Revenues at Fon last month were slightly over 100K euros. Gross margins are over 70%. Cash burn which was over a million euros during December was down to 480K euros in April and is going down to 350K euros in June. This puts us on target to be profitable in the last quarter of 2009. Number of registered Foneros is at 830,000. Number of registered hotspots is 332,000 and of active hotspots at anytime has gone up to 212,000 around the world up from 145,000 in December. Last week we added 6000 hotspots and we are on target to have 300K hotspots by year end. Headcount is 61 employees around the world which is remarkable for a company that is managing the largest and fastest growing WiFi network in the world. Our top countries are UK, France, Japan, Germany, USA, Taiwan, Spain and Italy.
Many good things happened at Google Zeitgeist. Some of them I can´t tell as they may become important deals for FON (BTfon was born at Google Zeitgeist). But one of the things that surprised me the most was seeing one of the musicians I have admired the most, Gilberto Gil there. What was shocking about him is that as part of the debate in which he argued for a more moderate system of copyrights, a position that he takes as Minister of Culture of Brasil, he actually sang a song that speaks about my favorite subject: broadband!
Meet the trailblazers is the name of the panel I moderated at Google Zeitgeist. Panelists were Sanjeev Bikhchandani, CEO of InfoEdge, Matt Flannery, CEO of Kiva, my friend and partner Joi Ito, CEO of Creative Commons, Bernard Lukey, CEO of Ozon.ru and Thomas Middelhoff, CEO of Arcandor AG of AOL fame.
My friend Loic made a great job filming, editing and publishing videos from the TechTalk held two weeks ago at my farms in Menorca. He recently published a post with all the videos he’s taken during the event. Thanks Loic!
A few years ago, Yahoo had an opportunity to buy Google for less than one percent of its present value and passed. After that, the company went from being poorly managed by Terry Semel to being poorly managed by Jerry Yang. Its shares went down to $19. At that point, Steve Ballmer and the Microsoft management team saw an opportunity to buy Yahoo for a reasonable price and gave it a try.
At the same time, Yang and the board members thought they could take advantage of a “rich buyer” and achieve through tough negotiations what they could not achieve via able managing, namely a high share price. They not only rejected the offer of $31, but asked for $37 or nearly twice as much as the share price was worth before Microsoft had first mentioned the word Yahoo.
Ballmer´s reply was simple “we may be rich, but we ain´t stupid” and ditched them. Those shareholders that had bought shares thinking the sale was a done deal were left holding the bag.
Icahn, an expert in takeover battles in the 80’s, threw himself into the battle without having experience with the Internet and started buying cheap shares with the objective of having Microsoft buy Yahoo! at $31 per share and go back home with $1 billion.
The rules of the board of Yahoo were favorable for Icahn. While most of the companies elect their directors and board members at different times, Yahoo elected them all at once and this makes it extremely vulnerable for a takeover. Icahn saw this opportunity to chose an alternative slate of directors and sent an aggressive letter to the board that is well commented by Kara Swisher, one of the best technology journalists so I link to her for this part of the blog post.
The guys at Yahoo replied with this letter saying that they did not want to give Yahoo away to Microsoft and other weak arguments, as it is hard to explain to shareholders why $25 is higher than $31.
Now Yahoo shareholders have only bad choices left. They can vote for a management team who had a chance to buy Google and passed, who had a chance to sell to Microsoft and passed and who had a chance to dominate the internet a la Google and failed. Or alternatively they have the opportunity to vote for a corporate raider who knows nothing about the internet and who´s only strategy is to sell to Microsoft. Will there be another unexpected buyer such as large global telco in the meantime? Will Yahoo find a way to divest of its Japanese and Chinese properties and raise $20bn + in cash? Will the current Yahoo board bring a stellar CEO and win the election? All these are possibilities that do not escape Icahn, who is convinced that one way or another he will make money with his Yahoo shares.
Jacob Hsu (Symbio), on the Internet in China
Marko Ahtisaari (Blyk), on how the free mobile operator Blyk evolved in the last year
Andrew Mclaughlin (head of Policy at Google), on the Internet in Europe and the control of information
Michael Wolf (former President of MTV Networks), on the future of TV on the Internet
Zaryn Dentzel (Tuenti), on coming from Silicon Valley to start the Spanish social network Tuenti
Ola Ahlvarsson (Result), on the different kinds of entrepreneur
I’ve been trying out Twhirl, the most popular third-party application to enhance the Twitter experience on Mac or PC computers. Twhirl was recently acquired by Seesmic, the company enabling video conversations, founded by my friend Loic Le Meur and in which I’m an investor.
