Category Archives: Money

AdultFriendFinder.com finally sold out – $500M

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BillMeLater – $1 Billion in funding so far

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the consumer part it is:

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

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

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

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

Revenues

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

The People

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

Other executive include

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

Investors & Tranches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Via

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

Exclusive: Imeem inks a deal with the world’s largest record company

In what is believed to be a big leap for the relatively small social networking site called Imeem they announced today a licensing agreement allowing its users to listen free to the music of Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group.

Universal Music, the world’s largest record company, has opened a new chapter in the industry’s experiment with advertising-supported music by backing Imeem. Imeem now boasts deals with all four major record companies, including Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI Group, all of which have already inked deals with the social network.

It’s a sharp turnaround from earlier this year, when none of the majors were willing to sign on to imeem’s new ad-supported interactive service. In fact, Warner sued Imeem, arguing that by allowing its members to upload and share MP3s of Warner music, it was infringing on its copyrights.

After months of negotiations, the companies have concluded a deal in which Imeem will have full access to Universal’s catalogue, making it the first social networking site to reach licensing agreements with each of the four big record labels.

Imeem has received attention from music executives because it has quickly built an audience of 19 million monthly visitors, up from the 16 million they reported in May 2007.

Despite these claims and the deal itself, Imeem’s traffic seems to have fallen off since earlier this year, from a peak of 5 million visitors in April to 2.37 million in November according to Compete.com. Quantcast is showing even worse numbers – only 2.4 Million American visitors. The traffic curve there is permanently falling down over the past 6 months.

Imeem is an online community where artists, fans & friends can promote their content, share their tastes, and discover new blogs, photos, music and video. Here are some of the things you can do on imeem:

Discover
-Enjoy the latest videos, music, photos, or blogs posted on imeem.
-Stay up-to-date with your personal network of fans and friends with “What’s New” notifications.
-Get in-depth stats for all your content and track their popularity.

Interact
-Tag, comment, rate, and share any of your friends’ cool (or embarrassing) content.
-Create or join groups for your favorite band, event, topic, and more!
-Start discussions with other imeem users and make new friends.
 
Share
-Embed your media on other pages (such as your blog, Bebo, etc.).
-Recommend stuff to your friends or add it to your “Favorites” list.
-Easily add media to your Del.icio.us, WordPress, Blogger, or Typepad.

Imeem is hoping to make money from advertisers, a portion of which will be shared with its music partners. It has signed up Puma, Nike and Microsoft among others, though it does not disclose revenues.

As part of the deal, Universal is said to have received an upfront payment worth more than $20 million, as well as an equity stake in Imeem. Universal will also receive a small payment each time one of its songs is streamed on the site of Imeem. A person familiar with the discussions said that the pay out Universal is about to receive is an equivalent to a fraction of a cent in addition to receiving a share of advertising revenue associated with a given song, that is, ads running near where a song is accessed. Most licensing deals with services that combine free music with advertising tend to offer labels only a share of revenue.

Imeem isn’t the first ad-supported music service to gain the support of all four major labels. Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI have also been making their music available to ad-supported music downloading service Ruckus. Ruckus had an early advantage over other services in securing the majors’ cooperation because it targeted colleges and universities, where illegal music downloading is a particularly serious problem and is basically not possible.

In a statement, Universal Chairman Doug Morris called Imeem “innovative,” and praised Imeem for “ensuring that our artists are fairly compensated for the use of their works.”

According to eMarketer, spending on advertising on social networks will rise from $900 million this year to more than $2.5 billion in 2011.

Imeem is based in San Francisco and takes its name from “meme” – a term coined to describe the ideas that communities, adopt, and express. Dalton Caldwell is the CEO of the company and the co-founded together with Jan Jannink. The company used to be in Palo Alto and is known to have launched in 2004. Known investors in the company are Morgenthaler (Series A founding) and Sequoia Capital, the venture capital fund that supported Google and YouTube.

