Plazes, a service that lets you locate your friends and share your location and social activities, is a pioneer in the location based services segment which is now gaining more and more traction thanks to Nokia’s and Apple’s moves in the market and a bunch of new startups developing new services and applications. In a few month Plazes will be made available to millions of Nokia customers as part of Nokia’s Ovi.com service platform and Nokia Maps. For Plazes and its users this acquisition is a great chance to take the service mainstream, in front of millions of mobile users.
This is not the first of Nokia’s moves in location services, in 2006 the company acquired Gate5, a Berlin-based startup that developed mobile mapping apps. With last year’s acquisition of Navteq for $8.1 billions (soon to be approved by the European Commission), Plazes will be in good company and a perfect fit with Nokia’s strategy for location services, helping the mobile phones giant integrate location based social features in its mapping products.
Nokia will of course keep running and improving the Plazes service (and new users will be able to sign up for the service). The company will still be based in Berlin together with the location based service team from Nokia, previously part of gate5.
We are happy to report that at Fon we have raised $9.5 million in a C round. Our current valuation which unfortunately I can´t disclosed has been the best valuation so far. This does not mean that we were not hurt by current market conditions which are pretty bad for start ups (Fon was founded in February 2006). Our leading investor in the round was a US Venture Capital arm of Sistema, Russia´s leading telco but our usual suspects, Google, British Telecom, Digital Garage and of course your blog writer participated in the round.
What are we going to do with the money? Launch Fon in Russia, launch the Fonera 2.0 (the fonera that uploads and downloads stuff to and from the internet while you are doing something else with your laptop) and develop the fonera 802.11n for an end of the year launch.
Unfortunately we will also have to do all this spending less money because this market forces us to do so. We already cut losses at Fon from $1.3 million per month to $800K per month in the last half year and we achieved this through cost reductions, a great reduction in router subsidies and increased revenues with high margins. We plan to do more of the same in the future and my target is to be losing half a million per month by June and to break even by the end of 09. And yes I do know that I should not be telling any of these things because we are a private company but if this blog is of any value to entrepreneurs I believe I must share them with you.
Bottom line: tough market forces you to think harder about everything you do but we are very happy to have closed this C round.
Eolia, the alternative energy company founded by my dear friend Miguel Salis Canosa and in which I was an early investor, is going public on Madrid’s stock exchange at a valuation between 800 and 900 million euros (according to the newspaper Expansión), an impressive success in less then 3 years.
Eolia was founded in 2004 as the first investment fund in Spain in renewable energy with financing from the investment bank Nmás1, Bankinter, BBK and Fonditel. In October last year Eolia completed the roll up of over 22 independent wind and solar development companies into a new company, which together with the assets of two previously launched funds (Eolia Mistral and Eolia Gregal), has resulted in the creation of the largest Spanish independent wind and solar electricity generation company, Eolia Renovables de Inversiones, of which Miguel is co founder and CEO.
Eolia controls 45 wind and solar projects in Spain and Mexico totalling around 1200 MWs in addition to a less developed project portfolio of close to 2000 MWs. They have recently signed an agreement to incorporate 150 MWs of French and German wind farms from a European company.
Last Friday I organized a dinner in La Judería resturant in Sevilla and a lot of people from the Spanish Web and Blog community were present: Wicho from Microsiervos, Enrique Dans, Ismael El-Qudsi from Microsoft, Anil de Mello from Mobuzz, Ricardo Galli from Meneame, Julio Alonso from Weblogs SL, Eduardo Arcos, Arturo Paniagua, Manu Contreras, Carlos Martinez, Alexandra Guerrero, Carlos Mantero, Paloma Abad and Jaime Fernández from Hipertextual, Fernando Serer and Alejandro Carravedo from Blogestudio , and Jonan from Pixel y Dixel.
During the dinner I realized that most of the Spanish Internet was at the same table, that together we had something like 30 million uniques per day if you added all those sites and Fon. It was then I started thinking at how to turn to good use this great communication potential. While having a drink after dinner I talked with groups of bloggers asking them what we could do together. Ricardo Galli had a great idea for which he suggested the name “Si a Internet”, “Yes to the Internet”.
