Modu, an innovative approach to cell phones, is on its way to raise $100M

In a week full with $100M funding deals (9You & SpinVox) here is the next one – Modu is an Israel based start up founded just in 2007 and has already raised $20M in its Series A round of funding. In that first round the backers are Gemini Israel Funds and Genesis Partners. Today there are rumors spreading around web that Modu is about to take a second round in the $100M range at $150M pre-money valuation, which means the company is ready to give up to 40% from its equity.

The funding is expected to close the funding round within the next few weeks but no investor names, neither institutional nor individual, are being quoted.

A funding round on this scale is considered extremely large and exceptionally rare in the Israeli venture capital industry. The large-scale of the round can be tied to the proven track record of its founder – Dov Moran. Rumors tell the hoping pre-money for Modu was $200M.

The capital will be used to bring Modu’s product onto the market as early at the end of 2008.

The device Modu has developed is a cellular handset that can be connected to a USB port on any computing device. It is based, among other things, on flash memory technology, and a unique memory technology that interfaces with any device it is connected to, enabling the uploading all forms of data, from telephone numbers to multimedia files.

Modu was established in early 2007 by Dov Moran, founder and CEO of msystems (NSDQ:FLSH), inventors and leaders of the USB flash drive market (DiskOnKey™), FlashDisk (DiskOnChip™) and other ground-breaking products. A seasoned team comprised of executives and managers from msystems, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, Motorola, Qualcomm, Intel, SanDisk, Symbian, Marvell, Orange and other leading companies allows modu to offer a unique blend of experience and unrivaled expertise in the mobile and consumer electronics arenas. modu has already developed key relationships with leading partners and manufacturers and has raised significant initial funding from a distinguished group of financial institutions.

Imagine the freedom to choose a new phone as often as you like, constantly taking different forms, functions and designs.

Imagine a world of connected consumer electronics devices, where you can share information with the world in ways you never thought possible.

modu enables you to create an entirely new communication experience to meet your changing needs, preferences and style.

meet modu

At the heart of the modu ecosystem is modu – a tiny, sleek & sophisticated mobile phone.

Slip modu into a variety of stylishly designed modu jackets to create a new look and provide added functionality that will instantly shape and reshape the way you communicate.

modu also has many mates – modu-enabled consumer electronic devices such as Personal Music Players, Digital Cameras or DECT Phones. Slip modu into modu mates to enhance your ability to quickly and easily communicate and share information with others.

modu jackets – what’s your modu?

You can switch modu jackets as often as you like according to your changing lifestyle and personal expression needs – transforming modu from a stylish phone or business tool to a workout companion or a powerful entertainment system. It’s as easy as slipping modu in and out.

modu allows you to have impact and make a dynamic fashion statement. modu jackets come custom branded with your favorite fashion brands, movies or music artists – all pre-loaded with exclusive content and a unique UI. Simply walk into your favorite store and pick up a new modu jacket to express your passions and interests. With modu, there are no boundaries to the number of unique and affordable phones available for you to enjoy.

All modu jackets are universally interchangeable, allowing you to swap modu jackets with friends. Or buy one as a gift for the favorite people in your life – allowing them to enjoy a brand new communication experience and to think of you every time they pick up the phone.

modu mates

modu mates let the revolution of a connected world to enter your everyday life. modu strives to become the standard communications and personalization enabler to any consumer electronics device. You can slip modu into your digital camera to enable instant sharing of photos with your modu contact list, into a DECT phone to enable land-mobile call consolidation, or into a digital picture frame to view pictures stored on your modu. The connections are boundless. Your ability to share, interact and communicate with the world is now possible with modu.

It’s time for a new stylish world of boundless possibilities, endless choices, and unlimited connectivity. It’s time to be unique. It’s time to modu your life.

The company has recently changed its name from InFone Tech to Modu.

Dov Moran is Founder, CEO and Chairman of modu. Before that, Mr. Moran was the founder, Chairman and CEO of msystems (NSDQ: FLSH). In 18 years, msystems, which invented the USB Flash Drive (DiskOnKey™), FlashDisk (DiskOnChip™) and other innovative flash data storage devices, grew to a $1B company. The company was acquired by SanDisk Corp (NSDQ: SNDK) for $1.6B at the end of 2006.

Mr. Moran is also the Chairman of Tower Semiconductor (NSDQ: TSEM) and Biomas, a bio-tech company. Mr. Moran holds a B.Sc. in Computers and Electronic Engineering (with honors) from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.

Other from the team includes:

  • Itay Sherman
    CTO
  • Zack Weisfeld
    VP Marketing
  • Ronit Maor
    VP Corporate Development
  • Liat Arad
    COO
  • Lior Storfer
    VP Research and Development
  • Jacob Shama
    VP Value Added Products
  • Sariel Engel
    VP Business Development
  • Udi Weinstein
    CIO
  • Karl Pfister
    General Manager Europe

More

http://www.modumobile.com/
http://www.globes.co.il/serveen/globes/docview.asp?did=1000325006
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/24/100-million-coming-to-israeli-startup-modu/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/21/modu-wants-you-to-guess-what-it-is-all-about/
http://www.libraryhouse.net/blog/2007/06/25/roundup-the-pick-of-recent-venture-capital-deals-7/
http://www.libraryhouse.net/profile/tfba6prp87z9os2aappd/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/modu

SocialMedia totals $4M in funding and is one of the top ad platforms for Facebook

Creating Facebook applications is already big business online. Facebook created a special fund to invest in popular applications for their social platform and there are also several venture capital firms who are keeping an eye on the sector for the next hot or modern Facebook application to invest in. Monetizing the traffic generated from those applications is another story. SocialMedia is one of the top so called ad platforms for Facebook applications.

SocialMedia offers a suite of tools and services for developers building applications that run on social networking platforms including Facebook and MySpace.

SocialMedia Network’s flagship product Appsaholic sells click-throughs to other Facebook applications across a network of affiliated sites in a similar way to FBExchange’s link exchange model, but has more features and seems easier to use and has PayPal integrated. Below is some more information on how Appsaholic works.

Developers become a member of the network by tracking their application on Appsaholic and adding some embed code to their application. The embed code adds an iFrame that serves paid links on their affiliates’ applications. The links go to the highest “AdRanked” advertising developer on their live bidding market. AdRank is determined by multiplying two factors, the offered price per click, and the advertising application’s quality score. The quality score is based on a function of the application’s clickthrough rate and viral growth within the network. The idea is that higher quality applications should be rewarded with cheaper advertising. This dissuades disliked apps from spamming the service.

So, for example, a developer whose application has a quality score of 60 and is willing to bid $.10 per click, has an AdRank of 6. Since ads are served in AdRanked order, the developer could boost his AdRank and position in the queue by bidding a bit higher. Currently PPC rates are 10 to 20 cents. Appsaholic takes 12-30% of that revenue.

The company has recently taken $3.5 million Series A in a round led by Charles River Ventures that also included Marc Andreessen (Netscape) and Jeff Clavier. Charles River Ventures had previously seed funded the company with $500,000. That took the company’s total funding to $4M. 

George Zachary of Charles River Ventures said that the investment “underscores the significant opportunity for SocialMedia Networks to become the new standard for how social networks are monetized.”

Other investors include Jim Bankoff – Former EVP Programming AOL; Ted Barnett – CEO of JamJam; co-founder and CEO of When.com; former COO of Ofoto; Jeff Clavier – Manager Director SoftTech VC; Marc Andreessen – Co-founder of Netscape and Ning.com; Mark Goldstein – CEO of LoyaltyLab.com; Naval Ravikant – Managing Director HitForge; author of VentureHacks; co-founder of Epinions; Tina Sharkey – Former SVP Social Media and Instant Messsaging, AOL, Former Group President Sesame Workshop Internet, co-founder iVillage and Jeremy Wenokur – Former VP Corp Dev, Google. 

There are several other startups claiming to be the top Facebook ad platform: Lookery, fbExchange, RockYou, and Cubics but SocialMedia is one of the early players when they launched their Appsaholic advertising network soon after F8.

Some people are a bit skeptical about companies like SocialMedia arguing that some of the popular social networks themselves can’t even really figure out a profitable way to monetize themselves, let alone third party small companies going to become the standard way to monetize social networks by putting ads and stuff in a widget.

Will they ever manage to make money? Maybe, maybe not. But the potential is huge, and if someone ever succeeds in that field, the Social Media seems in a pretty good position to be among the winners.

More about SocialMedia

SocialMedia Networks is the leading provider of social platform services. It fuses together three core features – management, marketing, and monetization – into a comprehensive package that advertisers and developers can use to grow awareness, and grow their applications on social platforms.

Socialmedia.com was registered in November of 1999. It has since sat idle, waiting patiently for the right time to emerge. Nearly eight years later, that time has come.

Moreso than ever before, people all over the world are being entertained by interacting with others online. What was once simple communication has truly evolved into social media. Until recently, however, the environments in which these increasingly rich interactions took place were controlled by a few, closed entities. This changed on May 24th when facebook welcomed thousands of developers to immerse themselves within their platform.

And so, on this day, socialmedia.com was unleashed.

SocialMedia was one of the first developers on the facebook platform, launching Food Fight and Happy Hour shortly after f8. To date, more than 10 million users have installed one of these applications.

The services we provide to others were born primarily of our own needs in developing and deploying our applications. Through our personal learnings and experiences, we are now determined to offer a similar set of services to all developers and advertisers who care to delve into the world of the facebook platform, and all other platforms that are destined to follow.

Tap into the social revolution with SocialMedia – the app network!

Public information available on SocialMedia claims 1,475,837 apps installed, thus far.

SocialMedia Networks is based in Palo Alto and Mill Valley, CA.

More

http://www.socialmedia.com
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/socialmedia
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/18/socialmedia-networks-takes-35-million-series-a/
http://apps.facebook.com/appsaholic
http://fbexchange.com/
http://www.lookery.com/
http://cubics.com/

Gaming is hot in China; 9You raised $100M, talks IPO

After reporting on SpinVox’s massive $100M round of funding it seems there is more to come within the same money range – this time from mainland China.

9You, a Chinese online games operator, has received $100 million in equity investment from Temasek Holdings, among other investors. Well, any time someone talks $100M funding rounds the IPO plans are not that far away in the future. The company says is planning an IPO later this year. The investment was said is to the company to continue transforming its business into an entertainment virtual community. The investment came after 9You’s launch of GTown, a virtual world integrating 9You’s existing online games.

Founded in 2003, 9You is currently operating one of China’s most popular online casual games Audition. By February 2008, the company’s games combined have more than 1 million peak concurrent users. The company claims it has reached over 120M registered users in 2006.

It was hard for us to dig some more public information about the deal. Most of the information came from Redline China, which is operated by Pearl Research a San Francisco based business intelligence and consultancy firm.

More about 9You

Nineyou (www.9you.com) (Shanghai Everstar Online Entertainment Co .Ltd.) is the global’s biggest music online game operator, China’s biggest casual game operator, one of biggest interactive entertainment portal sites in China, which is the first to integrate online game services (MMORPG, massive and medium size casual games, mobile game, etc.), fashional digital entertainment contents, a variety of chatting and community services equipped with Avatar System, wireless value-added services and other premiere services to the Chinese language internet users all over the world. With its wide-coverage for all major types of user needs related with digital entertainment service, the 9you.com represents the latest service style and the newest trend for the digital entertainment provider business in China Market. A series of awards and ranking are obtained by 9you.com in 2005 which include Top 10 Online Game Operator in China, and Top 10 Online Game Developer in China, the Cool Company, Shanghai First-class Service Brand in Information Service Industry, etc.

The major investors in Nineyou are several leading international venture capital funds, including the Carlyle Group, which is the world’s largest private investment group, China Merchant Fortune Ventures, and Dragon Groove Inc. who has the background as international strategic investor.

As an integrated service platform for all types of interactive entertainment services, the major business objective of the 9you.com is to bring the best, fastest, all-covered and coolest digital entertainment services to its subscribers of a wide range of ages, including the hard-cored and the light users, male and female users. As of May 2006, the number of total registered users has reached 120 million and the number of the peak concurrent users has reached 800 thousand.

The 9you.com are providing more digital entertainment products in year 2006 and the number of products and types of services will be the No.1 in the whole China Online Game Service industry in the foreseeable future.

More about Temasek Holdings

Temasek Holdings is an Asia investment house headquartered in Singapore.

With a multinational staff of more than 300 people, we manage a portfolio of over S$160 billion, or more than US$100 billion, focused primarily in Asia. We are committed to fostering a sustainable future for our shareholder, staff, portfolio companies and
the community.

We are an active shareholder and investor in diverse industry sectors such as banking & financial services, real estate, transportation & logistics, infrastructure, telecommunications & media, bioscience & healthcare, education, consumer & lifestyle, engineering & technology, as well as energy & resources.

Our total shareholder return since our inception is more than 18% compounded annually. We have a corporate credit rating of AAA/Aaa by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s respectively.

In 2008, The Economist reported that Morgan Stanley had estimated the fund’s assets at US$159.2 billion

More

http://www.9you.com/
http://mashable.com/2008/03/21/9you-funding/
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-chinese-gaming-site-9you-receives-100-million-investment/
http://www.redlinechina.com/main/?q=node/740
http://www.temasekholdings.com.sg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temasek_Holdings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about SpinVox

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

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

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

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

SpinVox has 300 employees and offices in nine countries.

The management

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

More

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

The modern Boo.com and pets.com

Just like their ancestors Boo.com and pets.com during the dot com boom times companies like Geosign and Capazoo have also spent huge amounts of money in no time and reached nothing but grand failures. But unlike those dot com stars from the past, which at least had serious business models, their modern equivalents from the web 2.0 times can barely be called real businesses.

Under no doubt the most prominent case from the past days is the $160M funding GeoSign took last year and spent in less than a year going belly up. The major lesson learned here is that the click/search arbitrage is dead. If you don’t believe us take a look at GeoSign today. Let’s put it that way Google killed them, and for reason. Given the amount of money flowing to Google, most in Geosign thought the search engine would turn a blind eye, but as it turned out Google is more concerned for its legitimate advertisers and that users would lose interest and faith in the online ad system, if more practices like the one GeoSign kept on exploiting spread across the web than earning several millions of companies like GeoSign.

