26 Apr A windfall of funds for DEMO companies
As you might suspect, I’m a bit proprietary about the companies that have launched products at the DEMO conference. I am delighted when they have great news and always sorry when a company hits the bumps that inevitably pock the road of a startup. So it’s a good week when so many of my “children” see the rewards for their very hard labor.
It’s been a good month for DEMO companies on the fund-raising circuit. Jingle Networks (DEMOfall 05) has raised a second round of $26 million, from Comcast Interactive Capital, Liberty Associated Partners and IDG Ventures (a sister company to DEMO). Since its launch last fall, the free 411 directory service (1-800-FREE411) has seen phenomenal growth.
The company says it is now fielding some seven million calls a month to callers who get free directory assistance in exchange for listening to an audio ad. Callers can choose to respond to these ads (which is the heart of Jingle’s business model) or continue with their original request. A source close to the company recently told me that Jingle has captured about 8% of all 411 calls, and that conversion rates to the advertisers’ offers have exceeded plan.
Another DEMOfall 05 demonstrator, Simply Hired, has closed a $13.5 million second round, bringing to $17.7 million the total capital raised. News Corporation’s Fox Interactive Media and Foundation Capital made the investment and both will add directors to the company’s board. The investment by Fox is interesting, demonstrating again the aggressive moves by News Corp to bring potentially transformative properties into its fold. Since its launch last fall, Simply Hired has aggregated more than 5 million job listings to become the largest employment search engine on the Internet.
The most recent class of demonstrators has seen fundraising success as well. Last week, Kaboodle announced it had raised $3.55 million from Shea Ventures, Garage Technology Ventures and Alpha Group, along with a series of individual investors, including Kanwal Rekhi (a managing director at Inventus Capital Partners), Ashish Gupta (founder of Junglee), Dr. Rajeev Motwani (a Google advisor and Stanford University professor), Ron Conway (a well-known Valley angel).
The round also included a number of plugged-in individuals including Ignacio “Iggy” Fanlo, a former executive at Shopping.com; Georges Harik, former director of new products at Google; investor and blogger Jeff Clavier; John Dougery of Inventus Capital; and Naren Bakshi, founder of Versata.
These individual investors bring more than just money to the table. Their experience with online shopping, Web 2.0 business models, and relevance search ranking will surely help Kaboodle fine-tune its information collection, cataloging, and sharing service.
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