Wirama, RFID Antenna/reader enabler raises $1M in series A financing

Earlier I wrote about RFID technology implementations falling far shor t of the predictions. As I noted there, one of the issues facing RFID implementations, is that the antenna/reader technology is not always robust enough to cover all of the physical space where the system is to be deployed.

Instead of being a hardware installation issue, it becomes an infrastructure issue. One needs to ensure that the every part of the physical structure where RFID will be deployed, is capable of sending the RFID data, and the antennas are placed appropriately to be able to read the data accurately. With the signal fading issues and physical constraints, getting full coverage is very often not easy.

Wirama tries to address the particular issue of accurate readings of RFID signal over physical space.

“Wirama’s products allow customers to deploy more economical and efficient use of RFID systems in warehouses, stores and loading docks,” said Ben Wild, company president. “This is enabled by a fundamental set of novel, patent-pending innovations that increase range and reliability of RFID systems by essentially eliminating the effects of fading.”

With improved reliability and range, RFID may get a chance to fulfill its promise.

Wirama was co-founded in 2006 by Ben Wild, Upamanyu Madhow (UC Santa barbara) and Kannan Ramchandran. The trio brings a great deal of design and technology experience to the company.

Wirama announced that the company has closed a $1.0 million Series A round of financing from a group of experienced technologists. The investing group is led by Silicon Valley veterans, Dr. Steven McCanne and Jerry Kennelly. Kennelly will take a seat on Wirama’s Board of Directors.

We wish them well.

Thoughts on Geni’s Valuation of $100M

Geni, a web 2.0 genealogy site received $10M funding with a post money valuation of $100M.

I am not surprised about its funding, but I am surprised about the speed of the of the round, and the valuation.

Some background: Geni was launched a few weeks ago (I was one of the early users of the system. I stopped using it when the system crashed on the first day, and when I realized that there was no easy way to export the data). In a few short weeks it has acquired 100k registered users. Geni did a $1.5M fundraiser earlier this year from Founders Fund. And now Charles River Ventures paid a 10x valuation from the previous round, for 10% of the shares. Geni has received a lot of coverage: Venturebeat, NextNet, Techcrunch to name a few.

Geni does have a lot of buzz words associated with it; Web 2.0, Social networking, but even then, a $100M price tag sounds more like a capital fund willing to pay ANY price to get in to a hot startup, rather than refelecting the real valuation of the company. Nothing wrong with it, per se; Things are worth what others are willing to pay for it. But we have been through this before; After everything is said and done, the fundamentals have to make sense.

A $100M valuation now means that one is expecting $1B valuation at some point, which will require a revenue of $150M or so; I find it hard to imagine that a geneology website, no matter how good, can ever generate that kind of revenue.

One particular issue that depresses the value of the genealogy sites is that it is a good place to attract new users but very hard to keep them there. Most of the users will visit the site a couple of times in the first week and then never return to it. It is not going to become the next Myspace of Facebook. I wonder how many of the 100,000 initial users that Geni got have returned to the site after one or two visits? Should one really count them as users of the site?

There are also several other sites that have impressive databases: One of the biggest is The Generations Network (MyFamily.com), which owns Rootsweb.com and Ancestry.com. There are also TribalPages.com, OneGreatFamily.com, Genealogy.com and Allfamilytree.com.

George Zachary of Charles River Ventures recently commented on the valuation of Geni as:

It’s a company with global breakout potential that’s showing a clear ramp to getting there.

Back when Skype and Facebook were funded, people were surprised by the valuations in both companies. And we are seeing signs that Geni is on a similar ramp.

Well, interesting times we live in for sure!

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iLike: Friends don’t let friends listen to bad music!

ilikelogoiLike, the “social music discovery service” is a MySpace type of site, but built along one common interest - music. The thinking is that by establishing a network for friends or like minded individuals, users can discover and share music within a community setting (in fact, iLike now has a widget for sharing music recommendations on MySpace and other social websites).

ILike, which is expected to reach up to half a million registered users this month, scored a major coup late 2006, when Ticketmaster agreed to buy 25% of the shares of the company for a humongous $13.3M, putting the valuation at $53M. And this was for a 2 month old company that launched back in October of 2006!

Preference based networks have operated in two modes. Companies such as Netflix have spent a lot of money and resources on fine tuning algorithms that predict customers future movie watching preferences by using data from past selections. (Earlier we discussed the rising trend of companies that have declared large prizes to entice people to help them solve a complicated problem. Netflix did this most famously when it declared a million dollar prize for a 10% improvement in the accuracy of their algorithm for predicting customer tastes).

Community based models such as iLike, have integrated user preferences into the social networks of their members, enabling users to share music recommendations.

San Francisco based ILike, an offshoot of GarageBand, was funded in mid 2006 to the tune of $2.5M, by Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures and Bob Pitman, co founder of MTV.

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Lingotek,translation solution provider, gets $1.6M in series A-2

Lingotek, provider of meaning-based translation solutions, today announced it has secured $1.6 million in Series A-2 financing. Lingotek has developed a Web 2.0 service called the Language Search Engine to dramatically improve the translation process.

It is essentially a Google-like tool that runs in a web browser searching multilingual content. It differs from an internet search engine in two ways. First. it does meaning based searches instead of concordant searches like Google. If finds the same words with the same meaning in the same context in any language in the world. Second. it searches and indexes multilingual content stored on Lingotek servers from the community of translators around the world. It doesn’t search web pages like an internet search engine, but only indexes the world’s translated content.

The Language Search Engine searches translated content for human translators like an Internet search engine searches the Internet. It helps translators find the same words with the same meaning in the same context in any language in the world. Their software runs in a web browser and helps human translators translate faster, better and cheaper.

Tim Hunt is the founder and CEO of LingoTek. Prior to founding Lingotek, Tim was a scripture translation supervisor for the LDS Church where he was responsible for 85 of the 105 scriptures the Church has produced. While working for the Church he spent 3 months out of every year in dozens of countries worldwide.

The company received $1.7M Venture Capital funding (A-1 round) in March 2006. The current A-2 round was led by Canopy Ventures, of Lindon, Utah contributing $1 million. Previous investors including Flywheel Ventures also participated in the A-2 round.

Canopy Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm targeting information technology companies in the western United States. Its primary areas of focus include enterprise software, IP video technologies, networking and communications, security software, WI-FI broadcasting, IT hosting and software as a service.

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