The media and the bloggers called it that way: “A record $160-million VC investment. A rich Web strategy. A quirky founder. For a few weeks last spring, Guelph, Ont.’s Geosign had it all. Then mighty Google stirred. And it was over.” Now one understands why this company was so quiet over the past year despite the fact it took what is called the biggest ever venture capital funding for a technology company based in Canada.

What is anyway click/search arbitrage?

Essentially, search arbitrage involves an individual or company buying Internet traffic through the acquisition of keywords from Google, then sending viewers who click on the ad links to a site (“landing page” in Google terminology) that appears to have content, but is actually just full of online advertising linked to the original search term. Anyone clicking an ad link there makes money for the keyword holder. For example, a company might bid for the Google rights to the phrase “small town car sales” and send traffic to a website it controls, filled with more car advertisements, called “Alltheautomotive.com.” The keyword cost only 20¢, while a click on the advertising on the website might yield $1.50 return. According to Niki Scevak, an analyst at Jupiter Research in New York, the majority of those initially involved in search arbitrage were small players. “These were guys running search arbitrage out of their basements, making maybe $20,000 a month,” he says.

One of them, it seems, was Geosign. Former Geosign insiders who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirm that the possibility of a big payoff in search arbitrage caught Nye’s attention after he created Geosign. What’s more, he envisioned a network of thousands of websites all automated by software linking keywords to pages filled with ads, returning millions in cash in the process.

By 2005 that was exactly what was happening. Nye crafted a maze of Internet sites that included tens of thousands of Web pages and bought up even more keywords from Google. By connecting the keywords and the websites, Geosign was indeed generating more than $100 million in annual revenue and was extremely profitable. To put a value on the company at this time, analyst Scevak points to Marchex Inc., a publicly traded company in Seattle, Wash., with a comparable business model. At its peak in 2006, Marchex had a market capitalization of US$500 million.

The change in atmosphere had everything to do with measures that Google was taking to rein in those doing search arbitrage. This action was a response to two main concerns. First, that the practice was becoming so widespread, it was hurting legitimate advertisers by artificially inflating keyword prices. And second, that if too many keyword-targeted ad links only took users to pages filled with other ads, that users would lose interest and faith in the online ad system. Obviously, with advertising revenue being the key to Google’s finances, it had to respond. It did so by expanding the terms of service for its AdSense program (published on its website) to place greater restrictions on the way links could be used and by spelling out detailed landing page and site quality guidelines. A top priority there: relevant and original content. By these standards, a landing page full of ads is inadequate – as this text in its current guideline explains: “Provide substantial information. If your ad does link to a page consisting mostly of ads or general search results (such as a directory or catalog page), provide additional, unique content.” Since most companies doing search arbitrage bought both their keywords and landing page ads through Google, it was easy for the company to isolate and monitor them. Non-compliant parties risked being banned from the AdSense program. A simpler tactic, however, saw Google target those abusing the process, raising their fees and making it too costly to continue.

The end came suddenly, well before GeoSign to change the direction of its business. Google had started to look more closely at companies like Geosign, which were buying keywords from Google and ad links from Yahoo! or another provider. And soon Geosign got word that Google would now begin penalizing its Web pages that had “a low landing page quality score” – that is, lots of ads and little or no original content. While Google won’t comment specifically about Geosign, sources say it raised the prices it charged Geosign for keywords overnight. “When Google ‘shuts you down,’ that isn’t exactly what they do,” explains Jupiter’s Scevak. “Instead, what they do is start charging you $50 for what they were charging 10¢ for previously. They make the model financially unfeasible.”

GeoSign’s website is already taken down and is no longer publicly accessible.

The second popular crash down case from the last week is the one of Capazoo.

Capazoo is also based in Canada and is labeled a social networking site. The site has taken $25M in several rounds to date, which as it seems, have also been spent over the past 12 months before the company’s failure. But this is not the only interesting thing  in the story. After firing most of its staff leaving only one sysadmin to keep the site alive and put its offices up for rent some more horrible stories from ex-employees appeared publicly.

It seems that the brothers Michel Verville and Luc Verville (the company’s founders) have had fighting in court for control over the company. Another rumor goes that that the brothers embezzled money from the company. Simply put the guys were taking commissions in the 10% range from all money invested in their company. Capazoo’s $25 million was initially listed as only being “private funding” but more recently National Lampoon became an investor.

Techcrunch has some insider information as listed below:

They did the first round ($8 million) at $72 million pre-money from a bunch of athletes and non-sophisticated angels at $100k-$200k chunks. Most of them didn’t know that management was taking 10% commission themselves (despite owning all the common shares) for all funds raised.

They then raised another $5-10 million (conflicting rumors) at a $132 million pre-money, while still taking commissions. The two brothers took almost $2 million out of the company before reaching more then 10K users and ballooned the staff to 130 staff before starting to do layoffs.

Capazoo’s site is still alive as we last checked it out but for how long one sysadmin can keep it that way?

Well, compared to the 2 cases from above the next one seems relatively small, yet it worth mentioning due to the fact that it seems the founder of that company Lee Wilkins did not pay his employees from Bulgarian, Romania and Russia.

The company name is MyKinda and was a blog network focused on the Eastern European market covering various topics like politics, entertainment, business, among other topics. 

The network is said to have launched just last September and today they are already out of business. Lee Wilkins said the shutdown is temporary to ensure that money due to writers doesn’t continue to add up. The sites will remain down until, he says, “we redefine a more profitable sustainable business model.” The company had total expenses of about €319,000, with no advertising revenue to offset it. Lee Wilkins capitalized the company with €175,000, leaving €144,000 or so in unpaid debts.

Today was the first day in several years where the failure stories were more than the funding deals. In fact we bookmarked 3 funding deals for today so it appears the number is equal.

More

http://www.geosign.com/
http://www.capazoo.com/
http://www.mykinda.com/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/18/how-geosign-blew-160-million/
http://www.financialpost.com/magazine/story.html?id=324817
http://seoblackhat.com/2008/03/18/they-were-flyin-high-then-google-stirred/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/19/capazoo-blows-25-million-heading-to-the-deadpool/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/29/blog-network-mykinda-to-shut-down-today/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/18/national-lampoon-takes-stake-in-capazoo/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/10/capazoo-wants-to-pay-you-for-your-social-networking-time/
http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/business/story.html?id=474dae19-551c-4460-9359-328c570fc36c
http://montrealtechwatch.com/2008/03/19/capazoo-lays-off-60-shops-itself/
http://communities.canada.com/MONTREALGAZETTE/blogs/tech/archive/2008/03/18/r-i-p-capazoo.aspx
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/05/mykinda-blog-network-for-eastern-europe-launches-amid-serious-drama/

A new way to build your Google Maps

These days we came across a tiny French based company called Click2Map that is providing an interesting editor for creating mash-ups with Google Maps. You can there create fully customizable interactive professional online maps from existing data and the editor also offers database and template functionalities. They have just added a powerful template system coupled with a highly versatile database engine that allows professional users to store data and use it wherever they need to in fully customizable templates.

The Metz, France based Click2Map is a powerful online mapping application published by the Click2Map company. Click2Map puts all the power of Web 2.0 at the service of its users: its familiar point-and-click interface makes creating and sharing interactive online maps a snap. Everyone can now create rich and customized online maps without writing a single line of code!

Click2Map’s editor allows users to create markers and POIs using a familiar application environment and provides convenient access to existing markers. Advanced users appreciate the possibility to create an unlimited number of maps including unlimited numbers of markers and optional groups.

Importing groups and markers now takes another dimension with the possibility to use variables extensively: all the information stored in your personal database can now be inserted wherever needed in each and every marker thanks to Click2Map’s dynamic variable engine! No matter how many personal data categories and fields, Click2Map automatically generates the corresponding variables that you can instantly use: creating large quantities of personalized markers has never been easier!

Click2Map’s enhanced import/export system provides an efficient means to integrate existing data into online maps and to exchange information with third party applications. The recent addition of an exclusive statistic engine helps professionals track their maps’ consultations and the way they’re used by visitors: the popularity of each map and marker can now be tracked in real time.

By allowing companies to create fully customized online Google Maps based on their existing data, Click2Map provides them with unprecedented means of promoting their business online.

Click2Map SARL is a leading French provider of GeoWeb Solutions. Click2Map is its flagship product, an easy to use online application to create, manage and publish online professional maps without any knowledge of programming. Click2Map SARL also provides full technical support and customization of its Click2Map Editor and Maps Generator.

Story was picked up from EPR Network.

More

http://www.click2map.com/
http://blog.click2map.com/
http://wiki.click2map.com/
http://express-press-release.com/47/Click2Map%20Adds%20Template%20and%20Database%20Features%20to%20Google%20Maps.php

Meebo tries to raise $25M in return of only 10% equity valuing the company at the whopping $250M

Meebo is a popular and rapidly growing web based instant messaging start up that was backed up by Sequoia Capital and is said to have roughly 4.6M unique visitors per month according to comScore’s publicly available stats. That’s valuing each of their visitors at the $54 mark, which is significantly more than what AOL has just recently paid for each of Bebo’s 22M visitors – $39 according our simple math. Many industry experts, commentators and bloggers have expressed their negative feelings about the potential deal and more concrete about its pre-money valuation. Anyone remember Slide and their pre-money valuation of $500M? Yet it was said then they had over 150M or so users worldwide, which, if true, valued their users at the $3 range.  

Some analysts have even compared the deal’s value to the Bear Stearns one, which has just sold out for “only” $236M.

There is however something most of the technology blogs seem to have overlooked. Joshua Beil from Level 3 Communications has commented on one of the tech blogs that Meebo’s per user valuation could change quite substantially if one takes into account their unique visitors of the MeeboMe rooms widget. I’ve seen, he says, numbers in the 10-14M range and counting for just this application. Factor this in to the 4.6M uniques to Meebo.com and it’s at a discount to Bebo. We have no idea where he does take his numbers and what his affiliation with the company is, but if we take those numbers for real the $250M valuation does not sound ridicules anymore. In addition to that Venturebeat reports that Meebo has attracted 29 million monthly unique users worldwide, but they also say that some investors remain quite skeptical about Meebo and their business model. We have no clear idea where Venturebeat has come to that number of visitors.

The rumor is that Meebo has hired Montgomery & Co. to represent them in a new fundraising round that may value the company at a $250M. An interesting competition is forming on the scene there between Montgomery & Co. and Allen & Co., which is lately the investment bank behind pretty much all hot start ups that sold (got funded) or about to for hefty amounts (hefty valuations) in the valley such as Digg, Bebo, Slide, Technorati, among others.

What is also being said is that the company is looking to raise $25-30M in venture funding and if the valuation numbers are taken for real it means the VCs will take no more than 10% from Meebo. This is a whole lot more than the $60-70M that it was reportedly worth after a funding round last year.

Some big names in the social-networking space like Facebook and News Corp.’s MySpace.com are rumored to may possibly be interested in the deal. MySpace operates its own instant-messaging service, and Facebook is rumored to have one in the pipeline.

Montgomery and Co. has requested that all offers be in by Wednesday, and has told investors it has several parties interested at a valuation of $200M. The rumor goes here that at least one of the strategic investors isn’t interested in sharing the investment, preferring instead to buy Meebo entirely.

More about Meebo

Meebo launched in September 2005 and received funding from Sequoia Capital in December 2005 and Draper Fisher Jurvetson in January 2007. Today, Meebo’s users exchange over 100 million instant messages daily.In early 2007, Meebo gets another $9 million from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Sequoia Capital. Skype’s lead investor and YouTube’s lead investor are teaming up. Tim Draper, one of the early investors in Skype, did the deal for DFJ. Meebo’s total funding is now $12.5 million.

More about Montgomery & Co.

Montgomery and Co. was founded in 1986 with a vision of providing strategic capital-formation advisory services to leading aerospace, defense and related technology companies.

Montgomery & Co. took advantage of the technology downturn and consolidation in the banking industry in 2000 to establish its reputation as the “go to” bank for growth companies that wished to evaluate their strategic options and raise capital. In doing so, Montgomery & Co. fulfilled its initial vision of providing a range of advisory services that encompassed M&A, private placements, comprehensive business-development analyses, and other value-added services.

In 2002 the firm was strengthened by investments from the world’s biggest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ, and West River Capital, of Seattle, WA. In 2003 the firm opened offices in Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego. At that time, the firm also significantly expanded its banking expertise within the healthcare and media industries, especially in the M&A practice.

In 2005, the firm was further strengthened by an investment from Tudor Investments which is the venture capital and private equity arm of Tudor Investment Corporation, an internationally recognized diversified investment management firm with $11.7 billion in assets.

More

http://www.meebo.com/
http://blog.meebo.com/about
http://www.monty.com/
http://venturebeat.com/2008/03/17/meebo-raising-round-valued-up-to-250-million-bear-stearns-sold-for-236-million/
http://www.webware.com/8301-1_109-9896718-2.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=Webware
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/18/is-meebo-worth-half-a-slide/
http://venturebeat.com/2007/01/18/im-service-meebo-growing-quickly-raises-more-cash/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2005/12/16/meebo-confirms-sequoia-funding/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2007/11/22/meebo-received-funding-from-sequoia-capital/
http://blog.meebo.com/?p=78
http://venturebeat.com/2006/08/02/meebome-lets-you-chat-directly-from-any-homepage/
http://venturebeat.com/2007/01/10/web-20-shakeout-continued-whats-up-at-insider-pages-meebo-others/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/meebo
http://www.techmeme.com/080318/p7#a080318p7
http://quantcast.com/meebo.com
http://siteanalytics.compete.com/meebo.com?metric=uv
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/03/14/22m-uniques-mo-site-bebo-goes-to-aol-for-850m-in-all-cash-deal/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/01/18/slide-gets-their-huge-valuation-and-raises-50-million/
http://www.crunchbase.com/financial-organization/montgomery-co
http://venturebeat.com/2007/12/06/meebo-partners-with-videoegg-to-help-app-developers-make-more-money/

Website Optimization company and CMS leader joined forces

An interesting deal happened a few months ago, announced in October 2007 and closed in November the same year. Interwoven, a public company traded on NASDAQ, has acquired the said website optimization pioneer Optimost.