Via

[ http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ff0a7e34-a6c3-11dc-b1f5-0000779fd2ac.html ]
[ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119725218005518932.html?mod=googlenews_wsj ]
[ http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=204800459 ]
[ http://www.forbes.com/business/2007/12/10/imeem-universal-music-biz-media-cx_lh_1210bizimeem.html ]
[ http://www.news.com/8301-13577_3-9831163-36.html ]
[ http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?id=1004896 ]
[ http://mashable.com/2007/12/10/imeem-universal/ ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/09/imeem-pens-a-deal-with-universal-music-now-has-all-the-majors/ ]
[ http://www.quantcast.com/imeem.com ]
[ http://www.crunchbase.com/company/imeem ]
[ http://imeemblog.imeem.com/ ]
[ http://lifehacker.com/software/social-networking/not-just-another-social+networking-site-208719.php ]
[ http://www.demo.com/demonstrators/demo2005/54152.php ]
[ http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/29/imeem-pioneers-free-music-with-ads/ ]
[ http://www.morgenthaler.com/content/Ventures/Articles/Articles%20documents/imeem%20in%20venturewire.pdf ]
 

Rackspace jumps on the web acquisitions bandwagon – snatches Webmail.us

During the past 2 years the Web’s M&A market is very intensive. In what is known to be the RackSpace’s first web acquisition the company has acquired Webmail.us, a business web email service provider for an undisclosed sum.

At the time of the deal Webmail.us provided email hosting services to more than 80,000 small to medium size businesses totaling 600,000 users. Also recently Webmail.us made the Inc 500 list as the #217 fastest growing private company in America. Webmail.us already had a successful partnership with Rackspace – their entire email hosting infrastructure is hosted by Rackspace and Rackspace is their largest reseller. Webmail.us’s CEO Pat Matthews makes a note that “the market is really going to open up, leaders are going to emerge, and followers are going to fall behind.” He said that Webmail.us decided to sell to “make sure we’re positioned to be the leader in our space”.

Webmail.us is known to be using the Amazon S3, The Simple Queue Service and the Elastic Compute cloud to run its operations.

In the Webmail.us’s blog we read about the reason why they did this.

Why are we doing this?

We are committed to building the world’s most trusted provider of business email hosting. Rackspace very much believes in our mission and wants to help us make it a reality. They have done a phenomenal job of building one of the world’s greatest service companies and their experience and expertise will be invaluable as we grow our business.

We are natural business partners. In fact, we’ve been partners for more than three years. Rackspace already hosts our entire email hosting infrastructure and has become the largest reseller of our email hosting services.

Both companies see the world in the same way. Unlike other companies that sell technology-based solutions to businesses, we both believe that great service is what really matters. Since our inception, we’ve been committed to delivering great service to our customers and Rackspace only raises the bar. Experiencing Fanatical Support first-hand has proven to us that Rackspace is a different kind of company—one that is truly dedicated to its customers. We are eager to raise the bar as we bring Fanatical Support to our customers.

Our cultures are very similar, which has made integration easy—and exciting! Both companies are filled with amazing, passionate people that love what they do. And you can’t deliver great service unless you have great people that love what they do!
We believe in Rackspace. We share their vision for what email and IT hosting will look like in the future. We believe in their leadership team and their ability to execute. We love their people. We believe in Fanatical Support. And most importantly, we believe in our ability to achieve greatness—TOGETHER!

Nonetheless Webmail.us is a great example of a small company in the Web 2.0 age that is relying subscription based business model rather than on advertising even though having less user base when compared to the gigantic free email providers like Hotmail, Yahoo! Email and Gmail. That raises the interesting question what would it be if Google or Microsoft, for example, decide to jump on the same business model and turn just 1% of their free email users into recurring paying customers by adding and offering them some featured extras above the free accounts.

After the deal the company is going to stay in Blacksburg, Virginia. However, they  will now be able to leverage several locations for hiring — including Blacksburg, San Antonio, and the United Kingdom. The company was first incorporated in 1999, then raised about $140,000 in seed capital over the next three years, mostly from friends and family. But once it proved itself, it was time to look for more funds to expand the business. Alec Siegel, director of operations for MBA Management Group in Blacksburg, was one of the first angel investors. He invested $20,000 of his own money after meeting Matthews and the Webmail team. (MBA provides some staffing for Matthews’ company.)  David Sabotta, vice president of federal market development for G3 Systems in Blacksburg, also put up $20,000 of his own money. He discovered Webmail after reading Matthews’ blog, which includes Matthews’ commentary on the company and his vision for it. Then Sabotta got to meet the company. Webmail.us has then raised more than $400,000 in what represents its first round of financing – all from private investors.