Twhirl is an application that lets you use Twitter from you desktop, making really easy and fast updating your status and reading your friends’ twits. Twhirl also makes it easy to look at replies from your friends, direct messages, favorites, friends and followers. Twhirl is compatible with almost all micro blogging platforms available, like Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku and recently added FriendFeed support as well. This makes it a great tool to post your updates and keep track of what your friends are up to, regardless of what platform they use and without visiting and logging in to any website.
Integrating Seesmic into Twhirl will greatly enhance the Seesmic experience, allowing for posting and viewing of Seesmic video conversations inside the application, in between posts on Twitter and other platforms.
You can download Twhirl here.
During last year’s TechTalk we had the La Fatera idea. The Fatera’s concept was a scale connected via WiFi to a Fonera, with the purpose of letting users loose weight in a social way, like Alcoholics Anonymous for weight loss: if you decide you want to loose weight and your weight gets notified every morning to your friends, you’ll probably have more chances to reach your goal for the pressure of your group of friends. Well, this year Nintendo launched the Wii Fit, a similar product, now available in Europe but not in the States yet, and we have tried it during the Menorca TechTalk. My friend Loic Le Meur took this video.
It’s fun to see how the Wii Fit starts from punishing you, easily declaring you fat and old. Fat makes sense as the device can get your weight. You first tell it how tall you are and it then tells you if you’re fat or not. Anyway it’s not very good for muscular people, as it said Loic was fat, while he’s just very muscular. Not only fat, but the Wii also said he was old: he is 36 but according to the Wii Fit he’s 54, just because of how he balances his weight while standing. It declared my weight ideal, but it gave me 63 years old, because my center of balance is moved to the front.
What is interesting is that the Wii Fit also lets you play games like skiing. People at Nintendo must be geniuses, they built a console completely different from their main competitors’s products (the PS3 and Xbox 360), yet our guests at TechTalk were queuing to play.
This is the first of a series of posts I’ll publish. It’s great to have friends so good at taking pictures and videos, because they save me the work and the result is much better then what I could do myself.
In the following video filmed and moderated by Thomas Crampton, I discuss with Joi Ito and Loic Le Meur about what is the best place to start a business (Europe, US or Asia?).
I’m Pietro, I work with Martin and I’m guest blogging about this year’s Menorca TechTalk as Martin is very busy running the whole event. Guests spent four days in Martin’s farms in Menorca and had a great time. Yesterday there was a talk opened to the public, with entrepreneurs giving informal presentations on topics ranging from the state of the Internet in Japan to the differences between Europe and Silicon Valley when running a startup.
Joi Ito started with a speech about the Internet in Japan, where the mobile Internet is now growing faster then the Web. Japan is more advanced then Europe or the US but is moving towards a dangerous direction, with mobile operators controlling traffic and getting a huge cut on profits from Internet services running on their networks, thus disincentivating entrepreneurs and startups.
Jacob Hsu (CEO of Symbio) and Thomas Crampton (now based in China and working with Next Media) talked about the Internet in China. Thomas focused on what he called propaganda 2.0, while Jacob talked about the many opportunities in the country, especially for the companies that can build a good relationship with the government.
Andrew Mclaughlin (head of Global Public Policy at Google) followed with a speech on how he sees the Internet in Europe and underlined the danger of some recent EU’s directives extending old media regulations to the Internet. Micheal Wolf (former President of MTV Networks) gave a very interesting speach on the future of television, which in his vision will involve shorter formats and worldwide releases at the same time.
Marko Ahtisaari from Blyk gave us an update on how this ad-funded mobile operator is growing as a media company, offering users aged 16 – 24 free or very cheap mobile telephony while letting brands reach their users with very targeted messages and engage them in conversations.
The session ended with an improvised panel with Zaryn Dentzel, who moved from the US to Madrid to start Tuenti, now the biggest social network in Spain, Loic Le Meur, who moved from Paris to Silicon Valley to build his latest startup, Seesmic, and Ola Ahlvarsson who runs Result, helping other companies going international. Zaryn told us how moving to Spain proved to be a great opportunity, although he runs the company with an international team. Loic talked about the differences in starting a business in Silicon Valley, how some things are easier, like getting a meeting with a potential business partner, but some are harder, like finding engineers, as companies compete to attract the best talent. Ola gave a very interesting speech about the different kinds of entrepreneur, that he categorized into 6 models.