The both companies then said that combination of Interwoven’s Content Management Solutions with Optimost’s Multivariable Testing and Optimization Solution will help organizations maximize online business performance.

Under the terms of the agreement between Optimost and Interwoven, Interwoven will pay approximately $52 million in cash for all outstanding shares of Optimost and assume certain existing employee stock options. From what we were able to dig up, Optimost is probably having less than $8M in revenues per year, which translates into multiple around 6X the revenues, which is not that impressive number after all. Interwoven is based in San Jose, Calif, and is making itself over $200M in revenues enjoying a market capitalization of 539.57M (March 17 2008).

As businesses continue to spend unprecedented amounts to drive traffic to their Websites through search engine marketing, pay-per-click ads, banner ads, e-mail, and other tactics, they face a significant challenge in converting traffic into revenue-generating customers. The combination of Interwoven’s content management solutions and Optimost’s optimization solution helps businesses address this challenge by providing marketers with the industry’s most complete set of capabilities for creating, deploying, testing, analyzing, and optimizing targeted content to Website visitors.

“This acquisition supports our strategy to power our customers’ online presence, and we believe it puts Interwoven at the top of the short list of a company’s must-have partners for online business,” said Joe Cowan, chief executive officer at Interwoven. “Companies today understand that maximizing their online business performance is the key to accelerating growth and profits, and that content is at the core of their online strategy. By acquiring Optimost, we are providing customers with a powerful solution for optimizing their content – which creates the connection point between the visitor and the Web – to provide the most compelling experience, faster, more efficiently, and more effectively than ever before.”

Founded in 2001, Optimost is a privately-held company headquartered in New York City, whose customers include Ask.com, Auto Trader, Delta Air Lines, FAO Schwarz, Lenovo, and MGM Mirage. Optimost has a proven track record in helping its clients achieve double-digit increases in conversion rates and online sales. For example, Delta Air Lines made changes to Delta.com based on the results of its multivariable optimization initiative, which has added up to approximately $15 million in additional revenue so far this year.

“Today’s announcement is wonderful news for Optimost’s customers,” said Mark Wachen, chief executive officer at Optimost. “When we founded Optimost, our vision was to deliver technology that allows marketers to increase the effectiveness of their online presence to drive measurable business results. Clearly, Interwoven shares the same vision and by combining forces we will be able to extend our innovative technology to a much larger market and provide Optimost customers with a more complete solution for maximizing their marketing investments. We look forward to joining the team at Interwoven.”
In just matter of couple of weeks the deal was closed on November 1st, 2007.

All Optimost employees, including the founders, Mark Wachen and Lance Lovette, have joined Interwoven and will focus on product innovation, customer support, and the continued acceleration of Interwoven’s business in the online marketing arena.

The Optimost solutions are now available through Interwoven as a standalone offering as well as in conjunction with the solutions in Interwoven’s portfolio.

Interwoven expects the Optimost acquisition to contribute in the range of $1.5 million to $2.0 million to total revenue during the fourth quarter of 2007, subsequent to the acquisition date and before considering purchase accounting adjustments to revenues of approximately $1.0 million.

More about Optimost

New York-based Optimost is a technology and services company specializing in comprehensive real-time testing and conversion rate marketing. Pioneers in the field of multivariable testing, the firm is able to create and test virtually limitless permutations of copy, offers and layouts in the time it takes to conduct a standard A/B page comparison test. By combining real-life response data with information about which variables were displayed in the test, Optimost clients are able to determine how much each individual website element contributes to the overall response rate. Client web pages can then be optimized further based on the combinations of most positive individual site elements. Optimost clients include: InterActiveCorp, Lillian Vernon, Delta Air Lines, Time Warner, QVC, and EarthLink.

More about Interwoven

Interwoven is a global leader in content management solutions. Interwoven’s software and services enable organizations to maximize online business performance and organize, find, and govern business content. Interwoven solutions unlock the value of content by delivering the right content to the right person in the right context at the right time. Over 4,200 of the world’s leading companies, professional services firms, and governments have chosen Interwoven, including adidas, Airbus, Avaya, BT, Cisco, Citi, Delta Air Lines, DLA Piper, the Federal Reserve Bank, FedEx, Grant Thornton, Hilton Hotels, Hong Kong Trade and Development Council, HSBC, LexisNexis, MasterCard, Microsoft, Samsung, Shell, Qantas Airways, Tesco, Virgin Mobile, and White & Case. Over 20,000 developers and over 300 partners enrich and extend Interwoven’s offerings.

More

http://www.interwoven.com/
http://finance.google.com/finance?q=NASDAQ:IWOV
http://www.optimost.com/
http://www.interwoven.com/components/page.jsp?topic=MAIN::NEWS&dcr=components/optimost.jsp
http://www.interwoven.com/components/page.jsp?topic=NEWS::RELEASES&dcr=templatedata/announcement/press-release/data/2007/dcr-2007-10-17-optimost.xml
http://www.centernetworks.com/interwoven-acquires-optimost-social-news http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/18/interwoven-acquires-optimost-for-52-million/
http://www.optimost.com/press/2007-11-interwoven-announces-close.php
 

What is the real reason Automattic bought Glavatar?

As some of you already know w2i (web2innovations.com) is keeping an internal archive of almost all funding and acquisition deals that happened over the past years on web. While we have the ambitions to report on all of them the deals are so many so that we end up only writing about some of the most interesting ones. The same is the case with Automattic when they bought Glavatar some months ago. We kept the news in our archive for quite long time trying to figure out ourselves what is the real motive behind the acquisition of Glavatar and since we came up to no particular synergy and reason we have decided today to simply write about.

First off Automattic is the company behind the popular blog software WordPress. The site is amongst the most popular on web with more than 90M uniques per month. When Matt Mullenweg, announced the deal on the Glavatar’s blog he wrote about so many improvements that Glavatar is going to face with its new owner. Such as scaling things up, they transferred the Rails application and most of the avatar serving to WordPress.com’s infrastructure and servers. Avatar serving was said is already more than three times as fast, and works every time. They’ve also moved Glavatar’s blog from Mephisto to WordPress, of course.

He further said “Basically, we did the bare minimum required to stabilize and accelerate the Gravatar service, focusing a lot on making the gravatars highly available and fast. However our plans are much bigger than that.” Among those are all of the Premium features have gone free, and refunding was offered to anyone who bought them in the last 60 days; gravatar serving moved to a Content Delivery Network (CDN) so not only will they be fast, it’ll be low latency and not slow down a page load; Merging the million avatars WordPress had with the 115,000 or so Glavatar brought on the table after the deal and make them available through the Gravatar API; integrate and improve templates and bring features like multiple avatars over; from WordPress.com, bring the bigger sizes (128px) over and make that available for any Gravatar (Gravatars are only available up to 80px); Adding Microformat support for things like XFN rel=”me” and hCard to all avatar profile pages (that is in particular an interesting move); develop a new API that has cleaner URLs and allows Gravatars to be addressed by things like URL in addition to (or instead of) email addresses and not last rewrite the entire application itself to fit directly into WordPress.com’s grid, for internet-scale performance and reliability.

These days after Yahoo announcing big plans of moving towards web semantics and adopting some of the microformats and hinting LinkedIn for possible better relations with their data set if they adopt them too is a clear signal that web is slowly moving towards semantically linking of data. Automattic is obviously looking forward to that time too with its plans to add microformats like XFN (XHTML Friends Network) and hCard (simple, open, distributed format for representing people, companies, organizations, and places, using a 1:1 representation of vCard (RFC2426) properties and values in semantic HTML or XHTML). An interesting example of contextually and semantically linked web data is LinkedWords and, as you can see, the way we use them to semantically and contextually link words across our texts and connect them to their contextual platform.

So far so good, but nothing from the above indicates what is the reason Automattic bought the site called Glavatar. It is definitely neither because of their user base (only 115K) nor because of the technology, obviously. Employment through acquisition? Not really, Tom Werner, the founder of Glavatar is being said to be a big Ruby guy and taking into consideration the fact Matt seems to be moving towards PHP with Glavatar it seems highly unlikely for Tom to stay with Automattic.

From everything being said publicly it turns out that Automattic has decided to help the small site work better, but no clear benefits are seen for their company from this deal, or at least not to us.

We do believe Matt where he says “our plans are much bigger than that”, but what those plans are? Building a social network upon the avatars and the profile data associated with or perhaps having an online identity service built upon. Or, perhaps, simply building a global avatar service (with in-depth profiles) makes more sense for a company that commands over 100M uniques per month rather than for a tiny web site like Glavatar.

Whatever the case is congratulations to the involved. Terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed.

More about Glavatar

The web is no longer about anonymous content generated by faceless corporations. It is about real people and the real content that they provide.

It is about you.

But as powerful as the web has become, it still lacks the personal touch that comes from a handshake. The vast majority of content you come across on the web will still be near-anonymous even though it may have a name attached. Without knowing the author behind the words, the words cannot be trusted. This is where Gravatar comes in.

Gravatar aims to put a face behind the name. This is the beginning of trust. In the future, Gravatar will be a way to establish trust between producers and consumers on the internet. It will be the next best thing to meeting in person.

Today, an avatar. Tomorrow, Your Identity–Online.

More

http://gravatar.com/
http://site.gravatar.com/site/about
http://automattic.com/
http://blog.gravatar.com/2007/10/18/automattic-gravatar/
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/automattic_acquires_gravatar.php
http://www.quantcast.com/p-18-mFEk4J448M
http://microformats.org/wiki/Main_Page
http://rubyisawesome.com/

If your business is impacted by the weather WeatherBill might be a good solution for you

An interesting start-up that we have on our long list with funding deals here is under no doubt WeatherBill.

The San Francisco based WeatherBill started their service, which lets you cover your business from potential losses that might occur due to bad weather conditions, in early 2007 with a bunch of famous private and institutional investors among which are New Enterprise Associates and Index Ventures, as well as a number of well known individuals: del.icio.us founder Joshua Schachter, Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom (through his Atomico venture firm) and Howard Morgan (idealab and First Round Capital), Krishna Kolluri, Neil Rimer and Barney Schauble. The secretive investment firm Allen & Co., which has just helped Bebo sells for $850M to AOL, is among the investors in WeatherBill.

WeatherBill was founded by former Googlers David Friedberg and Siraj Khaliq.

In late 2007 WeatherBill took its series B round of funding in the $12.5M range, which brought the company’s total funding to date at $16.5M. By that time CEO David Friedberg said that Weatherbill has hundreds of customers and faces such high demand that it needs to bring more people aboard to increase capacity.

Essentially WeatherBill is a hybrid between ecommerce site and a complex weather forecasting algorithm to sell weather insurance policies to individuals and businesses. WeatherBill offers custom weather contracts to protect businesses from financial loss caused by bad weather and provides tools to increase revenues through weather-related marketing promotions.

Users select a weather station via a Google Maps mash-up and choose the weather conditions they want to protect against. These options include temperature and precipitation level, and the specific parameters can be selected by the user.

WeatherBill hedges its own risk via its weather algorithm and partnership with a large hedge fund.

Aside US, WeatherBill offers its services to in the following countries too Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Norway.

WeatherBill contracts are legal financial instruments with eligibility requirements. It is meant for businesses and to be eligible you basically need to have 1) commodity pool – total assets exceeding $5,000,000; 2) corporation, partnership, proprietorship, organization, trust, or other entity that has total assets exceeding $10,000,000; or if it is an individual  – has a net worth exceeding $1,000,000.

Their financial risk partner, Nephila Capital Ltd., is one of the world’s largest and most respected weather risk and catastrophe reinsurance fund managers, with over $2 billion in capital.

More about WeatherBill

WeatherBill is the first service to provide affordable and easy-to-use weather coverage to protect revenue and control costs for the millions of businesses impacted by the weather.

WeatherBill coverage is safe and reliable. There is no unnecessary paperwork, no claims process, no proof-of-loss and no waiting for payment. WeatherBill is the only service that enables customers to customize, price and buy weather coverage online in just minutes, and pays automatically when bad weather occurs.

In addition to weather coverage, WeatherBill provides free services for businesses affected by the weather. Our free weather correlation tools help individual businesses understand how weather impacts their financial performance. Our research reports provide insight into the ways weather affects all industries. We believe every business should understand how the weather affects demand, yields, costs, schedules and the bottom line. WeatherBill can provide the earnings protection critical to every weather sensitive business.

Their Investors

WeatherBill’s investor group is a forward-thinking base of recongized and respected institutions and individuals from Silicon Valley and Wall Street.
 
New Enterprise Associates (NEA) is a leading venture capital firm. Practicing classic venture capital for 28 years, NEA focuses on investments at all stages of a company’s development, from seed-stage through IPO. With approximately $8.5 billion in committed capital, NEA’s experienced management team has invested in over 500 companies.

Index Ventures is a leading European venture capital firm active in technology venture investing since 1996. The firm is dedicated to helping top entrepreneurial teams both in the Life Science and Information Technology sectors build their companies into market defining global leaders.
 
Atomico was started by Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, co-founders of Skype, Joost, and Kazaa. The firm is a risk capital group comprised of entrepreneurs with a global perspective who invest their own capital in passionate entrepreneurs with powerful ideas.

Nephila Capital Ltd. is a leading fund manager specializing in the reinsurance industry with multiple investment vehicles dedicated to investing in instruments such as insurance-linked securities, catastrophe bonds, insurance swaps, and weather derivatives. The company has been managing institutional assets in this space since it was founded in 1998, with over $2 billion under management at the start of 2007.

First Round Capital is an early stage venture capital firm managed by Joshua Kopelman, Chris Fralic, Rob Hayes and Howard Morgan. The firm looks to partner with entrepreneurs to build innovative technology companies.

Allen & Company
Allen & Company is a boutique investment bank based in New York. The firm has become a premier investment house in the media, entertainment, and technology industries.

Sean Park
Sean was most recently Head of Digital Markets and Credit Flow products at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW). He is also Director of Markit Group and International Index Company. Sean is a renowned thought-leader and speaker on the future of digital markets. He actively maintains his blog, Park Paradigm.

