The public life of this story is getting very weird. First, if you haven’t already, take a look at our original entry about this.
Now, as Ben points out in comments of that entry, some of the early adware practices were apparently present at Gator at the time TCV invested. So, that changes our
non-story story slightly. When we spoke with TCV partner John Drew, he told us that he “went back to the records” of TCV’s original Gator investment at the time, and couldn’t find any evidence of the adware practice. He told us he was relatively new at the firm, and so wasn’t around when the investment was made. He also told us he didn’t want to give us the name of the TCV partner who first invested in Gator — to protect his privacy, he said (tad bit of irony here). So we’re not quite to the bottom of this non-scandal story yet. We appreciate the comments by TechDirt that we “did what reporters do and checked” the facts, but we just didn’t have time do it all. Here we are again, relying on readers to supply the full facts. But as Primack and some others suggest, even if TCV did know, we’re still not sure this is really a big deal.
But put all that aside. Check out the story Business Week just ran (sorry, we don’t have working link because it requires a password, but have included a few relevant graphs below), which is where things get bizarre. In a story dated March 21, BW implies, by not providing the dates, that the dual investments in adware and anti-spyware were made simultaneously — which is increasingly obvious wasn’t the case. True, we’re taking TCV’s word that they haven’t had anything to do with the Claria for years, but the fact is, the Claria investment was made years ago. The only person BW quotes is Ben, who in his comments to us says there may, or may not, have been a conflict.
HEADLINE: The Hand That Bytes You
BYLINE: By Jessi Hempel Edited by Ira Sager
Who likes those ubiquitous online pop-up ads planted by intrusive spyware? Technology Crossover Ventures is betting few do. The Silicon Valley venture-capital firm is helping to finance the anti-spyware company Webroot Software.
But it appears to be hedging that bet with a sizable investment in Claria, a company vilified for spreading spyware. Claria has drawn criticism and legal action from media behemoths such as Dow Jones, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. They say the privately held Redwood City (Calif.) company, called Gator until 2003, used pop-up ads to snare viewers from their Web sites. The suit was settled, and Claria no longer delivers pop-ups to those sites. But more than 40 million Web surfers viewed Claria ads last year. TCV has pumped at least $13 million into Claria, but it has removed the company from a list of investments on its Web site.
Critics wonder why TCV would make dual investments. “Users are rubbed the wrong way by even the suggestion that the same companies that made this mess are now profiting from helping to clean it up,” says Harvard University researcher and spyware expert Ben Edelman. TCV declined to comment. There is a similar element in both ventures: the potential to make money.