This initiative begins from noticing something which is probably already clear to most of the people who work or live on the Web: traditional media see the Internet as a threat to their business and power and frequently publish articles or TV programs and print talking that portrays the Internet as the wrong lifestyle choice. One day is about pedophiles, another one about terrorists on the internet, or whatever may make the average person feel uncomfortable with a new media that is undermining their cozy livelihood.
“Si a Internet” would be our answer: a button on the websites represented at the table and everyone else who likes this idea that will link to a website explaining how Internet is becoming the real source for critical thinking and not a safe haven for terrorists, drug addicts and pedophiles, as the Spanish press likes to argue ( same happens in many other countries).
I think it´s time that all key web sites adopt a common ethics code and endorse a common platform that would make the average citizen feel comfortable with the internet as its major source of news, communication and entertainment. This would of course require more self policing on the side of those who work on the internet including a fight against spamming and other sources of discomfort on the net.
In any case this is still only at the idea stage.
23andMe, the company founded by Anne Wojcicki and Linda Avey and in which I’m an investor, is going to give a Launch Party next monday in Palo Alto, California. 23andMe will help individuals understand their own genetic information using recent advances in DNA analysis technologies and web-based interactive tools.
After providing a saliva sample, 23andMe users will be able to enjoy interactive tools to shed new light on themselves, their close family and their distant ancestors. Having created myself and invested in so many internet companies in which interaction is done by your hands, eyes and ears the I find the concept of a company who you first encounter donating saliva, both weird and fascinating. Who would have thought that all there is to know about your genes can be simply found….in your saliva. Sperm could be a more interesting as a way to enter a community but I guess saliva is more egalitarian. Now thinking about this maybe the next mashup is between 23andme and Match.com…find out before more about your mate….before you mate.
Loic and his team are working hard in San Francisco to build this new exciting social video platform. When launched, Seesmic will allow users to post videos on the site using their webcams or files and will automatically publish them on other popular sites (Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and others soon). Many people are already doing this in Beta.
The service is built with openness in mind: it’s not trying to replicate other social networks or video sites, it builds on top of the best ones. The purpose is aggregating, sharing and tracking conversations about the best professional and user-generated video content on the Web.
Soon users will be able to post videos straight from Skype (our partners at FON) and interact with their Seesmic friends with a Joost widget (another company I invested in).
Loic is documenting every day of his new startup with a series of videos published on seesmic.com.
If we think of a blog as a diary, then a tumblr is similar to a collection of notes about interesting things found on the net or whatever else you might want to share with your friends (links, photos, videos, audio, text messages).
Not everybody has the time or interest to create and maintain a blog, yet with Tumblr anyone can create a simple and beautifully designed personal page to aggregate his digital identity and share content with their friends.
Tumblr can automatically import content from most of the Web 2.0 sharing services you use and show it as a continuous stream on your tumblr. When I shoot a photo with my unlocked iPhone, the iFlickr application automatically uploads it to Flickr and Tumblr shows it on my page, alongside my twitter and blog posts.
Tumblr has just released its 3.0 version with lots of new features and a stunning graphic design which also looks great on the iPhone.
Many readers have asked me to comment on the technology that we use in the solar farms that we are building together with my partner Miguel Salis. Here´s a presentation that explains how this technology works.
Moneytrackin’, created by Victor and Albert Martin, who work at Fon Labs in Barcelona and in which I am an investor, redesigned its brand and launched together with the successful existing features, a new online social network for people who want to do “social accounting” for common ventures like start ups, graduation trips, etc.
Below you can find the press realease with the new changes and features.
Thanks to the new website, users can continue to manage their personal accounts, but now with an easier and more usable interface, and they can also join the moneytrackin’ community. The community acts as a “wikipedia” for money saving, and its members manage all of the community tips by rating and classifying them, add personal tips to save money, upload their pictures and value the best tips which are included in a savings “Hall of Fame”.The new Community also offers a geolocalized tip sevice powered by Google Maps. This tool offers members local tips for saving money based on where they live. For example, they can check for the cheapest gas station in their city or town.
All of the tips are integrated into the personal accounting tool, and the system offers the information for saving money according to the member’s geographic location and the transactions included in the tool. For example, if the member has a monthly expense for the gym tracked in moneytrackin’, she will receive tips related to saving money in gym fees in her city or neighbourhood.
Moneytrackin’ aims to become the saving’s “Wikipedia” thanks to its new community generated input, offering this collective “savings” knowledge to people around the world.