Salman Ullah
Salman is the Vice President of Corporate Development at Google. He joined Google in the fall of 2004 and manages the team that is responsible for all of Google’s acquisitions and minority investments. Prior to Google he spent over seven years at Microsoft in several roles including General Manager of Corporate Strategy and Managing Director of Corporate Development. Earlier in his career, Salman was an Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Co. in Chicago where he spent four years. He was also a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in physics at the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago. Salman has an undergraduate degree in Physics from the University of Oxford, and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Stanford University.

Joshua Schachter
Joshua Schachter is the creator of del.icio.us, creator of geoURL and co-creator of Memepool. Joshua’s popular del.icio.us website helped to popularize the use of tags on the web. In 2005, del.icio.us was acquired by Yahoo!, where Joshua currently remains. Prior to working full-time on del.icio.us, Joshua was a programmer in Morgan Stanley’s Equity Trading Lab.

Our other individual investors are notable leaders at major Silicon Valley and Wall Street firms.

More

http://www.weatherbill.com/
http://www.weatherbill.com/about/blog
https://www.weatherbill.com/tools
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/17/an-interesting-bet-weatherbill-takes-125-million-series-b/
http://atomicoinvestments.com/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/01/02/use-weatherbill-to-bet-on-the-weather/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/01/15/weatherbill-launches-announces-all-star-investors/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/weatherbill
http://www.crunchbase.com/person/david-friedberg
http://www.nephilacapital.com/
http://www.parkparadigm.com/
http://www.nea.com/
http://www.indexventures.com/

22M uniques / mo site (Bebo) goes to AOL for $850M in all cash deal

Bebo, the global social network strong enough in UK and among the first in US, has quietly been up for sale for quite some time shopped around by the secretive investment firm Allen & Co. A number of potential acquires passed on a deal for Bebo, including News Corp., Microsoft and Google, sources tell. Yahoo is also rumored to may have also taken a long look. Until now when AOL has publicly announced they had acquired bebo.com for $850M in a deal all in cash off only $20M in revenues for 2007. AOL and Bebo have been in talks since September 2007. It is also publicly known fact that Bebo was looking for a price over $1B.

Launched in the middle of 2005 Bebo had quickly grown to millions of visitors per month and today stands at over 40M registered users as per company’s claims. Bebo has raised only (taking into consideration their exit number) $15M from Balderton Capital, which represents a very nice exit for the venture capitalists.  Competitors include MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Piczo, Google’s Orkut, Flickr, and literally an endless army of social networking sites around the globe. Bebo has offices in the UK, San Francisco and Austin, TX with over 100 employees.

A quick look into the numbers reveals that AOL paid roughly $22 per registered user in Bebo’s acquisition. comScore reports for 22M unique visitors per month to bebo.com, which values each unique visitor at $39. Quantcast reports for less than 2M American visitors per month to bebo’s site but since the site appears to be not quantified we should not take these numbers for the correct ones.

Richard MacManus from RWW does not think this will make much headway for either company and calls it that way “Ultimately we’re talking about two middle of the road Web brands”. The Wall St Journal’s Kara Swisher has analyzed the deal and thinks in first place the numbers are not so big but sees that AOL is getting very attractive social-networking service and a very experienced exec who has been running it. According to the several sources, she quotes, who were privy to Bebo’s financials, for example, Bebo’s revenues for 2006 were only $7 million with $3 million in EBITDA. In 2007, the results are still small, with $20 million in revenues and $5 million in EBITDA. Using 2007 results, that means Time Warner’s (TWZ) AOL paid a handsome 42.5 times revenues and an incredible 160 times EBITDA.

Current President Joanna Shields (in the middle) is said will continue to run Bebo and will report to AOL President Ron Grant (in right) while the founders Michael Birch and Xochi Birch will shortly be leaving the startup, apparently.

Since its inception, Bebo has established a radical new vision for online media and engagement marketing, combining community, self-expression and entertainment, enabling its members to consume, create, discover, curate and share digital content in entirely new ways.  Bebo global users have high engagement levels spending an average of 33 minutes a day on the site. Its groundbreaking Open Media platform ushered in a new way for Bebo users to experience content online, while giving global media companies like MTV, CBS, BBC and more than 400 others, a new way to promote, distribute and monetize their programming. “Engagement Marketing,” is Bebo’s initiative for brands to build long-term relationships with their target audience.  Today, brands from Apple to Nike use Bebo as a platform to establish ongoing conversations with consumers. Bebo pioneered the blending of Web-native original content with interactivity in the social networking environment by co-producing “KateModern,” the most successful TV show on the Web, now in its second season, followed by the soon to be premiered “Sophia’s Diary,” and the upcoming “Gap Year.” In December 2007, Bebo opened its platform to external application developers becoming the first social network to embrace both Facebook and OpenSocial APIs. (a confusing signal, as up till then everyone had assumed that OpenSocial and Facebook platform were direct competitors.) To date, more than 1500 applications have joined the network.

Together with its AIM and ICQ personal communications network, the acquisition will give AOL a premier position in the fast growing world of social media with a network of approximately 80 million unique users.

With a total membership of more than 40 million worldwide, Bebo is a global social media network which combines community, self-expression and entertainment to enable its users to consume, create, discover and share content. Bebo is one of the leading social networks in the UK, and is ranked number one in Ireland and New Zealand, and number three in the U.S. in terms of engagement. Its users are heavily engaged and view an average of 78 pages per usage day.

The deal comes just one week after AOL’s launch of Open AIM 2.0, an initiative that allows the developer community greater freedom to access the AIM network and integrate AIM into its sites and applications, and the announcement by Apple of a downloadable AIM application for the iPhone.

“Bebo is the perfect complement to AOL’s personal communications network and puts us in a leading position in social media,” said Randy Falco, Chairman and CEO, AOL. “What drew us to Bebo was its substantial and fast-growing worldwide user-base, its vision of a truly social web, and the monetization opportunities that leverage Platform-A across our combined global audience. This positions us to offer advertisers even greater reach and marketers significant insights into the desires and needs of consumers.”

“AOL understands the shifting dynamics of the Web and has clearly demonstrated its commitment to leveraging the ever-increasing power of social networks,” said Bebo President, Joanna Shields. “With one and the same vision in this area, it was a natural progression for Bebo to join AOL, and we look forward to working together to continue to expand the online social experience globally.”

“Bebo’s dynamic management team recognizes that the Internet is less about destination and more about connecting people, culture and lifestyles,” said Ron Grant, President and COO, AOL.  “This acquisition supports our key objectives – accelerating the growth, engagement and monetization of one of the world’s most engaged online communities.” 

Analyst eMarketer predicts that by 2011, $4.1 billion will be spent worldwide for social network advertising – a dramatic increase from the $480 million spent in 2006.  In 2008 alone, global ad spend in the social networking arena is expected to increase 75% year over year, amounting to $2.1 billion.

In recent months, AOL has moved aggressively to bolster its position in areas critical to its emergence as a leading advertising-supported Web media and marketing company. Building on its number one position in third party display with Advertising.com, AOL has spent nearly $1 billion on online advertising acquisitions, including market leaders like ADTECH, buy.at, Lightningcast, Quigo, TACODA and Third Screen Media to create Platform-A. Platform-A is the top display ad serving network focused on helping marketers build brands that perform online.* In Web content, AOL’s revitalized network of sites has experienced five months of consecutive page view growth and key categories like Music, Television, Moviefone, TMZ, Money & Finance, News, Living and Body are all in the top four in their respective categories.

As part of its international growth plans, AOL has launched 17 international web sites over the last year and has plans to expand to 30 countries outside the U.S. by the end of 2008. In addition, AOL teamed up with HP last September to include localized versions of the AOL.com portal and other AOL services as the default setting on HP computers shipped in the United States and around the world. Bebo, which has announced plans to launch in five countries this year, will be featured prominently in AOL’s international expansion efforts after the deal is closed.

AOL was advised by Banc of America Securities LLC and Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. Bebo was advised by Allen & Co.

The deal is said to be subject to U.S. and EU antitrust regulations before it effectively closes.

More about AOL

A Global Ad-Supported Web Services Company

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

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

Core Statistics

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

 A sophisticated advertising network

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

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

Industry-leading products and programs

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

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

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

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

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

Expanding worldwide

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

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

Meanwhile AOL seems to be looking for a buyer for … itself.

More

http://www.bebo.com/
http://developer.bebo.com
http://aol.com/
http://corp.aol.com/press_releases/2008/03/aol-acquire-global-social-media-network-bebo
http://developer.bebo.com/blog/index.php/2008/03/13/company-and-platform-newsjs-and-pre-load-sql-coming-soon/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/13/aol-buys-bebo-for-750-million/
http://mashable.com/2008/03/13/aol-bought-bebo/
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/aol_acquires_bebo.php
http://kara.allthingsd.com/20080313/bebo-by-the-not-so-big-numbers/
http://www.techmeme.com/080313/p77#a080313p77
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/14/aol-on-a-bender-kickapps-may-be-next-acquisition/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/12/bebo-1-billion-acquisition-definitely-happened/
http://kara.allthingsd.com/20080314/is-kickapps-next-to-board-aols-gravy-train/
http://www.rev2.org/2007/07/31/bebo-an-in-depth-look/
http://www.lastpodcast.net/2008/03/13/thursday-night-thoughts/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/bebo
http://www.centernetworks.com/bebo-aol-live-call
http://www.quantcast.com/bebo.com
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/03/12/aol-is-offered-up-for-sale/

Is MediaBids.com an alternative of Google’s AdWords?

MediaBids.com, the Newspaper and Magazine Advertising Marketplace, has recently announced the addition of over 325 new newspapers and magazines to its print advertising marketplace so far in 2008, which much or less attracted out attention.

The company claims it has over 4,600 U.S. print publications registered on MediaBids to use their online processes to sell ad space in their print editions. Publications can sell ad space via two primary online methods – a straight-sales option and a reverse advertising auction. In the straight-sale format, publications can simply post available advertising inventory for sale in the MediaBids marketplace which is then immediately available for advertisers to purchase. The patented reverse-auction method allows advertisers to place their advertising dollars up for bid using a simple online RFP auction form, and publications can then bid using their ad space as currency.

The company is known to have started back in 2003 and for just 5 years they have enrolled an impressive number of newspapers and paper magazines. One may ask is this marketplace represents an alternative of the contextual ads Google offers through its AdWords program? Google is the ultimate online ads monopoly so it might be good there are such alternatives beyond the web ads. The company says it has over 12,000 businesses registered on MediaBids.com that purchase advertising, which is still a fraction from what Google AdWords has as a number of unique advertisers but MediaBids takes a different direction and that might be their major differentiator from the competition to distinguish themselves in the ad business. The online ad networks and ad exchanges are huge business but the space is lately becoming overcrowded and the competition is fierce there and perhaps we will witness some serious reorganization and consolidation within the industry this and next year.

MediaBids has no charge associated with registering a publication, posting ad space for sale or bidding on auctions.

“It’s exciting to see publications embrace MediaBids’ advertising marketplace, with the addition of more than 325 publications in the first two months of 2008. We hope to continue this rapid rate of growth throughout the remainder of the year.” said June Peterson, Director of Media Relations at MediaBids.com.

More about MediaBids

MediaBids.com is the premier marketplace for buying and selling print advertising. Advertisers and publications can interact to buy and sell advertising in a wide-variety of print media (newspapers, magazines, journals, directories, shoppers, newsletters, trade magazines, college newspapers and direct mail) using patented online tools.

Available Print Buying & Selling Tools
Advertiser Auctions – Advertiser auctions provide a platform from which advertisers can initiate a RFP (Request for Proposal) outlining their print advertising needs. Publications can place “bids” of ad space on the advertiser auction, which advertisers can then purchase. Insertion orders are issued to both parties after a transaction has occurred. The identities of advertisers and publications are known only to participating parties.

Ad Space Offers – Ad-space offers are advertising opportunities posted by publications on MediaBids.com that are available for immediate purchase. Offers can include rate-card pricing, last-minute remnant opportunities, added-value incentives or significant discounts. Advertisers can create a list of “Favorite Publications” from which they can choose to receive e-mail alerts notifying them of new advertising opportunities.

Traditional Media Buying – MediaBids works with publications both online and offline to ensure advertisers create and execute print advertising campaigns in the right publications at the right price.

How We Started
MediaBids, The Newspaper and Magazine Advertising Marketplace, was founded in Winsted, CT in 1999 to allow print publications to broaden their market reach in a cost effective way while giving advertisers a web-based system to purchase advertising in a competitive environment.

Since its online launch in 2003, MediaBids.com has become the leading online print advertising marketplace, bringing together more than 4,500 publications and 12,000 businesses on its web site. MediaBids’ easy-to-use platform has attracted a wide range of users, from small sole proprietorships to large national corporations.

Mission & Vision
MediaBids aims to simplify and streamline the print advertising process by providing a website that both centralizes relevant publication information and provides tools that enable both buyers and sellers of ad space to conduct transactions more efficiently. MediaBids’ vision is that with these tools, advertisers will increasingly view newspapers and magazines as a choice medium to promote their products and services – thus allowing newspapers and magazines to continue to be a viable information and social resource for our communities.

This story has been picked up from EPR Network.

More

http://www.mediabids.com/
http://express-press-release.net/47/MediaBids.com%20Adds%20Over%20325%20Newspapers%20&%20Magazines%20to%20Print%20Advertising%20Marketplace.php
http://express-press-release.net/12/Mediabids,%20the%20Only%20Online%20Print%20Ad%20Space%20Marketplace,%20Saves%20Client,%20Green%20River%20Prescription%20Assistance,%2082%20Percent%20On%20Newspaper%20Advertising%20Costs.php
http://express-press-release.net/45/MediaBids.com%20Conducts%206,500th%20Print%20Advertising%20Auction.php

AOL is offered up for sale

Today is a sad day for AOL, which somehow contrasts to the big day the company had in 2000 when they merged with Time Warner in what was then the biggest deal for the dot com era. All indicates that AOL is offered up for sale.

AOL, which is a symbolic company for the Internet the has tried to reinvent itself many times. The latest effort, like those before it, does not seem to be going well.

