Some years holiday presents come early, some late. Over the past few weeks, a good handful of companies have gotten their gifts from venture capital firms. From Red Room to Spotzer, MixerCast and Edgecast to 56.com and Kyte.TV, here’s the latest Venture Roundup: Metue’s regular recap of companies recently receiving funding.
Based in San Francisco, Red Room is a social network for authors. “All the world’s greatest writers in one room – From Pulitzer Prize-winning authors to the editors of groundbreaking underground literary journals,” reads the marketing-speak on their landing page.
The site, which is currently is an invitation only beta, aims to help writers connect writers with fans (like MySpace originally did for music) and offer them other promotional tools.
Craig Newmark (craigslist), and Nion McEvoy, CEO of Chronicle Books, were reportedly among the angel investors contributing to a $1.25m seed round.
Notable writers Alice Walker and Amy Tan are reportedly among the first to put their names behind the site.
Based in Europe, and now in New York and California, Spotzer Media Group BV is an ad agency aimed at making video advertising accessible and inexpensive. The company’s services include an online library of ready-to-air commercials that can be customized with branding information as well as tools aimed help media buyers buy spots across different media including TV and the Web.
In their latest round, the company drew 10m Euros (approx. $15m) in a round led by Sierra Ventures. European Directories, an overseas yellow page publisher, also invested.
The money will primarily be used to expand US operations. The company hopes to earn as much as 50% of their revenue from the US market with a year. U.S. staffing is expected to double to near 30 employees in January.
Spotzer was founded by Andrew Klein who previously founded late 90’s high flying Internet investment bank, Wit capital. Some have billed Spotzer as the European equivalent to Spot Runner. Now, with both competing with similar offerings in the US, the comparison’s may take on a new flavor.
San Mateo, CA based MixerCast is a Web 2.0 startup built around online media sharing. Still in an Alpha-Stage release, the company provides tools that let web audiences combine images, audio and video into web based slide shows. The resultant files can be embedded in blogs and social network profiles for novelty, and enhancement.
LA Based Edgecast provides content delivery network (CDN) services. Like competitors Akamai and Limelight Networks, the company uses distributed computing systems to help websites transmit large files like videos and music.
Edgecast maintains multiple global "Points of Presence" to cache web content. They also provide content security, storage and bandwidth throttling services. Unlike competitors, EdgeCast prices its services with separate components. That is, bandwidth has its own unique charge rather than being part of a combined fixed payment.
In this new series B round, Edgecast received $6m. The round was led by Disney’s affiliated venture arm, Steamboat Ventures. Cumulative investment in Edgecast to date now exceeds $10m. (Official Press Release)
Based in China, 56.com bills itself as “China’s leading online video and personal media sharing community.”
Founded in 2005, and competing against recently funded, Youku ($25m in November), 56.Com aims to navigate the challenges of Chinese politics (censorship risks, etc) with a user-generated content sited suited to the interests of Internet users in China. The company also has invested heavily in their own content distribution technology, presumably to reduce their reliance on 3rd party CDN’s.
In this new Series B Round, the company has raised $20m. The round was led by HPE (Hikari Private Equity) and Susquehanna International Group China (SIG). Other high profile investors included Steamboat Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Adobe.
This latest round follows a relatively recent $10m Series A from Steamboat and SIG.
MyStrands was founded in 2003. They launched the first beta of their music recommendation service in 2005. In September they expanded their offerings to include an online music video service called Mystrands.tv. The company’s technology is designed to scan a user’s music library, index it along with search behavior, and then use the combined results to recommend new music.
Unlike other companies offering similar “discovery agent” products, competitors imeem, last.fm or Pandora, Mystrands’ technology is aimed at any potential product discovery, not just music. Mystrands is also focusing on mobile applications for their technology.
The company is betting consumers will willingly share a lot of information about themselves, and find the recommendations that come from such info worthwhile. Facebook’s recent Beacon ad program suggests these kinds of services are a difficult minefield to navigate.
MyStrands reportedly had sales of $12m last year.
The company closed a similarly large round last June ($25m) . The total raised in the past six months now appears near $50m. That’s a substantial warchest from which to build.
Kyte.TV, which is operated by Decentral.tv in San Francisco, is going after streaming TV content to mobile phones. Using their platform, subscribers can create their own "TV Shows" and broadcast them to websites, blogs or phones. Still in beta, it could be characterized as one part social network (sharing and collaboration) and one part user-generated content platform.
In a new round, Kyte has reportedly raised $5.6m from Spanish telecom Telefonica. The corporate investment will join previously carriers and venture firms onboard including: Swisscom, Hotzbrinck Ventures, Nokia Growth Partners (PDF link), Draper Fisher and Atomico (of Kazaa, Skype and Joost fame).