Webmail.us used to be Excedent Technologies before they have changed the name in 2005.

Today Webmail.us stands at:

  • 100% focused on business email services
  • Headquartered in Blacksburg, VA
  • Employs over 60 employees
  • Hosts email for over 80,000 companies
  • Manages over 600,000 email accounts
  • Partners with a network of 325 resellers
  • On target to generate over $6M in sales in 2007
  • Over 100% year-over-year revenue growth, four years running
  • Voted best technology company to work in Southwest Virginia for the past two years
  • Voted #217 on the 2007 Inc. 500 list of fastest growing private companies in America

Based on everything we see above it appears that Webmail.us is not the usual Web 2.0 company, if at all.

About Rackspace

Rackspace Managed Hosting is a recognized leader in the global managed hosting market. They deliver enterprise-level managed services to businesses around the world. Serving more than 15,000 customers in eight data centers worldwide, Rackspace integrates the industry’s best technologies for each customer’s specific need and delivers it as a service via the company’s award-winning Fanatical Support™.

They serve as an extension of their customers’ IT departments, enabling them to focus on their core business. They got started in 1998 and since then Rackspace has grown more than 50 percent a year. There are currently 1,800 Rackers around the world serving customers.

Via

[ http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/webmailus_acquired_by_rackspace.php ]
[ http://www.webmail.us/blog/a/2007/10/we_are_merging_with_rackspace ]
[ http://www.webmail.us/about-us ]
[ http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2005/feb/1119735.htm ]
[ http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/index.jsp?epi_menuItemID…&newsId=20071127005923&newsLang=en ]
[ http://www.roanoke.com/business/wb/xp-21688 ]

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing Invests $60m in Facebook. Funding totals $338.20M to date

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing Invests $60m in Facebook. Facebook now has $338.20M in cash to play with. Plans are the company to go public in 2008 or 2009 according to some rumors within the sector.

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

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

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

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

Mr. Li Ka-shing is the Chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited and Hutchison Whampoa Limited. Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited is the flagship of the Cheung Kong Group which has business operations in 55 countries around the world and employs about 250,000 staff. In Hong Kong alone, the Group includes eight listed companies with a combined market capitalization of approximately HKD981 billion (31 October 2007). Hutchison Whampoa Limited is a Fortune Global 500 company.

It would be interesting to find out what’s the equity position Mr. Li Ka-shing has secured for his $60M considering what Microsoft has bought for their $240M. 

Via

[ http://www.crunchbase.com/company/facebook ]
[ http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/30/another-60-million-for-facebook/ ]
[ http://kara.allthingsd.com/20071130/facebook-nabs-60-million-investment-from-li-ka-shing/ ]
[ http://www.hutchison-whampoa.com/eng/about/chairman/chairman.htm ]

Michael Dell is returning; reshaping the industry?

As we have seen today across multiple news reports Michael Dell is returning to the company and is in charge again of the troubled computer company he founded 23 years ago.

After a two-year absence, Michael Dell is back as CEO of the PC maker he founded in 1984.

Why troubled? Here are some facts as we know them explaining the situation behind Dell, Incorporated.

In August 2006 his company ordered the recall of 4.2 million batteries. Dell launched an internal investigation into accounting practices, which uncovered padding of profits by midlevel managers; after the SEC announced its own investigation the company restated its books to erase more than $92 million in net income.

In late January 2007 Dell booted Kevin Rollins, who was the chief executive since 2004, and James Schneider, the company’s chief financial officer. More startling, perhaps, was what he told his 82,000 employees: “The direct model has been a revolution but is not a religion.” It amounted to a repudiation of the gospel Dell himself wrote years ago, a business built on dealing directly with customers via the phone and Dell.com — brashly cutting out all retailers and wholesale dealers. For years the model worked brilliantly. Since going public in 1988 Dell has seen sales, net profit and share price all climb at compound annual rates between 28% and 33%.