On Tuesday, Jeffrey L. Bewkes, the chief executive of Time Warner, AOL’s parent company, acknowledged weakness in the business and said he was open to combining AOL with another company — “whatever configuration makes it the strongest and the most valuable.”

Could this be an indirect signal to Yahoo to join forces with AOL? Yahoo anyway lost News Corp for a possible partner and after turning Microsoft down they are left now in sort of hot water to deal with their angry shareholders. It is known fact that Time Warner explored merging AOL with Microsoft’s online operation two years ago and is now discussing a potential deal with Yahoo.

AOL has recently shifted the entire focus and is betting its future on a new strategy of selling advertising across the Internet and has spent more than $1 billion on related acquisitions. The company has acquired a massive number of ad-related companies like Quigo, Tacoda, Userplane, Truveo and their first one Advertising.com for $435M back in 2004.  

AOL appears to be very close to Yahoo by destiny and just like them it seems they are also going through bad times.  On Monday, the third of four top executives installed last summer to run the new advertising division, known as Platform A, left the company. The executive, Curtis G. Viebranz, was fired and replaced by the executive who had been battling his strategy through the fall, Lynda Clarizio.

Several recently departed executives contacted this week described the climate at AOL as acrimonious. They said there had been confrontational meetings of employees as well as screaming matches in offices, as senior executives worried about making their aggressive quarterly ad sales goals. Mr. Bewkes acknowledged Tuesday that revenue at AOL would be flat for at least another quarter.

New York Times says that the company is still major player on Internet with a very prestigious brand name to an enormous revenue stream of $5.2B in 2007. AOL’s Web sites attract 112 million visitors per month and 9.3 million Americans still pay the company for Internet services. Yet the revenues are down 33% from 2006 and so their traffic too seems to be seriously declining over the past year as seen on Compete’s traffic graph. The company’s overall revenue was said has declined as it lost dial-up access subscribers while the advertising revenue totaled $2.2 billion in 2007, up 18 percent from the previous year, yet the pace of growth has slowed each quarter, too.

By contrast, if Facebook with their almost 100M uniques per month make even the half of what AOL is making off theirs the Facebook’s market value would then perhaps be justified at the $15B mark, but the “big” F is doing nothing compared to AOL’s revenues made from advertising alone.

It seems AOL is going to blindly follow the hot trend for today which is an ad network that sells ads on thousands of other sites. It is quite lazy and easy business, instead of building your own traffic, which is taking ages long to achieve you better attract third party sites to use their traffic to make money from. Perhaps this is the reason why we witness so many new ad networks lately.

“We were ahead of the curve in the creation of Platform A and remain in a great position to compete in this intensely competitive marketplace,” said Randy Falco, the chief executive of AOL. The management changes, he said, were necessary to be able to move quickly. After spending dearly to amass assets, “the trick was to get them working together and integrated in a very meaningful way.”

On Tuesday Mr. Bewkes, who spoke to analysts at a conference in Palm Beach, Fla., confirmed that AOL no longer saw a meaningful future for its dial-up Internet subscription service, which may be spun off.

The online advertising seems to be one of the most profitable niches over Internet commanding higher profit margins than any other business online. The leader on the market is Google with its AdWords/AdSense making over $10B per year by selling contextual ads on third party web publishers and there are literally thousands of smaller and more aggressive players in the space.

More about AOL

A Global Ad-Supported Web Services Company

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

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

Core Statistics

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

 A sophisticated advertising network

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

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

Industry-leading products and programs

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

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

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

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

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

Expanding worldwide

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

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

More

http://aol.com
http://corp.aol.com/about-aol/company-overview
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/12/technology/12aol.html
http://www.aolmedianetworks.com/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/11/official-aol-on-the-table-for-a-deal/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/aol
http://www.techmeme.com/080312/p43#a080312p43
http://www.alleyinsider.com/2008/3/jeff_bewkes_s_private_hell_twx_
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-bewkes-shake-ready-to-do-an-aol-deal-twc-spinoff-and-other-options/
http://searchengineland.com/080312-091036.php
http://portalblog.aol.com/

Jivox, yet another video ad network, has raised $2.7M

The funding was led by Opus Capital and also includes investments from individual investors including Jivox founder Diaz Nesamoney. The funds will be used to continue development of the Jivox online video advertising platform, as well as to expand the company’s sales and marketing efforts. No other names of private investors are publicly disclosed.

Jivox is a web-based video advertising service enabling businesses to better communicate their products and services to a micro-targeted audience in a more customized, relevant way than most traditional mass advertising methods, and internet banners and search engines. Jivox is headquartered in San Mateo, California with offices in Bangalore and Delhi in India.

Jivox in a way looks similar to SpotRunner with their pre-made ads for the TV and cable networks, but is being said to be way cheaper than them.

There’s absolutely no cost associated with creating your ads with Jivox AdSlate. Once you create the ad you like to air, then you set your daily, weekly or monthly ad budget. There are no minimums on the budget you set. Just purchase the amount of highly targeted ad inventory as your budget allows rather than the large block purchases required for most video advertising today. You can change your budget at any time.

Jivox AdSlate will optimize your advertising spend by negotiating the lowest cost possible to air your ads with Jivox Video Network Partner sites and maximize your exposure. Jivox will automatically match your ads with the audience that is most likely to respond favorably to your campaign. The cost of airing your ads is typically between $10-$40 range for each 1000 views (CPM).

“To date, video advertising has only been accessible to the large brand advertisers due to the high costs of production and placement on TV. The explosive growth in online video content is creating an opportunity for mid-sized and local businesses to harness the power of the internet to reach consumers. Jivox is enabling mass adoption of an advertising medium that is much more engaging and effective than search and display advertising due to its visual impact,” said Diaz Nesamoney, founder and CEO of Jivox. “We’re very pleased that Opus Capital and our other investors also see the enormous potential of opening up this market to smaller advertisers.”

“By making online video advertising a possibility for more advertisers, Jivox will accelerate broader adoption of the medium,” said Gill Cogan, general partner, Opus Capital. “As an early investor in Informatica and Celequest, we have had a strong long-term relationship with Diaz, and I’ve seen first-hand how he has been able to turn an idea into a product, and then evolve the product to stay one step ahead of the changing needs of the market. We are looking forward to supporting Diaz and the Jivox team as they build Jivox into a successful business.”

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 Jivox

Jivox is an exciting new online video advertising service that gives businesses that want to advertise on the Internet a better, personalized way to communicate their products and services to a micro-targeted audience. If your Internet advertising is not as effective as it used to be, or you are looking for a new way to get your message to your customers via rich visuals and video, Jivox can help.

Jivox helps you create, target and deliver professional video advertising on the Internet – going way beyond the search engine or banner ads – without spending a lot of time and money on producing your ad. Our proprietary technology helps you pinpoint your ads to the exact geographic, behavioral or demographic audiences you need to reach on the web. Here’s how: 

1. Create your own video ad
The Jivox AdSlate self-service video ad maker enables you to use our vast library of stock images, video clips and music to create your own ad or you can take your existing materials (such as a digital picture of your storefront, product shots, head shots, logos, etc.) and insert important information like your contact information, website, special discounts and promotions. See sample ads created with Jivox AdSlate Minutes later, you can be delivering your new ad on our extensive video network. See how it works.

Or, if you have an existing commercial you are using on Cable T.V., you can easily upload and use that to advertise on the Jivox Video Network. Or, let us build your ad for you.

2. Identify your target audience
Jivox delivers tailored, branded advertising to viewers based on their interests, enabling you to maximize your direct response opportunities. The Jivox Video Network delivers your video advertisement to your audience using geographic, demographic, behavioral and contextual intelligence.

Jivox has developed sophisticated algorithms that determine the best web sites and video content in which to serve your ad.

3. Define your budget and timing for your advertising campaign
Even if you have a limited budget, you can start your video ad campaign now with the Jivox Video Network. You can identify specific times of day, days of the week and other important choices or even run Time-of-Day/Day-of-Week ads on an introductory budget. Unlike most other forms of TV and web advertising, with Jivox, you only pay for ads that were actually viewed on a web site. More on Pricing.

The exclusive Jivox Ad Campaign Reports gives you advanced intelligence to optimize your advertising. You can then review the results to make intelligent decisions about how to improve or expand your media choices.

Jivox was founded in 2007 by Diaz Nesamoney, the visionary entrepreneur behind
Informatica (Nasdaq: INFA) and Celequest (acquired in 2007 by Cognos). Jivox aims to
bring the power of online video advertising to the mass market.

Management team

Diaz Nesamoney, Founder & CEO
Diaz Nesamoney founder of Jivox has had two prior successful ventures.  Before founding Jivox, he founded Celequest, raised over $20M in venture capital, and served as its CEO until early 2007, when the company was acquired by Cognos Corporation.  Celequest introduced the market’s first BI appliance, a disruptive innovation that led to its acquisition by Cognos. He was previously co-founder, President and Chief Operating Officer at Informatica (NASDAQ:INFA), which he took from a startup to a publicly traded company in 1999 with a market capitalization of over a billion dollars.  Informatica pioneered data integration software as a category and is now the market leader with over $400M in revenue. Diaz is a trustee of the American India Foundation, a leading international development organization charged with the mission of accelerating social and economic change in India. Diaz holds a Masters degree in Computer Science from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India.

Naren Nachiappan, Managing Director, Jivox India
Naren Nachiappan comes to Jivox from Wind River (NASDAQ:WIND), where as Vice President and General Manager, he was a part of the executive team responsible for reigniting growth and adding over $100 million to the top line in three years. Naren was directly responsible for taking the Device Management business from a concept to a multimillion-dollar revenue rate in under 9 quarters. At Wind River, Naren established the company’s first product development team in Bangalore, India, with a zero percent attrition rate through his three-year tenure. Earlier in his career, as CEO of Proceler and as Senior VP at VenturCom (acquired by Citrix), he was responsible for pioneering several industry innovations such as “the first support for automated application acceleration using hybrid SoCs” which resulted in Proceler’s nomination for the 2001 MPR Analysts choice award, and the first flight-essential certified UNIX for avionics applications on the Boeing 777. Naren graduated cum laude from Harvard University and holds an MBA from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Parth Chandra, Chief Architect
Parth has over 14 years of experience in the software industry in the field of Data Integration and Business Intelligence. Parth has worked most recently at Insights On-Demand, where he was the Chief Architect. Before Insights, he worked at Informatica (NASDAQ:INFA) as a Sr. Software Architect where he was part of the founding team that was responsible for software design and development of their market leading Data Integration products. Prior to Informatica he held software engineering positions at Citicorp Software and Neuron Data where he designed and implemented large scale financial transaction systems and cross platform development environments. Parth holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Kanpur and an MBA degree from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore.

More about Opus Capital

Opus Capital Group is an alternative assets firm with more than $1 billion in committed capital under management. Since 1971, Opus Capital’s predecessor funds have invested in more than 350 companies spanning multiple industries.

More
 
http://www.jivox.com/
http://www.jivox.com/Jivox_funding_release_final.pdf
http://www.opuscapital.com/
http://mashable.com/2008/03/10/jivox/
http://www.thealarmclock.com/mt/archives/2007/05/jivox_stealth_m.html
http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-self-service-video-ad-provider-jivox-closes-27-million-seed-round/
http://venturebeat.com/2008/03/09/jivox-offers-simple-online-video-ads-for-small-businesses-raises-round/
http://www.redherring.com/Home/23889
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/03/09/video-advertising-networks-are-hot-brightroll-gets-its-second-round-claims-it-already-served-over-1-billion-video-ads/

Are Digg’s users the real reason nobody buys them?

While reading over our daily dose of web 2.0 news and stories across our favorite technology blogs, we came across a very interesting theory being discussed on a few of these blogs.

Based on what we have read, and understood, it might turn out that Digg has a track record of surrendering to the mob when things get really bad. Giving control of its users to what shows up on their home page as a story or news is perhaps what made Digg popular but ironically it plays, with the same degree, a very negative role in Digg’s attempt to sell itself out. While the rumors are spreading around Web that potential buyer of Digg might be Microsoft (although they decline that) angry digg users are taking on the site with the promise they never return to it if the Redmond’s giant gets its hands on the popular user generated news site. We have speculated a lot over the past months as to what might be the reason why such a mainstream-like popular site does not get its long-waited exit despite all of its attempts it seems what is attracting potential suitors to Digg (its massive number of users) is what might be scaring them away.

Here is an extraction, as found on Techrunch, of the comments on Digg’s page under the news that Microsoft might be the potential buyer of Digg. 

  • Don’t sell Digg Kevin! Digg this story he needs to know how we feel!
  • Why not sell digg when you don’t care about the community. Sell it and we will be happy.
  • Somehow i think if Microsoft manages to buy digg a larger revolt than 09 F9 11… will happen, at least i know what i will do
  • I would have to see how things went afterward. If Google tried to shoehorn their “style” in to Digg’s interfaces (see: Jotspot), or if Microsoft tried to turn it in to a Windows program, I would switch to Reddit. I like Digg more, but either of those scenarios would kill Digg for me.
  • If MS is in, I’m out.
  • OK guys, Kevin doesn’t give half a shit about you. He cares about what all americans care about: $500,000,000 in his pocket. Good old capitalism, eh?
  • Goodbye Digg… Its been good knowing you… too bad you were gobbled up by corporate america. I remember back in the day when you were a bastion of free speech and unfettered entertainment, but no longer. I guess I will have to revert back to the “best of” section of Craigslist. Don’t sell your soul.
  • As long as they lets us delete our accounts
  • I am new to digg.com and I really like it. If Microsoft were to buy it that would be it for me. I will remove it from my favorites and never come back.
  • Dude. If Microsoft gets its fucking hands on this site then you will definitely have one less viewer. Those fuckers taint everything they touch.
  • Is this for real come on Kevin don’t give up to digg to these huge companies. What makes digg so special and fun is that it’s independent this is not a good idea.
  • If Microsoft purchases this site, go ahead and make your last act to institute a ‘delete your account’ function.
    This is terrible news. Lets see if we can have yet another viable outlet bought up by huge conglomerates which try to feed us what we are allowed to think and censor our beliefs. I tell you what. If digg is sold, I’m not coming here anymore! Kevin please don’t let this happen. Tell us this is about more than money.

