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Venture Funding Ok: Proof From Move Networks, Visible World and Realtime Worlds

fundingRecently published data from the National Venture Capital Association showed fewer venture funds have been out raising capital (57 in Q1 2008 versus 83 in 2007 and 75 and 2006) but there’s no shortage of funding.  So far this year, about the same amount of money has been raised for new funds (compared to the same period last year) despite the smaller group of fund partnerships with their hands out.  The cumulative cash raised in 2007 was also high, insuring plenty of capital waiting to be deployed.  But if that’s not evidence enough, then recent investment rounds should be; three companies, Move Networks, Visible World and Realtime Worlds have all raised more than $25m in new rounds just announced.

MOVE NETWORKS: $46 Million More
Companies aiming to stream video on the web with unique software face a massive competitive challenge in the huge installed user base for Adobe’s flash.  Move Networks, and its’ investors, haven’t been afraid to tackle it. 
The Utah based company has worked hard to make themselves a preferred partner at a number of major sites. They scored a coup in landing Disney (and its associated properties including ESPN and ABC).  They won another battle in locking up Discovery Communications

Investors are hoping more money will help win more rewards.   Just announced, the company has raised a $46 million Series C financing.  The round was led by Benchmark Capital but also included a mix of other corporate and venture investors.  Participants included Cisco, Comcast (via Comcast Interactive Media) Hummer Winblad and Steamboat Ventures, Disney’s associated venture fund.

The company claims their streams are reaching about 6.5million viewers a month and that those viewers are watching an average of 50 minutes of streamed video footage a sitting.  The company also claims their proprietary player technology nearly eliminates the need to buffer (or preload) parts of the stream.  

The downside with Move Network’s offering is that viewers need to install Move’s own browser plug-in to use their software.  Chief rival, Adobe Flash, is constantly improving.  More importantly, it’s estimated to be installed on upwards of 90% of Desktop computers.

Benchmark partner Bill Gurley is not threatened by the challenge. In a statement he said “rarely have we seen a company take market share at such a dramatic pace in an emerging industry.”

Since late 2006, Move Networks has raised more than $90m. They closed a $24m Series B in late September, or early October of 2007.  Hummer Winblad and Steamboat invested $11.3m in a Series A round in December 2006.

Founded in 2002, Scotland based Realtime Worlds set out to create a game development studio that might one day rival Take Two’s Rock Star Games division and match its success offering video game titles for more mature audiences.   

In 2006 New Enterprise Associates put up $31m.  The company released their first title, an Xbox 360 exclusive called Crackdown, in February 2007.   The game sold more than 1.4 million units.

Realtime Worlds has since grown to a staff of more than 180 and opened offices in Seoul, Korea and Boulder, Colorado.  Today, to support growth, the company announced Maverick Capital, prior investor New Enterprise and marketing communications firm WPP had agreed to add another $50m to their coffers in a Series B round.  (Press Release)

The company is currently nearing release of a PC based MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) built in partnership with Korea’s Webzen.  The game, which like Crackdown is aimed at mature audiences, is something of a cops and robbers role playing title.  Players will have the option of taking the role of law enforcement or criminal, and they’ll be afforded massive options for customization.  The title appears to be a blend of the game style made popular by World of Warcraft with a subject similar to that of Grand Theft Auto.  It’s due later this year.

VISIBLE WORLD: $25 Million
In another sizable round, New York Based  Visible World raised $25million (according to Mediapost) .  The round was led by Adams Street Partners and AllianceBernstein.  Prior investors including Comcast (via Comcast Interactive Capital), Time Warner, Viacom, Grey Ventures, Leucadia National Corp. and Dawntreader Ventures also participated.

The company, which is about eight years old, sells tools that assist the development of custom TV ads targeting sub-segments of cable subscribers.   Per their marketing materials:  “Instead of creating all of these versions individually, we use technology to pull various "parts" of a commercial together on the fly based upon the specific time, location, and/or context in which the ad appears.”  The platform is called Intellispot. 

Visible World is currently working to expand these tools for use in online video ads.  Indications are a significant portion of the funding will be allocated toward that expansion.


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