The company is also overhauling customer service division after struggling with complaints. Also lowered PC prices, dropped Intel-only policy.

A little bit more about the company: Dell, Inc. designs, develops, manufactures, markets, sells, and supports computer systems and services that are customized to customer requirements. The company is based in Round Rock, Texas. Their stock information is enclosed below:

Price $ 26.13 Change 0.00
Open 0.00 % Change 0.0%
Prev Close 26.13 Volume 500
Market Value 58 bil P/E Ratio 20.7
Bid 26.25 EPS 1.26
Ask 26.28 Dividend 0.00
High 0.00 Yield 0.0
Low 0.00 Shares Out 2.24 bil
52wk High 30.77 52wk Low 21.61
Industry: Personal Computers
Sector: Technology

How Dell appears on the Forbes Global 2000: Sales Rank: 90; Profits Rank: 201; Assets Rank: 603 and Market Value: 142.

In less than ten months Michael Dell has made many changes, some of them drmatic, focusing on flashier products and marketing, new Web sites to handle customer complaints and ideas and a bigger push to sell value-added services. During that short timeframe the company has managed even to achieve a handful of interesting acquisitions. Nonetheless Dell is slimming down, starting to cut 10% of its workforce on every level, a move that could save $750 million a year, says Christopher Whitmore, a tech analyst at Deutsche Bank.

On the other side Dell has attracted a number of high profile names as executives. Mark Jarvis, the former marketing chief at Oracle. Steven Schuckenbrock, former president of EDS. Michael Cannon who was president of components maker Solectron.

The biggest step however seems to be the Dell’s push to move into the retain space by putting products in 10,000 outlets like Wal-Mart, Staples and chains in Japan, China, Russia and the U.K.

In other news Hypermarket chain Carrefour said it will sell Dell’s consumer PCs through its stores in France, Spain and Belgium beginning next year. Dell chose Carrefour because it is the world’s second largest supermarket chain, after Wal-Mart, and is present in numerous European countries. Carrefour also has operations in Latin America and China, which would be useful if Dell ever wanted to extend the relationship there.

Dell is also in a virtual war with Apple CEO Steve Jobs starting when Jobs first criticized Dell for making “un-innovative beige boxes”. On October 6, 1997, when Dell was asked what he would do if he owned then-troubled Apple Computer, he said “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.” Dell would regret these words after Jobs returned as Apple CEO in 1998. By early 2006 Apple was worth more (based on market valuation) than Dell. By October 2007 Apple was worth more than twice Dell’s value (AAPL:$160B – DELL:$62B). Dell resumed the CEO duties (replacing Kevin Rollins) at his troubled company in January 2007, and market value increased 11% in 9 months. During that same time Jobs’ Apple increased its market value 92%. Michael Dell said in late January of 2007 that his company would be worth more than Apple by the end of the year.

What’s intersting here to pay attention to is the fact that since Dell returned and replaced Rollins the company’s market value increased 11% in 9 months.

As of 2007, Forbes estimates Michael Dell’s net worth at $15.8 billion, making him the 30th richest person in the world and the 9th richest American. Dell currently resides in Austin, Texas with his wife, Susan, and their four children. Dell also owns one of the most expensive houses built in Texas. He is also rumored to be buyer in International Paper’s recent sale of 900,000 acres of timberland.

Videos from Dell, Inc.  

Here are some Videos form the Dell Vlog account on YouTube which highlights some of the transformations takign place at Dell, Inc.

Dell about the Re-Generation

Walk in Video from Dell Oracle OpenWorld Keynote

Opening video from Dell’s Oracle OpenWorld Keynote

Complexity in the Industry – OOW Keynote Section 1

The Future is Simple – OOW Keynote Section 2

The Future is Virtual – OOW Keynote Section 3

The Future is Connected – OOW Keynote Section 4

The Future is Green – OOW Keynote Section 5

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[ via Forbes ]

[ via Forbes List ]

[ via reseller.co.nz ]

[ via Wkipedia ]

[ via Michael Jung ]

[ via USATODAY ]