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It’s been over a year since we covered Skyrider, and for good reason: We hadn’t heard anything more since the company revealed its business plan, based around monetizing peer-to-peer networks with ads, in late 2006.
In the space of about three months, we’d reported that Skyrider raised first $8 million, then $12 million more from Sequoia Capital, Charles River Ventures and ComVentures. Hopes appeared to be high, but some recent digging suggests that the company may have run into trouble.
The basic idea behind Skyrider is that P2P sharing networks like eDonkey and Gnutella (also known by the programs that use their protocols, including Morpheus and Limewire) receive massive amounts of search traffic from people looking for files to download. But unlike Internet search, which is monetized by giants like Google, ads don’t automatically pop up on P2P searches.
Skyrider, which began life as anti-piracy firm CRight, stumbled upon a clever way to force ads into search results by posing as users with highly relevant files to share. The idea must have seemed like a good one — it’s rare that two venture fundings come as close together as they did for the company in late 2006.
But then came the silence. No news or appearances came from the company, and, tellingly, Skyrider vanished at some point from Sequoia’s list of portfolio companies. (Update: Looks like I’m incorrect, it actually is on there at this point.)
However, there’s reason to believe Skyrider hasn’t gone to the scrap-heap. Finance documents recently sent by a source to VentureBeat reveal that the company has raised $5 million more. The funding is listed as a series A-1 round, which may mean the company has gone through a restructuring of some sort.
Although contacts at the company either didn’t respond or let us know that they had moved on, we did manage to get in touch with a current investor. He asked to remain unnamed, but did tell us that the technology behind Skyrider is “incredible” and “totally wicked.”
And the idea still sounds valid, as well. Despite an apparent gradual decline in users (excluding Bittorrent), P2P networks still have millions of users. So what went wrong? Perhaps search software adapted to block the ads, or the idea was just too early. But hey, if you’ve got a better idea, let us know — could Skyrider still succeed?