Posts Tagged ‘VC’

New international seed fund! KIMA Ventures

February 15, 2010

Boy, have I waited to write about this!

Today is the official launch of Kima Ventures, a venture fund that seeks to invest in startups all over the world at the seed stage, in the internet sector but also mobile, video games and telecom.

Kima is very exciting because of the two entrepreneurs who started it. The first is Israel-based Jérémie Berrebi, founder of Net2One back in Bubble 1.0, a forerunner of Google News, and now Zlio, a create-your-own-online-shop site, and angel investor in countless startups. The second is Xavier Niel, the founder of Iliad, the most innovative ISP in France, and France’s first (and only?) self-made internet billionaire, who has also done some angel investing himself. So we are talking about two major league entrepreneurs and investors creating a fund to invest globally. Kima has set a goal to invest in over 100 startups in its first two years. They are willing to invest alongside other seed funds or angels, and will use their considerable network to help companies progress, including raising additional rounds from institutional VCs if they need to.

I helped Berrebi with the launch of the fund and can tell you a little bit about the vision for Kima. Kima wants to set itself apart from other funds in a variety of ways. First of all, they promise a firm answer within 2-4 weeks, which for anyone who’s been through the maddening dance of raising money is just heaven. Second of all, they will invest all over the world. And finally, they intend to help startups within their portfolio connect with each other to share insights and best practices. The long term goal is for Kima portfolio startups to be a deep and global ecosystem of entrepreneurs and companies.

And finally, Kima’s investment philosophy is openly inspired by charge-for-stuff startup 37signals. They want their investment to help the startup get to profitability as soon as possible, ideally before their next round. No Twitter for those guys! (Even though Niel and Berrebi are both investors in Status.net, the “WordPress of microblogging”)

Given the record of the founders and their ambition, Kima is a really big deal, and I can’t wait to find out about the startups they’re going to invest in.

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AppsFire wants to viralize iPhone apps

February 12, 2010

Ouriel Ohayon is famous among French entrepreneurs as the former writer of TechCrunch France, but he is an accomplished entrepreneur and VC in his own right, who is now based in Israel. He recently left his plush VC gig to start a new company called AppsFire. I sat down with Ohayon on his last trip to Paris to talk about AppsFire.

AppsFire is a simple app that helps you share iPhone app recommendations with your friends. AppsFire has all the trappings of the latest startups, including its own short URL http://getap.ps/ and an API that will come soon, Ohayon tells me. Android and BlackBerry versions are also forthcoming.

AppsFire wants to solve an important problem: there are over 100,000 iPhone apps, and the iPhone app store alone isn’t enough to help discover all the useful apps out there. Meanwhile the iPhone app store is now a billion dollar market and app stores are sprouting up all around numerous devices and platforms.

The company also recently launched PasteFire, an app that lets you share links and other items between your iPhone and your computer — copy something on your iPhone and you can paste it on your computer, and vice versa. Ohayon tells me that PasteFire is superior to other similar services because PasteFire is smart. For example, if you put a phone number into PasteFire, it will recognize it as such and prompt you to call or add to contacts; if you put an address, you’ll be able to look it up on Google Maps, etc.

For Ohayon, the grand idea behind AppsFire is to help apps in every app store become viral and, in turn, become the center of distribution of mobile apps. Ohayon told me his business model is “secret” but it’s not hard to see how such a thing could be monetized. If AppsFire pulls it off, it could be a very powerful service.

Both AppsFire and PasteFire are part of this grand masterplan. Ohayon wouldn’t tell me what the link is between them, but again, it’s not hard to tell: PasteFire suggests actions — apps — based on the links or items you share in it. This would significantly help AppsFire boost the virality of useful apps.

Ohayon was bullish about the future of app stores in general — not just on the iPhone and other mobile devices, but on cars, fridges, etc. His goal is for AppsFire to help spread apps virally within all of the app stores that exist today and will in the future. He’s also bullish about the future of his own company — when I asked him if he was afraid that Apple would copy them, he said he’d welcome it.

He’s not the only one who believes in the future of his idea: AppsFire recently raised a big angel round from first-tier French investors including Marc Simoncini (founder and CEO of Euro online dating leader Match.com), Jacques-Antoine Granjon (cofounder of vente-privee.com), Xavier Niel (cofounder of Iliad, a huge French ISP) and Jean-David Blanc (founder of allocine.com and also investor in Jack Dorsey’s Square).

If Ohayon can bring about his powerful vision of boosting mobile apps’ virality, AppsFire is clearly a company to watch.

Curmudgeon is bitter he didn’t cash in sooner

January 15, 2010

Bo Peabody, the founder of Tripod (remember Tripod? I have an homage to it up there) and now a VC at Village Ventures (no, never heard of it either), wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post to say that social networks like Facebook and Twitter aren’t, and will never be profitable, that the advertising and freemium business models don’t work for social networks, and that it would be best to run social networks as non-profits, a la Wikipedia, rather than businesses, because it’s in the nature of social networks that they fail.

I’m all for contrarianism, but — leaving aside for a moment that the guys who started Facebook and Twitter probably wouldn’t have started them in the first place without the profit motive — Peabody’s argument would probably sound better if he hadn’t written this now.

Peabody writes that News Corp and AOL screwed up by acquiring MySpace and Bebo respectively; while AOL clearly overpaid (yes, technology is the only sector where boneheaded managers make stupid acquisitions), MySpace would’ve probably hit $1 billion in revenues in the year after it was acquired if it hadn’t been for the financial crisis, and kept growing like wildfire if the management at FOX Interactive hadn’t frozen product development while Facebook ate their lunch, stuck a finger in every pie, and generally made a mess of things. But more than all of that, what complicates Peabody’s thesis is that the two companies he holds up as exemplars of the impossibility to make social networking profitable, Facebook and Twitter, are… profitable.

Facebook has been profitable since last September and its revenues are growing rapidly. Twitter is now also profitable thanks to its licensing of its real-time search firehose to Google and Microsoft, and has left most other revenue sources untapped by choice, not inability. Saying that social networks can’t be profitable, and using Facebook and Twitter as examples of that, right after those two companies become profitable, probably isn’t the best way to make yourself look smart.