Digg’s saga continues.

More

http://blog.digg.com/?p=114
http://digg.com/tech_news/Google_Microsoft_Bidding_For_Digg
http://digg.com/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/09/digg-users-are-doing-their-best-to-kill-an-acquisition/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/05/01/digg-surrenders-to-mob/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/07/google-microsoft-bidding-for-digg/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2007/12/19/digg-guys-are-up-for-sale-again-quietly/
http://www.quantcast.com/digg.com
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/17/for-sale-used-social-voting-site-asking-price-300-million-goes-by-the-name-of-digg/
http://www.hoovers.com/allen-&-company/–ID__51026–/free-co-factsheet.xhtml
http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/12/28/no-acquisition-for-digg-raise-series-b-round-instead/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/07/just-sell-digg-already-jay/
http://nextnetnews.blogspot.com/2006/12/why-nobody-buys-diggcom.html
http://venturebeat.com/2007/12/17/source-digg-hires-bank-hoping-to-sell-for-300-million-or-more/
http://nextnetnews.blogspot.com/2007/02/diggcom-fights-spam-scam-games.html
http://www.pronetadvertising.com/articles/latest-digg-payola-exposed.html
http://valleywag.com/tech/rumormonger/digg-close-to-a-300-million-sale-320145.php
http://valleywag.com/tech/sun-valley/whos-selling-whos-buying-at-the-allen-confab-276716.php
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2004/06/28/374371/index.htm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The market

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

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

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

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

More about BrightRoll

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

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

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

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

The Team

Tod M. Sacerdoti, CEO, Founder

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

Dru Nelson, CTO; Founder

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

Charlie Whittingham, Vice President, Sales

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

Lewis Rothkopf, Vice President, Network Development

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

Calton Chan, Director of Sales, Eastern Region

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

Mike Enomoto, Director, Media

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

About the Investors

About TRUE Ventures

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

About KPG Ventures

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

Adams Street Partners, LLC

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

More

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

Pluck acquired by Demand Media

Demand Media, a major buyer and operator of Internet domain name companies, has announced just a few days ago it has acquired the Austin-based social media company Pluck after about reportedly two months of negotiations. The price is $75M in all cash deal. Pluck revenues are around $10 million/year and the company has raised $17 million in three rounds of funding, which makes the deal a nice exit for Pluck’s investors among which are Austin Ventures, Mayfield Fund, and Reuters. Michael Arrington from Techcrunch however does not seem to agree with that constatation and calls it that way: VCs who aim for 3x their money tend to go out of business.

Pluck, a provider of social media tools and technologies, is serving more than 200 media websites, which are reaching over 100M users, and serving over 1.5 billion interactions per month. The acquisition expands Demand Media’s social media platform beyond its owned network of web sites to power leading media properties and brands worldwide including Gannett/USA TODAY, Guardian Unlimited, Hearst Corporation, Fox, The Washington Post, Scotts and Circuit City.

“We founded the company with a vision for expanding social media beyond the traditional social networking portals. To that end, we have acquired and developed the components necessary to create, distribute and monetize web sites and content,” said Richard Rosenblatt, co-founder, CEO and chairman of Demand Media. “Now, we are ready to expand the platform and model beyond our proprietary network. Pluck provides the technologies, people and partners to accomplish this vision.”

Demand Media’s social media platform currently supports more than 64 million unique visitors per month according to the company’s own Google Analytics data from January 2008. The platform features multiple social media applications such as social Q&A and a vast wholly-owned and rights-cleared content library of Pro Amateur text and video. All this will be enhanced by Pluck’s widget and API-based social media technologies.

“This combination will allow us to provide our customers with an even broader suite of social media products and monetizable content,” said Dave Panos, CEO of Pluck and executive vice president for Demand Media. “The combined expertise of our two companies in platform technology development, content creation and community management is truly un-matched.”

Since its inception in May 2006, Demand Media has raised over $350 million in equity capital and pioneered a new formula for building an interactive media company. Through its social media platform, Demand Media has grown its vertical network into one of the Internet’s largest.

Pluck was founded in 2003 and built a world-class social media platform that enables leading publishers, brands, and retailers to grow their audiences by seamlessly integrating content, community and social media technologies directly into their existing web properties.

More about Pluck

A leader in social media software solutions, Pluck helps transform how publishers, retailers and major brands engage their audiences and customers to discover, create and distribute information online. Providing the technologies for content generation, syndication, social networking and news personalization, Pluck helps its customers more easily consume and leverage the new open content model that has emerged as the cornerstone of Web 2.0.

Products
If your goal is to drive brand recognition and revenue by leveraging the power of user contributions and interaction on your web site, Pluck offers a complete suite of rich Social Media products called SiteLife. Ready for embedding into any web site, SiteLife helps build vibrant communities of active bloggers, citizen journalists and consumers while driving the creation of new content, traffic and repeat visits.

For bloggers and publishers, Pluck offers BlogBurst, a syndication service that places blogs on top-tier online destinations. With BlogBurst, publishers weave the rich and diverse fabric of the blogosphere into their sites to drive site traffic, while bloggers gain visibility and grow their audience and reach.

Management Team

Pluck was co-founded in 2003 by Dave Panos and Andrew Busey, two executives with entrepreneurial experience in some of the industry’s earliest efforts in instant messaging, real-time collaboration, e-commerce, and e-learning. Meet the Pluck management team.

Dave Panos – Chief Executive Officer, Co-founder
 
A software industry veteran with more than 16 years of start-up experience, Dave has helped define new markets across a range of Internet and Enterprise sectors. He co-founded Pluck as a Venture Partner at Austin Ventures. Previously, he was a co-founder and executive vice president for B2B eCRM provider Question Technologies (sold to Motive). For seven years, he was vice president of marketing and business development at web collaboration pioneer DataBeam before their successful sale to Lotus/IBM. Previously, Mr. Panos ran product management at Easel Corporation, a popular software development tool company that went public. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and his undergraduate degree from Furman University.

Will Ballard – Vice President and CTO
 
In his role as Chief Technical Officer at Pluck, Will oversees a team of 20 engineers responsible for the company’s software architecture, design, development and quality assurance. He is also responsible for the design and operation of the growing data center that runs key aspects of site services for Pluck customers, including Hearst Magazines, WashingtonPost.com, TheStreet.com and Cox Newspapers. Prior to joining Pluck, Will served in a variety of software development leadership roles where he designed and managed the development of massively scalable, high-velocity software platforms at NetSpeed (now Cisco), the outsourced network management and security provider for more than 10,000 businesses; NetSpend, high availability provider of credit card transaction services for leading financial institutions; and Works.com (now Bank of America), the automated corporate purchasing solution for corporate treasury operations.

Ken Nicolson – Chief Marketing Officer
 
As Chief Marketing Officer, Ken leads market and product expansion for Pluck social media platforms to further serve the audience engagement and analytics needs of digital publishers and advertisers around the globe. Prior to joining Pluck, Ken served as president and CEO at Veridiem, a software firm that helped global brands plan, measure and optimize their return on marketing investments. Before joining Veridiem, Ken served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Alphablox Corporation, a leading provider of Web-based analytics applications. He has also served in executive marketing positions at Kiva Software, Red Brick Systems, Informix and IBM. Ken received an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Duke University.

Rachel Brush – Vice President of Operations and Content Services
 
As vice president of Operations and Content Services, Rachel oversees finance, legal and human resource operations for Pluck in the U.S. and Europe. She also leads the editorial and account management teams for the BlogBurst™ syndication network, which serves content from more than 4,000 top bloggers to leading media sites around the world. Before joining Pluck, Rachel spent eight years in leadership roles at Hoover’s, Inc., where she held various senior management positions, including serving as vice president of Content and vice president of Customer Operations and Quality. Previously Rachel worked in retail operations for industry giants, including Ann Taylor, LensCrafters and The Limited. Rachel holds a BA in English from The University of Texas at Austin and is pursuing an MBA in Operations and Business Management at St. Edward’s University. Rachel is also an Advisory Board Member of The Periwinkle Foundation, which provides summer camps and other activities for children with cancer.

Eric Newman – General Manager
 
Eric has a history of delivering successful embedded solutions for leading Internet and software companies. Prior to joining Pluck, Eric ran product management for data integration provider Pervasive (PVSW). He previously served as vice president of marketing at Powered, a provider of embedded internet marketing solutions. He was also director of portal solutions at AskJeeves (ASKJ) and served in various management roles at Lotus/DataBeam and Convergys. Eric earned his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and his undergraduate degree in Marketing and Management Information Systems from the University of Cincinnati.

Steve Semelsberger – Vice President, Sales & Business Development
 
Steve manages the team responsible for global revenue and partnerships. Prior to Pluck, he spent nearly six years with Motive (MOTV) in Director roles over Alliances, EMEA and Segment Marketing, helping the firm grow to ~$100M in revenue and complete an IPO in 2004. Previous experience in Steve’s 15-year career includes product management, marketing and sales positions with iChat, NetRatings and several media and services companies. He holds an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Spain’s IESE, along with a BS in management from Binghamton University.

Stephanie Himoff – Vice President of UK Sales and Business Development
 
As vice president of UK sales and business development, Stephanie will direct UK and European sales operations. Stephanie brings to Pluck over a decade of experience spearheading the growth of Internet businesses in Europe. Most recently she worked with US-based travel search site, SideStep, on its expansion in the UK. Previously Stephanie served in executive management positions for European operations at DirectoryM, a premier online advertising network used by top publishers, including Newsweek and ZDNet. Stephanie also served as Managing Director in the UK and France for AltaVista, a web search company now owned by Overture, a division of Yahoo. She holds an MBA and a BA from the University of San Francisco as well as a masters in French from IESEG.

Adam Weinroth – Director of Product Marketing
 
Leading product marketing for Pluck, Adam plays a central role in formulating the vision, definition and delivery of the company’s syndication and publisher software services including the groundbreaking BlogBurst syndication network and SiteLife Social Media Suite. Adam joined the company in 2005 when Pluck acquired Easyjournal, a community blog publishing platform which Adam founded and grew to more than 100,000 registered users. Prior to creating Easyjournal in 2002, Adam held leadership roles in new product development and technology marketing with Mediatruck and IntelliQuest. Adam has a BBA in Marketing and an MBA focusing on Technology Marketing Strategy from The University of Texas at Austin.

Pluck is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and has received funding from Austin Ventures, Mayfield Fund, and Reuters. Company was more known as rss software focused one when they started back in 2003.

More about Demand Media, Inc.

Demand Media™ is a leading social media company that provides an interactive, personalized and vertically-focused media experience for over 64 million unique users. By using its proprietary social media tools and the unique distribution platform of the world’s second largest domain registrar, the company connects content creators and audiences to grow its network of vertical media web properties. The privately held company was founded in May 2006 and is based in Santa Monica, CA, with offices in Bellevue, WA, Austin, TX and San Francisco, CA.

Demand Media was founded by former MySpace CEO Richard Rosenblatt. The company has been buying content sites and is rumored to be in preparations for a possible 2009 IPO, if and when the economy recovers. Their last round, $100M, was announced in September 2007. They’ve raised a total of more than $350M to date.

More

http://www.demandmedia.com/
http://www.pluck.com/
http://www.pluck.com/press/PluckPR-030408-Acquisition.html
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/04/demand-media-buys-pluck-for-50-million-to-60-million/
http://www.quantcast.com/pluck.com
http://siteanalytics.compete.com/pluck.com/?metric=uv
http://www.austinventures.com/
http://www.mayfield.com/
http://www.reuters.com/
http://riverace.statesmanblogs.com/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/pluck
http://www.demandmedia.com/demand-media-executives.asp
http://www.richard.tv/
http://www.reuters.com/article/internetNews/idUSWEN431620080305

Digg is likely to make a nice exit soon

Digg, the user generated news site, has been pretty serious on getting itself sold for quite long time now. Just late last year they have hired Allen & Company to shop the site for what rumors claim to be anything in the $300 million range. There were literally millions of speculations around the blogosphere why Digg cannot sell so far, some of them summarized can be read over here.

Today we are reading they are about to finally make their long waited exit. Rumored bidders are, of course, Google and Microsoft, among a couple of media type of companies, no names quoted. This time however the price is being said to be way below the price tag of $300M Digg has put on its site last year – in the $200-$225 million range.

According to Quantcast, which we believe is very accurate, Digg.com is hugely popular site and is already reaching more than 25 million unique visitors per month. Just like a couple of months ago, here we again think Digg does worth more than $300M at the very current moment, with or without steady revenues, simply because of its popularity, leadership, reach and target audience. 25 Million unique visitors per month is almost a mainstream site and we have seen sites with less that traffic getting acquired in the 10 digit range.

Taking into consideration the fact that in case Microsoft does not buy the site they are likely to terminate the ad agreement they have with Digg, it seems that other bidders are not including the Microsoft revenues in Digg’s valuation.

More about Allen & Company

Investment bank Allen & Company has been involved in a number of high profile mergers and acquisitions in the past. Interesting for the Allen & Company is the privacy the investment firm seems to be working in as argument for which is the absence of even a basic site for the company on Web. Perhaps they don’t like publicity. Yet, we have found the firm’s contact details, which can be found among the other links on the end of the story’s page.

For Allen & Company, there’s no business like financing show business. The investment bank serves variously as investor, underwriter, and broker to some of the biggest names in entertainment, technology, and information. Viewed as something of a secret society, the firm has had a quiet hand in such hookups as Seagram (now part of Vivendi) and Universal Studios, Hasbro and Galoob Toys, and Disney and Capital Cities/ABC. The firm’s famous annual retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho, attracts more moguls than a double-black ski run (Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and eBay CEO Meg Whitman have attended). Brothers Herbert and Charles Allen founded the company in 1922.

