Corp., yet another major Internet player, which is traded on the Honk Kong stock market, has today lost 8.91% from its market capitalization.

From all the companies we took a look at only IAC seems to be the winner for today (at the moment we checked them out) – having its stock price colored green.

The big loser could be Answers Corporation which got its stock smashed on Friday, dropping more than 23%. Answers’ plunge jeopardizes Lexico acquisition, which they were hoping to buy for $100M, a deal we have reported a few weeks ago. It is hard to believe that answers.com is attracting more than 34M unique visitors per month and the entire company is today worth less than $30M. The company once was over $140M worth when its stock was close to $18.

The venture capital market

Reporters went public today on the venture capital market released from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. Total venture funding for the year were up 10.8 percent to $29.4 billion, and up 11.5 percent for the fourth quarter of 2007 to $7 billion. That makes it the fourth straight quarter where VC deals were above the $7 billion mark, and the highest yearly total since 2001. 2007 was a year of steady gains for VC investing, the highest since the $40.6 billion invested in 2001 (and still well-below the $105 billion in 2000).

What about the new entrants from the web 2.0 age?

Facebook the most buzzed web 2.0 company seems to be rethinking the perfect time for their IPO and rumors are they are going to postpone it to at least 2009 or even 2010 if markets recover. Digg, yet another popular web site from the web 2.0 age, is trying to shop itself for months now at the $300M range but we hear no any news for potential acquisition of the social news site.

Despite all talks for possible recession in US and despite all huge losses the major banks in US have incurred, the web 2.0 deals appear to be more than ever before. For example only today [January 22, 2008] we have read about 10 deals at least where the average funding figures where close to $15M. Over the past 30 days, no matter we were in holiday season we have written down to report later more than 100 VC deals for web 2.0 companies, most of them start-up, and at least 20 acquisition and buy out deals with in the sector. Almost half of the deals reported on that particular day were acquisitions. Also today a major VC player has raised $577M late stage growth fund for. The web 2.0 market is going crazier from day to day and the peak seems not reached yet. Based on what we are witnessing the major credit and financial crisis in the states is not affecting the relatively small web 2.0 sector. All the VC activity within the sector gives no signals about crisis or any major slow down in the web 2.0 market, at least for now.
More

http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080122/wall_street.html
http://www.nyse.com 
http://www.nasdaq.com
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/21/venture-fundings-hit-294-billion-in-2007-the-year-in-charts/
http://finance.google.com/finance?q=GOOG
http://stocks.us.reuters.com/stocks/overview.asp?symbol=1688.HK
http://finance.google.com/finance?q=ANSW
http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2008/01/20/dilution-is-not-the-answers-com/
http://www.globes.co.il/serveen/globes/docview.asp?did=1000299719&fid=942