Zillow gets zillions more

Zillow.com, the real estate site, is taking in money hand over fist. The latest is another $30 million, which brings in the total haul at $87 million. Om Malik called them the Naomi Campbell of Fundanistas! The latest investors are Legg Mason, joining Benchmark Capital and Technology Crossover Ventures and PAR capital from the previous round. According to Spencer Rascoff, CFO, the capital will be used for expanding the team and building new products. All this is bringing back fond memories of the last bubble.

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TechCrunch40 top company award: Everything Mint is Yodlee again!

ImageWe have all been following the excitement over Tech Crunch 40, and then the top company award was announced, and I had to do a double take!! Mint won the $50,000 award - for “an impressive personal finance application”.

Anyone remember Yodlee?

ImageYodlee has had a patented personal finance application since August of ‘99. It allows secure one-stop access of all financial (bank) accounts, mortgage accounts, brokerage accounts and airlines mileage accounts. The dashboard adds up all balances in the asset and liability accounts, and provides a quick net worth summary. The program has tons of other knick-knacks such as tracking spending month by month.

I have used Yodlee Moneycenter for a couple of years now, and it is one of the best web based apps that I have ever used.

Mint seems to have fewer features than Yodlee, and Yodlee has a commanding head-start (they launched back in ‘99) with several thousand financial institutions that they are compatible with.

The funny thing is that a couple of years ago, I was approached by someone promising “to find funding” for exactly this idea, if I would come up with a business plan for the latest and greatest “personal finance application”. I did some research that showed that financial aggregators, as they are called, are nothing new. 10’s of companies have been built around this same idea, all touting very similar features.

Country Provider / Service name
AUG 99′ US VerticalOne launched
SEP 99′ US Yodlee launched
JUN 00′ US AOL “AOL Personal Finance” is announced.
JUL 00′ US CitiBank “My Citi” launched
AUG 00′ US Yahoo “Yahoo Finance” launched.
SEP 00′ AUSTRALIA eWise launched & AMP “Account Minder” launched.
OCT 00′ US Chase Manhattan Bank “Chase Online Plus” launched.
FEB 01′ US Merrill Lynch “My financial picture” launched.
US American Express “Account Profile” launched
MAR 01′ US Wells Fargo “Wells Outlook” launched.
US Fleet Boston “smallbizfleet” launched
JUN 01′ AUSTRALIA Macquarie Bank “Enrichment” launched
KOREA Hanvit Bank “e-Clips” launched
JUL 01′ AUSTRALIA nineMSN “Account Master” launched
SEP 01′ JAPAN Monex securities ” Money Station” is announced.
OCT 01′ JAPAN Nomura Security is announced
JAN 02′ JAPAN E*trade “Money Look” launched

* From E-aggregation: The present and future of aggregation services in Asia Pacific, Fujii et al.

The technology for building a financial aggregation software has been around (all over the world) for a while.

What really needs to be understood was why so many companies have come into the market and exited, and have not been able to make a go in the personal financial landscape. (Needless to say, when I told the “VC representative” that this kind of software had been done many times over, and not worth doing again, he was not very thrilled!).

CashEdge provides a similar service and has relationships with about 500 financial institutions. MSN Money also has personal financial management software.


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Wixi does media sharing differently

Wixi Logo New

A new startup called Wixi puts a twist on media sharing by giving each person that registers on their site a virtual desktop to arrange their pictures, movies and audio files, with storage space to boot.

Once you upload a file, it appears on your “desktop.” From there, you can drop it into an existing folder, create a new folder for it, or, if you’re like me, you’ll just let it sit there because you like to clutter things. Any type of video or sound file you upload is automatically converted to Wixi’s “universal media player” flash format, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues (the system is licensed from the guys that do the same thing for DailyMotion). Once it’s there, other friends you have on Wixi can check it out, or you can distribute it outside of the program via a permalink or embeddable player. One of the really cool options Wixi has when it comes to media sharing is privacy options. The app lets you select specific privacy settings for each piece of media you upload. If you only want a certain friend knowing that you uploaded the music video for that one Madonna song you like but never tell anyone about, Wixi lets you do that.

The upload utility itself is still a work in progress. Although Wixi says you will eventually be able to upload multiple files at once (a feature that is definitely needed), currently you can only do one at a time. Also, right now the files have to be on your local hard drive, but according to a button that’s currently inoperable you will be able to point it to the url of a file on the web and Wixi will grab it.

This is one of those Web 2.0 ideas that doesn’t just sound cool in theory, but seems like something that I’ll actually use. Wixi’s creator points out that although there are a lot of different places out there to upload media (Flickr, YouTube, etc), there’s nowhere to aggregate it all in one place. Facebook has some limited functionality in this area now that you can post videos and images. However, Wixi really blows it out of the water when it comes to privacy options for individual files. Also, FB just isn’t set up to focus on the media area. Wixi fills this gap. It may even find itself a future acquisition target.

Wixi, based out of New York, just premiered at TechCrunch40. Check out TC’s coverage for a password that allows you to beta test the app.

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Facebook launches fund focused on apps

Facebook LogoMark Zuckerberg announced today at TechCrunch40 that Facebook is launching “fbFund.” The fund, which is done in cooperation with Accel Partners and The Founders Fund, will focus solely on the creation of new Facebook applications. The investment total? $10 million, with $25,000-$250,000 going towards each different app. Zuckerberg says that apart from having exclusive first-in rights for any company that sees a first round of financing, there will be no equity exchanged for the money, which will essentially be given in the form of a grant.

The investment committee is made up of Zuckerberg, Chamath Palihapitaya (Facebook’s V.P. of product marketing and operations), and Facebook board members Jim Breyer from Accel Partners and Peter Thiel from The Founders Fund. Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn) and Rajeev Motwani (early Google advisor) are also acting as advisors.

The creation of this fund seemingly contradicts a comment made during Zuckerberg’s keynote speech at TC40 earlier today in which he explained that the app system was not designed for startups to be built solely around a Facebook application, but that companies should have a non-Facebook presence as well. As the F8 platform’s short history has shown, apps that are anchored to non-FB sites that have an established user base are, predictably, generally more successful than those that are on FB only: iLike was able to pitch their FB app to the user base of Garageband.com, the founder of the popular app “Food Fight” used his existing Trakzor.com property (3.5m registered users) to promote his app, etc. (article about the start of these and other apps found here).

News of this fund comes after Stanford announced a course in the Computer Science department that the university will offer this fall titled “Create Engaging Web Applications Using Metrics and Learning on Facebook.” Also, Graphing Social Patterns, a “new conference devoted to building and distributing apps on the Facebook platform,” will take place Oct. 7-9 in San Jose, Calif.

Business plans may be mailed to platform AT facebook DOT com.

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