Key people and executives for Allen & Company LLC are as follows:

  • Non-Executive Chairman Donald R. (Don) Keough
  • President, CEO, and Director Herbert A. (Herb) Allen
  • Managing Director and CFO Kim M. Wieland

More

http://digg.com/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/07/google-microsoft-bidding-for-digg/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2007/12/19/digg-guys-are-up-for-sale-again-quietly/
http://www.quantcast.com/digg.com
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/12/17/for-sale-used-social-voting-site-asking-price-300-million-goes-by-the-name-of-digg/
http://www.hoovers.com/allen-&-company/–ID__51026–/free-co-factsheet.xhtml
http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/12/28/no-acquisition-for-digg-raise-series-b-round-instead/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/07/just-sell-digg-already-jay/
http://nextnetnews.blogspot.com/2006/12/why-nobody-buys-diggcom.html
http://venturebeat.com/2007/12/17/source-digg-hires-bank-hoping-to-sell-for-300-million-or-more/
http://nextnetnews.blogspot.com/2007/02/diggcom-fights-spam-scam-games.html
http://www.pronetadvertising.com/articles/latest-digg-payola-exposed.html
http://valleywag.com/tech/rumormonger/digg-close-to-a-300-million-sale-320145.php
http://valleywag.com/tech/sun-valley/whos-selling-whos-buying-at-the-allen-confab-276716.php
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2004/06/28/374371/index.htm

Mint keeps on taking money, closes its third round of funding

Mint.com, the site that helps you find better interest rates on bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial products. But here is the interesting part. The site officially launched in September 18, 2007, after nearly two years of development and significant private beta testing, and in just a few weeks, after being announced winner on TechCrunch40, the site took seriously off. In just 18 days, the company said, they had reached more than $2 billion worth of people’s personal financial accounts, and identified more than $40 million in potential savings for those members. In a moment Mint ended up having a new member every five seconds. It turned out that people really will do anything to save a buck. There were more than 50,000 accounts opened up. And logically the investors jumped in. Total funding in no time reached $5.5M for Mint Software.

Today we have read over Internet that Mint is about to announce its third round of funding today – $12.1 million from new investor Benchmark Capital and all previous investors, including Shasta Ventures, Sherpalo Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Hite Capital and First Round Capital. The company has now raised a total of $17 million, most of it since October of 2007. Benchmark’s Bob Kagle is joining the Mint board.

CEO Aaron Patzer says the company is adding 10,000 new users per week, has organized over $10 billion in purchasing activity and has identified around $100 million in savings opportunities for users.

The company makes money via lead generations, and Patzer says users are clicking on presented opportunities 12-15% of the time. That all sound very good and promising but it also raises some concerns and the Mint’s independence different online users are already asking about. Mint is being accused already that they may be selling out trying to get deals with banks to connect to their system.

When’s the last time you went to an ATM that let you take out $1.50, $2.00 or any amount under $20. Then it seems odd that Mint can’t distinguish and break out your ATM fees so you can see how much I spend. I don’t spend $101.50 on ATM fees, I spent $1.50. There are several very obvious things Mint could help with, but don’t.

From the banks perspective they make a lot of money from ATM fees which costs them next nothing providing huge margins. So are they interested in cooperating with a service that makes points out that you are getting fleeced in ATM fees? It is being said there are more examples like this, one gets lousy interest on his/her savings – however somehow the only bank switch recommendations one gets are from CITI bank to … CITI Bank. Never a recommendation to switch to WAMU for example which would save the user $9.50/month in checking, and $20-30/month in ATM fees.

Some users raise the point that Mint might be too much in bed with the banks to be anything other than an overview.

Techcrunch has reported it has a source that told them venture capitalists were clamoring to get a piece of this deal, but the question here is does Mint really need that much money or it is all about the fact that VCs want to be in regardless what Mint’s real needs might be. 

More about Mint

Mint is the freshest, most intelligent way for you to manage your money online. Not only is Mint free, it saves you money. While existing personal finance software packages require hours to set up, a passion for accounting (is that possible?) and hours of weekly maintenance, Mint is virtually effortless.

With Mint, you can be fully up and running in less than five minutes. After that, revolutionary, patent pending Mint technology does the rest, with virtually no more work required. It automatically pulls together your bank, credit union and credit card data, and provides up-to-date and amazingly accurate views of your financial life – from the big picture to specific details, in a friendly and intuitive way.

In addition, Mint goes beyond visibility and analysis; providing personalized money-saving and money-making suggestions. Mint provides users an average of $1,000 in savings opportunities during their first session. Plus, Mint is proactive— alerting you when you are overbudget, have a low balance, need to pay a bill, and more.

Mint is safe and secure: we never know your identity and we provide bank level data security.

How Mint works
Mint is a modern, powerful, easy and secure web-based solution for managing your finances. And it’s free. You register anonymously using any valid email address, and then add the log-in information for the online bank, credit union and credit card accounts you want to consolidate in Mint.

Mint connects to over 3,500 US financial institutions. Your account information is updated each night. Mint automatically categorizes all your purchases, showing you how much you spend on gas, groceries, parking, rent, restaurants, DVD rentals and more, with amazing precision. An advanced alerting system highlights any unusual activity, low balances, unwanted fees and charges, and upcoming bills so you’re in constant contact with your money – effortlessly. 


Mint goes way beyond just reporting. Using a patent-pending search algorithm, Mint constantly searches through thousands of offers from hundreds of providers to find the best deals on everything from bank accounts to credit cards; cable, phone and Internet plans, and more. Mint’s suggestions are “unique to you” as they are based on your individual spending patterns. For example, if you have $20,000 in a bank account that’s earning no interest, Mint might recommend a high interest rate savings account from ING or HSBC. Acting on that suggestion would give you an extra $900 in interest income over a year.

Key Benefits
Mint is an entirely new approach to personal financial management. You don’t work for Mint, it works for you. We think you’ll love Mint because it’s:

Easy to use: You’re up and running in under five minutes. And Mint does virtually all the rest.

Comprehensive: Mint provides detailed visibility into virtually all your financial relationships with a single, secure login.

Visual and Analytical: Mint gives you powerful insights into your finances – making it easier to make good financial decisions

Constantly working to find you savings: Mint typically finds users $1,000 in savings opportunities in their first session – minutes after registering. And Mint keeps looking for new ways for you to save every day — continuously comparing your needs to product, service and bank offerings most relevant to you.

Secure: Mint provides bank level data security and industry leading identity protection. Its security and privacy have been validated by VeriSign and TRUSTe.

Always On: You’re automatically notified of upcoming bills, low balances, and any unusual activity in any of your accounts, through one (m)interface.

Anywhere/anytime access: You can get to Mint anywhere, anytime over the web

And it’s Free!

Breakthrough Technology
Aaron’s personal experience led him to create to two breakthrough technologies which make Mint so useful, intuitive and unique:

Patent-pending categorization technology that automatically identifies and organizes purchases from descriptions in the electronic records at banks and credit card companies.  A proprietary search algorithm which finds savings opportunities unique to each user.  Mint’s technology does everything automatically in a way that other online banking applications and personal finance management software can’t. It provides useful information and smart, specific recommendations for saving or making more money based on each user’s individual purchase history. Today, after nearly two years of development and significant private beta testing, Mint is preparing to announce the public beta of Mint.com. The company has put together an experienced executive and engineering team, and has attracted funding from top tier venture capital firms and angel investors.

Security

Security is crucial when someone is dealing with your financial information and it is no wonder there were many debates surrounding Mint in the public space. We have dug information up ourselves and have found many interesting commentaries made by Mint’s CEO, which we enclose below. Below is what Aaron Patzer, Founder & CEO at Mint.com, has to tell about security.

To all those who are concerned over Mint.com security, a few points:
1) You’re anonymous on Mint.com
2) Our security is independently verified
3) Email & text-message alerts help identify fraud immediately… and being proactive is the best measure.

I’ll make a bold statement: You’re safer on Mint then with online banking. On Mint, you’re completely anonymous. We never ask for a name, address, or SSN – just an email. We know about your finances…but not about you. We’re also independently verified by VeriSign, TRUSTe, and several outside agencies.

We also have serious physical security. Our servers are in a secure, unmarked facility. To get in, you need to pass 3 biometric scanners, 4 locked doors, and several guards. We have our own cage so we’re physically separated from all other companies. Cameras monitor our servers and power supplies 24/7. The servers themselves have additional locks. The hard drives are encrypted. It’s like Mission Impossible (except without the electrified floors…maybe one day).

Perhaps more interestingly, 90% of all fraud actually occurs offline, not online (e.g. someone swipes your card at a restaurant or from your mail). Because Mint sends proactive alerts for low-balance or unusually high spending, you’ll know right away. It’s better than logging into 4-5 different banks every day, or waiting 30 days for a paper statement before finding that something went wrong.

By law you have:
– $0 liability for credit card fraud,
– $50 liability for bank fraud (if you notify your bank within two days)

Again, 90% of all fraud starts offline, for example when someone takes your credit card at a restaurant, or digs through your mail. Sadly, a large portion of fraud is actually committed by friends and family members.

Mint.com helps keep you safe by providing email and text-message alerts for:
– Low balances (e.g. someone is draining your account)
– Unusual spending (e.g. someone buys $1000 in electronics in a day)
– Low available credit

If there are any anomalies, Mint.com shows you right away. The alternative is to a) login to every single credit card, checking, and savings account every day to check for fraud, or b) wait 30 days until a paper statement arrives before noticing an issue.

By taking a proactive approach, Mint.com actually helps protect you from the vast majority of fraud – better than just about any website out there.

Concerning whether using Mint.com violates your bank terms & conditions:

Consider that Quicken and Microsoft Money ask you for the exact same credentials as Mint.com, and have been for the past 10 years. MS Money even uses Yodlee to make it’s connection to banks (same as Mint.com, BofA, and Fidelity).

The problem with those tools is they cost $30-$80, sunset their products every 2-3 years to force an upgrade, require an hour to setup, and take an hour a week to maintain.

Mint is like an extension to online banking: pull all your accounts together in one place, finally see where your money goes, get alerts on anything out of whack, and find savings opportunities worth an average of $1,000/user.

Mint never gives your information to third party advertisers. We have a proprietary database of financial offers, interest rates, and communications (phone, tv, internet, wireless) providers. The matching is done in software, anonymously.

Your information never leaves Mint.com. If or when you click through on a savings opportunity, no information is passed except that the click came from Mint.com.

Mint does make a small referral fee from advertisers on some offers. That’s what keeps Mint free. Whether we have a relationship with a provider in no way affects our ranking algorithm – we find users the best interest rate or lowest price regardless.

What this means in the end is Mint only makes money if we can find ways for the user to save money. And we think that’s pretty revolutionary. The only ads you see are ads that make you money…think about how different that is as a business model.

What the company, by that time, seemed not to be dealing with is the offers it makes are often not competitive with or comparable to what users are getting, mint is just having no way to know that!

For example, I have a Capital One card with 1% back. You see my Capital One account with ? for a cash return, and “offer” me a 1% back card (a *savings* of $250/year!). There needs to be a way to user input the specifics of current accounts and products before you offer to “save” me all that dough!

Mint has told by that time they are tackling the issue within the next month or so, they will be able to accurately capture the rewards earned on just about every credit card. Then, it will be able to accurately reflect the fact you are earning 1% back on your Capital One card. We were unable to dig something up from the public web as to whether this issue has been fixed or not.

Some more drawbacks as we have found them around Web are as follows. You can’t import data to Mint in any way other than through your financial institution, meaning that if you’ve got years’ worth of financial data in Quicken, don’t count on importing it to Mint. That said, Mint can load over a year of your most recent financial data (depending on how long your institution provides it) when you sign up.  On a similar note, Mint doesn’t export data—meaning if you decided to ditch Mint for another money management solution, you’re not going to get a CSV file or any other export of your data.

The most notable and practical drawback to Mint came in the form of strangely named, incomplete transaction descriptions (the imported name was strange—the actual transaction name at the originating financial institution was more descriptive). As a result, I ran into problems setting up renaming rules for transactions in Mint. For example, a transaction that read in my checking account (at the actual US Bank web site) as “Web Authorized Payment AT&T” showed up in Mint as “Web Payment” or something along those lines. I set Mint to automatically rename this transaction to AT&T, but then every Web Authorized Payment in my account was renamed AT&T, although some were gas or water and power bills. Similarly, “Purchase with PIN” shows up in the ledger as “With,” which is not terribly helpful. Next to the all-in-one account integration, automation is Mint’s biggest draw—which means these sort of minor issues need worked out before you can set up renaming rules with complete confidence (especially since you can’t currently undo renaming rules). On the flip side, Mint claims to accurately identify and rename 90% of imported transactions without any need for user import, compared to Quicken’s 40% (their numbers).

Management team

Aaron Patzer
Founder and CEO
Aaron is both the visionary and technical mind behind Mint, the first free, automatic and secure way to manage and save money online. He designed Mint to meet his own needs and those of people like him who value the immediacy of the Web, simplicity and their free time. With 10 patents filed or pending, Aaron brings strong innovation skills to Mint. Prior to founding Mint, Aaron was an architect and technical lead for the San Jose division of Nascentric. Before Nascentric, Aaron worked for IBM and founded two web development and online marketing companies: PWeb and International. Aaron holds an MSEE from Princeton University and a BS in computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering from Duke University.

Aaron’s Financial Personality? Über-Frugal but lusting in his heart for expensive cars.

Donna Wells
Chief Marketing Officer
Donna brings over twenty years’ experience in strategic management and marketing to the Mint team, with specific expertise in the financial services industry and online demand generation. She led client acquisition/retention, brand-building and product development for organizations ranging from start-ups to global brands – including Expedia, myCFO, Intuit, Charles Schwab and American Express. Prior to Mint, Donna was Senior Vice President of Marketing at Expedia, where she was responsible for strategic direction of the company’s brand, advertising, direct marketing, customer and partner marketing and market research. At Intuit, as Vice President of Corporate Marketing and acting CMO, she led the company’s corporate marketing functions and general marketing strategy. She also served as Vice President of Intuit’s Small Business and Personal Finance division, responsible for direct marketing, channel marketing and market research for the Quicken, QuickBooks and Small Business Services businesses. Donna joined Intuit from myCFO, Inc., where she was Chief Marketing Officer. She previously held senior positions at Charles Schwab, where she led marketing for segments representing 70% of all Schwab client households, and American Express, where she launched the Gold Rewards and Platinum Corporate Cards. Donna holds a MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and a BS in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a past Board member of the Financial Women’s Association of San Francisco and the Marketing 50.

