This year has become the “show-me” year. Internet start-ups showing no traction are getting shut down, or trimmed — abandoned by once wide-eyed investors.
The Web 2.0 bubble is bursting, but VentureBeat agrees with others that this is more like an “oozing.” New, innovative companies will continue to get funding from VCs, but with more caution. Investments amounts in Web 2.0, while booming, are so far nowhere near the absurd levels seen during the 1999-2000 period (see the Hornik-Dagres debate about this here), so the wreckage won’t cause as much pain. Back in 2000, trillions of dollars of market value were lost, because the entire U.S. economy had gotten sucked up into it. This time, not so.
Still, some pain there is.
Peerflix, the DVD-swapping company, is the latest company to lay off employees, VentureBeat has learned. The Menlo Park, Calif. company has shut its Canadian office, cutting an undisclosed number of workers, founder Billy McNair confirmed. We heard the company may have cut a quarter of its workfroce, but McNair wouldn’t provide any details. These appear to be the first layoffs hitting the “swapping platform” sector. See our piece last year about Peerflix, where McNair’s optimism stands in stark contrast to today. This company’s business model has been controversial from the start, as you’ll see from the comments.
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In other developments:
FilmLoop close to death — FilmLoop, of Palo Alto, Calif., has reportedly laid off most of its staff of 30 employees after failing to find a buyer. The company raised $7 million in venture capital just eight months ago, from ComVentures. Co-founder Prescott Lee and a few others remain. FilmLoop let users create photo slide shows on websites, something that several other players let you do — from Slide, to Rockyou and Photobucket. Note our skepticism back when it raised its cash. It was very late to the game.
Jobster confirms layoffs — Rumors began last year. Jobster confirms 60 people, or 41 percent of its worforce, have been cut (its entire sales and support staff).
…meanwhile, consolidation in social networking continues — The German Facebook clone, StudiVZ has been sold for a reported 85 million Euros (less than the earlier reports suggested), to Holtzbrick Verlag, a German publishing giant that had invested earlier in StudiVZ.
…and the new ideas don’t seem that compelling — Decentral.tv, the San Rafael, Calif. start-up raised $2.3 million several months ago to launch “interactive broadcast broadband communities,” which we called vague at the time, but said we’d wait to see. Now it is apparently launching Kyte.tv, which offers video channels you can watch online or on mobile phones. We could be wrong (we’re relying on other accounts), but it doesn’t seem to push things forward. This follows plans by Old Media folks to launch Next New Networks, the latest niche video company — having raised $8 million — with nothing yet to show. Are they getting religion too late, or can they leverage their network to launch something compelling anyway? Time will tell. But companies that raise cash first, before launching and getting users, are rarely successes — though there are exceptions.
Similar thoughts, too for Twistage, based in San Francisco and New York, yet another start-up offering companies a way to use video on their own sites. It has raised under $1 million in angel funding, and moved into the Looksmart building in SF, reports Liz Gannes. Backers are Computer Associates chairman Lewis Ranieri and Jerry Colonna, formerly of Flatiron Partners. Several other companies are doing this, including Brightcove, Reality Digital (see our post here), vSocial and GridNetworks. On the hopeful side, thousands of companies will want to incorporate video into their sites in sophisticated ways, but on the downside, the technology is quickly becoming a commodity.
Othes putting off VC plans — Some companies are giving up looking for cash, in part because many VCs are getting skeptical. One very well known Web 2.0 investor tells VentureBeat he’s made his last Web 2.0 investment, though he didn’t want his name disclosed. One valley-based company Mojeo, originally told VentureBeat it would look to raise VC money to bolster its service to let people find out more local information on their mobile phones — by sharing their location with companies Yahoo, Google and Upcoming. Co-founder Mike Prince told VentureBeat that he and co-founder Dave Sutter have instead returned their focus to their day jobs, and passing on getting cash for now — though will continue to push Mojeo forward.