Segway, secures $10M+ in series C. Total funding $150M

Don’t count Segway off yet! I think their ATV concept has merit and it will succeed. Perhaps not enough to recover all of the $150M invested, but it will make a nice little business.

Segway was one of the most hyped products in recent memories. OK, may iPhone was a bit more hyped but it is in the same category. The value of the media attention was in the excess of $250M, some say it was close to $1B. There was an interesting Harvard business journal article about the meeting between Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos and “ginger” the code name for Segway. Jobs hated the design and Bezos suggested starting slow. Just goes to show that you can hype it as much as you want, but ultimately the product has to be something that people want. The price point wasn’t right, safety issues were not sorted out and I think the main problem was that Segway failed to evoke “desirability”.

All of these issues work in favor of Segway for the ATV market, same price point, safer, cooler, not as noisy, and may be some beaches will let you drive the Quad ATV Centaur on the wet sand. And of course there is the golf transportation sector.

They are looking for another $20M and from the regulatory filings, they already have raised $10M+ from the sale of Series C preferred stock. I want them to survive, I envision the possibility of them roaring back as a transportation vehicle of choice in 5 to 10 years.

Via PEHub

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Why is it so hard to create a micro payment system?

Its with great sadness that we see BitPass join the long list of admirable (but failed) attempts of cracking the micro payment market.

BitPass raised a total of $13M in two rounds of financing, most of it in September 2004. The investors included Worldview Technology Partners, Steamboat Ventures (the venture capital arm of The Walt Disney Company), RRE Ventures, and others. It also had a stellar slate of directors: James Robinson III, former chairman and CEO of the American Express Company and a general partner at RRE Ventures, Peter Goettner, venture partner, Worldview, and John R. Ball, managing director, Steamboat were on the board.

Over the years we have seen so many companies try different models and the failed mainly because it is so hard to get people sign up.

If one thinks about it, the phone card companies are already using the “micro payments”; after the initial purchase of the card, subsequent calls can cost just pennies and those transactions are handled very accurately. So clearly the technology exists. We also know that the transaction cost is minimal, certainly much much less than a penny each, so the only thing needed is a way to get the initial deposit going.

In this environment, Google is probably the only company that can take-on this challenge and succeed.

The mobile carriers can also succeed if they focus on the task but I doubt that they will take this on; they are too busy trying to gouge extra money from the customers rather than looking at the next big opportunity (most mobile carriers raised their fees for text messages, even though it is getting cheaper for them to provide that service.) Instead of trying to make text messages do more things, they want to make the use of text messaging so expensive that it practically useless. There are companies trying to use text messages to offer authenticated transaction, but by making the transaction cost even higher than the cost of using a credit card, the incentive for the merchant and customer to use SMS completely disapperas. I want to be able to buy a Coke using SMS, but not if it is going to cost extra $0.50 to do it.

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Humor in investing: Funniest holiday cards from VCs

A humorous look at the life in the VC world from Blue Print Ventures. Our hero, Gary Snoman makes his millions by selling snow men and then joins the VC community. His favorite question “what about India and China?”. Yup, have heard that before umpteen number of times!

And does this sound familiar? “yes we may be interested, but we need to find out who else is interested before we get interested” Yup, been there!

Of course the collection of hilarious holiday cards from Onset Ventures in the form of a comic book Santa from 1995 onwards are precious.

My favorite one is:

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A blurb about Blurb - $2.5M financing from Hercules

Blurb, one of our favorite creative book publisher, secured a $2.5M financing from Hercules Technology Growth Capital.

Blurb is funded in parts by by Canaan Partners and Anthem Venture Partners and is making inroads in to the areas of self publishing and print on demand needs. The $2.5M infusion is in the form of debt financing.

Hercules Technology Growth Capital, is a NASDAQ traded specialty finance company providing debt and equity growth capital to technology-related companies, particularly for companies backed by venture capital and private equity firms that have already raised significant venture capital.

The print on demand and self publishing market continues to grow. Other important players in this space are Lulu, iUniverse, Xlibiris. Even Amazon acquired BookSurge in 2005 to tap in to this market.

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