Donna’s spending personality: Unremarkable, except in her weakness for luxury hotels.

David K Michaels
VP Engineering
David has over 10 years experience in building secure, distributed, fault-tolerant systems. David was most recently leading the development of server products for PGP, where he helped design, build and ship three major versions of the company’s  flagship product: PGP Universal. Prior to PGP, he built a high-volume financial information product targeting online retail equity traders. David was on the server team at NetDynamics (acquired by Sun Microsystems), implementing core features for security, scalability, fault-tolerance, distributed load balancing, and performance. He has also worked at GeoCities, where he developed the company’s first capability to insert advertising banners on its pages. He has held several positions with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory working on distributed systems and the WWW. David holds a M.S. in Computer Science with honors from Stanford University and a B.S. in Computer and Information Science from the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

David’s Financial Personality? Conservative and analytic in all spending categories Dining Out. Major Foodie.

Aaron Forth
VP Product
Aaron brings over ten years’ of product development and product management experience to Mint. Prior to joining Mint, Aaron held several leadership positions at eBay and Half.com (acquired by eBay Inc.). Most recently, as Director of Advertising, Aaron was responsible for product strategy, design and product development. Aaron has a background in multivariate testing used to drive analytically-based decisions around product design, improved user experience and strategic partnerships. Prior to working in advertising, Aaron managed internet marketing and product management teams, focused on search engine marketing, search engine optimization and affiliate marketing. Aaron’s career in software was established at Kana Communications, Inc., a CRM software start-up. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Earth Sciences from University of California, Berkeley.

Aaron’s spending personality: Frugal at heart. Focused on enjoying life in practice.

Anton Commissaris
VP Business Development
Anton is responsible for Mint’s business strategy, revenue and partner development. Anton brings to Mint over 15 years of experience in the software and Internet sectors spanning legal, operations, marketing and business development roles. Prior to Mint, Anton was Vice President of Business Development at Right Hemisphere, the leader in visual product communications and collaboration. Prior to Right Hemisphere, Anton was Director of Business Development at Spotlife (Logitech) a pioneer in Web consumer video solutions. Anton began his career as an attorney working in London and Paris, and then in Palo Alto, California at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the leading law firm for emerging growth high technology companies. He holds law degrees from the University of Auckland and the University of Montpellier, France.

Anton’s Financial Personality? The ultimate deal-seeker and most passionate negotiator. We love having him run Biz Dev.

Mint has been named Best of Show at the 2007 Financial Innovations conference. Mint has also been chosen as the best presenting company at TechCrunch40 and has won a $50,000 cash award. In December 28, 2007 Mint.com has also won the 2008 PC World 25 Most Innovative Products Award.

Competitors and similar companies include BillMonk, Expensr, Wesabe, Zecco, Buxfer, SpendView, Geezeo, sMoneyBox, FreeAgentCentral, Covestor.com, Yodlee, wclipperz.com and passpack.com, among others. Of course, Intuit is the major player in the space.

More

http://www.mint.com
http://www.mint.com/blog
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/05/mint-gets-a-mint/
https://web2innovations.com/money/2008/02/21/mintcom-the-financial-planning-startup-with-an-army-of-high-profile-investors/
http://www.mint.com/press/downloads/release_20080108.pdf
http://www.mint.com/press/downloads/release_20071228.pdf
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/16/mints-47-million-a-round/
http://www.crunchbase.com/company/mint
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/09/18/mint-wins-techcrunch40-50000-award/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/14/billeo-secures-7-million-in-financing/
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/10/07/mint-rakes-it-in/
http://www.netbanker.com/2007/10/mint_mortgagebot_and_prosper_w.html
http://www.informationweek.com/windows/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=178600217
http://www.crunchbase.com/person/aaron-patzer
http://www.linkedin.com/in/apatzer
http://twitter.com/apatzer
http://digg.com/users/apatzer
http://consumerist.com/commenter/apatzer/
http://www.spock.com/Aaron-Patzer-NBd4i1sF
http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/09/18/techcrunch40-session-5-productivity-web-apps/
http://blog.mint.com/blog/personal-finance-interview/personal-finance-interview-with-aaron-patzer-of-mymintcom/
http://blog.mint.com/blog/personal-finance-interview/mint-team-spotlight-sid-bhatt/
http://www.finovate.com/
http://r3fresh.com/2007/10/09/how-secure-is-mintcom/
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/22/fashion/22CYBER.html?ex=1353819600&en=6199204353c38df5&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink
http://venturebeat.com/2007/09/18/mint-the-easiest-way-to-manage-your-personal-finances/
http://lifehacker.com/software/screenshot-tour/is-mint-ready-for-your-money-312083.php
http://consumerist.com/consumer/budgets/mintcom-+-a-new-free-personal-finance-management-site-301172.php
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Shriram
http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,140663-c,technology/article.html
 

Some of the Silicon Valley’s top non-Web innovations VCs spent money on

Forbes has assembled a very interesting list of some of the Silicon Valley’s most interesting and coolest innovations beyond the web start-ups. What is being said as a fact is that venture capitalists have poured over $30B into more than 2500 new ventures in 2007 alone. Some of them have to be non-traditional the media says and outlines some of those non-web start ups. The criteria to make the list were companies with unusual technologies or in surprising niches, which recently received additional rounds of venture financing and ranging from gadgets that only the military could love to ones that could wind up in your neighbor’s car.

Insitu

Insitu is a leading high-tech autonomous systems company. They currently produce and sell an ever growing fleet of Unmanned Aircraft Systems that are low-cost, long-endurance, and have low personnel requirements. These UASs provide a no-runway launch, unprecedented stabilized day and night video for ISR, robotic flight control, and a no-nets capture. Insitu began by creating long endurance Unmanned Aircraft to measure atmospheric conditions and do reconnaissance in remote areas for meteorology, daily weather prediction, and climate modeling. Aerosonde was the first aircraft developed by Insitu, noted for completing the first autonomous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1998. From the Aerosonde, Insitu began to develop its Insight UAS platform, that is still being regularly upgraded and deployed today. In 2001, Insitu began working with Boeing to develop ScanEagle, an ISR-focused Unmanned Aircraft System that is currently used by the US Navy, the US Marines, and the Australian Army.

Insitu closed its Series D round of financing led by Battery Ventures’ Roger Lee in December 2007. The company has plans to release a new autonomous aircraft in 2008.

Incesoft

Founded in 2001, Incesoft Technology Co., Ltd. is the world’s leading provider of web robot technology and intelligent interactive information platform. Incesoft is committed long term to the web robot development and research, providing various information and services for users at the same time giving them better interactive experience. At present Incesoft has made great achievements in the field of Chinese artificial intelligent analysis and information management service. Currently Incesoft has the largest Chinese-language web robot platform (www.xiaoi.com). The robots can be used on IM, WEB and Mobile platform, providing services as information, entertainment and E-commerce etc. about working and living. Meanwhile Incesoft also provides customer service robots for companies and governmental departments.

Until now Incesoft has more than 20 million users.

With many-years robot development experience and strong technological power, Incesoft became Microsoft’s global strategic partner in February 2006 and Incesoft Bot Platform became the official robot access platform for Windows Live Messenger. In addition, Incesoft is Tencent QQ (a popular IM tool in China) and Yahoo Messenger’s strategic partner as well.

Draper Fisher Jurvetson and ePlanet Ventures were among the backers who pledged financing in March 2007.

A4Vision

California-based A4Vision has developed a 3D facial imaging and recognition system that works in conjunction with its established fingerprint identification and verification technology. Clients include high-security outfits such as the U.S. Department of Defense and a Swiss bank. Bioscrypt, a company specializing in access control, acquired A4Vision in March 2007. Investors, including In-Q-Tel, the venture wing of the Central Intelligence Agency and Menlo Ventures, must feel secure.

 Ophthonix

Ophthonix, Inc., a San Diego based vision correction company, is changing forever the way we see the world. Customized iZon® High Resolution Lenses allow wearers to see the world in High-Definition—clearer, sharper and more vividly than ever before. The proprietary and patented process is the first ever vision correction technology that addresses the problems associated with the unique variations in each person’s eyes, allowing for customized eyeglass lenses.

The result is a detailed picture, much like your eye’s fingerprint. The iZon lens, custom-built to help reduce glare in nighttime driving, is the result. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was among investors who put $35.1 million into Ophthonix’s December 2006 Series D round.

Dash Navigation

Dash Navigation has developed the Dash Express, which is an Internet-connected GPS device that offers route choices based on traffic information generated from other Dash Express devices and the Internet.

Superior traffic with the Dash Driver Network™:Select your route based on up-to-the-minute traffic data that is automatically and anonymously exchanged via the most reliable source–other Dash devices. The Dash Express gathers traffic information from the Dash Driver Network and combines it with other sources of traffic data to provide you with the most accurate picture of what’s happening on the routes you’re travelling. And, only Dash provides traffic information for freeways and local roads and side streets. Dash Express provides up to three routing options to your destination that are based on flow rather than incident data, and even has the ability to automatically alert you when traffic conditions change and a faster route is available.

Find virtually anything with Yahoo!® Local search:Connect to Yahoo! Local search to find unlimited points of interest—people, places, products and services—based on your specific needs.

Two-way connectivity gives Dash Express the ability to use Yahoo! Local search and other internet search sources to find almost anything anywhere. Unlike other GPS devices that come loaded with a static database of points of interest, Dash gives you access to unlimited points of interest based on your specific needs.

Send2Car™means no typing required: Its the fastest and easiest way to send an address straight to your device from any computer. Just highlight an address from your Internet browser or Microsoft Outlook and send it directly to the car. You can use Send2Car yourself, or when you’re on the road, have someone else do it for you

MyDash makes it even easier to personalize your Dash Express:MyDash, available at my.dash.net allows you to create and send customized search buttons straight to your device so you always have access to the places you want to go. And you can even take advantage of local knowledge from the Dash network by downloading location lists shared online by other users.

AutoUpdate™ means a GPS that’s always up to date:Dash Express is the only GPS that automatically and wirelessly updates software and traffic using two-way connectivity. You’ll always have the latest and greatest features as we release them. With Dash you are always up to date!

The company secured $25 million in February 2007 from investors, including Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

3DV Systems

3DV Systems is a pioneer and world leader in the three-dimensional video imaging industry. Established in 1997 and headquartered in Yokne’am, Israel, the company has developed a unique proprietary technology which enables video cameras to capture the depth dimension of objects in real time, high speed and very high resolution.

The company has developed a unique patented technology which enables cameras to capture the depth dimension of objects in real time, high speed and very high resolution, using low or no CPU resources. 3DV markets, in a fab-less OEM model, a chipset that can be integrated to create systems and solutions for multiple applications as well as the new ZCamTM (previously Z-Sense) family of 3D cameras.

3DV was founded by Dr. Giora Yahav and Dr. Gabi Iddan, two veteran scientists of Rafael, Israel’s leading defense industry. Leveraging their experience and know-how gained through leading development of electro-optics missile technology, they came up with a ground-breaking concept of measuring distance from objects using the Time-of-Flight principle.

Since the successful completion of the development of our first 3D camera directed at the broadcast studio market, the new ZCamTM (previously Z-Sense), in 2000, 3DV was able to dramatically reduce the size and decrease the cost of its technology thus widening the scope of markets and applications and currently reaching consumer markets. The company’s latest prototype camera, the new ZCamTM (previously Z-Sense), is at the size of a typical webcam, and provides home users revolutionary gesture recognition capabilities in addition to real-time background replacement, enabling them to control video games and personal space through intuitive body gestures and immerse themselves with virtual reality

Kids may be excited about a new way to play. Adults, by contrast, may appreciate how the technology can be applied to reality: video cameras in their cars. The cameras can detect signs of fatigue, alerting the driver, or help to safely deploy airbags based on the exact location of passengers’ head.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Pitango Venture Capital led the $15 million investment round in December 2006.

Hyperactive Technologies 

The company started in the mind of a founder with two simple questions:

“Why is this burger so bad?”
“What can we bring to the table to make this better?”

In answering those questions – and finding a solution for the problem – HyperActive Technologies looked closely at the processes of quick-service restaurants, and has brought a full array of vision, prediction, and task-management technologies to bear in an industry where competition is fierce and quality is the number one differentiator.

HyperActive Bob is the first and only fully-automated Kitchen Management System that’s improving food quality in QSRs across the country. Here are the driving forces behind our technologies:

Vision: advanced real-time vision technologies monitor customer arrivals constantly and without wavering.

Prediction: Powerful processing tools learn from historical and real-time sales, incorporating the results of this analysis into real-time task management.

Action: easy-to-read touch screen monitors tell cooks precisely what to cook, and when to cook it.

The result: HyperActive Technologies provides “sight and insight” for managers that they’ve never had before, and more: 

HyperActive Bob is the Predictive Kitchen Management System that tells cooks what to cook, and when to cook it, assuring that all of your operations perform as smoothly as your best!

Drive-thru Speed of Service Timer is the first of its kind tool to measure the amount of time drive-thru customers spend in line before they reach the order board!

Walk-in Demand Prediction provides Bob’s keen demand prediction for restaurants that may not have vehicle entries.

HyperActive Technolgies is based in Pittsburg and is a privately held company. Last May, the company purchased QTime solutions, a drive-thru timer to help speed up how Hyperactive develops its recommendations. Private angel investors organized by Spencer Trask Ventures presumably had a quick meeting to decide to put $8.5 million into the firm in 2006.

Basically it is becoming clear that not all VC money goes to sites a la Facebook, yet the US economy is not in its best state today to accommodate and absorb some of these great inventions and innovations.

More

http://www.forbes.com/2008/01/24/midas-tech-novel-tech-08midas-cz_ed_0124novel.html
http://www.insitu.com/
http://www.incesoft.com/English/
http://www.xiaoi.com/
http://www.in-q-tel.org/technology-portfolio/a4vision.html
http://www.bioscrypt.com/
http://www.dash.net/
http://www.izonlens.com/about/
http://www.3dvsystems.com/
http://www.3dvsystems.com/gallery/movies/VirtualGame.mpg
http://www.hyperactivetechnologies.com/ 

The Money & Business Behind the Web 2.0 Innovations