Halsey Minor, the founder of CNET, has struggled the past few years to find a second hit. He has buried vast amounts of dollars into several San Francisco-based efforts, many of them twists and turns from previous incarnations.
None of which have taken off. So he is starting another company aptly named Swivel, this time with an apparent focus to help bloggers and small businesses track real time traffic and advertising stats. Dan Farber, at ZDNet, has the full story.
Minor’s main company until now, Grand Central Communications, has gobbled through about $60 million in investments, and hasn’t won too many customers, and so now Minor apparently is starting afresh, recapitalizing the company, in the form of Swivel, and looking for a new set of investors.
We haven’t looked too closely at this. But to summarize, as Farber tells it, Swivel is basically a continuation of Minor’s previous effort at San Francisco’s Grand Central Communications, which sought to…
sell a way to integrate Web services on a single platform for big companies. But this time, Swivel narrows its focus considerably: Traffic, ad and commerce stats. It integrates metrics across multiple Web commerce platforms, such as Google Adsense, Amazon Associates, or Yahoo Publisher and so on.
Swivel says it is applying the Grand Central hosted integration platform concept, and integrating with salesforce.com (Minor was an early investor in the company), PayPal, Intuit, eBay and various shopping sites.
We’re wondering, though, if this is the same sort of complicated partnership play as we’ve seen in the past. Minor has really tried hard with the whole incubation concept, and yet it hasn’t worked. Integration is one thing, and perhaps this time he has simplified this to a straight-forward arms-length process with each player. But the same names keep popping up. Marc Benioff, of Salesforce.com fame, for example, was appointed board member two years ago at Grand Central (though we see Benioff has since disappeared). And as mentioned, Minor was an early investor in the company. So it is a surprise that Minor is focusing on integrating Swivel early with Salesforce? Perhaps this makes sense, though, to help users create a single dashboard to track all their stats efficiently.
And Minor has probably learned his lesson by now. Remember, during the boom era, he started 12 Entrepreneuring, an incubator company for Web companies once valued at $750 million, which he was forced to shut down. Minor peeled off to continue work on Grand Central, one of the three start-ups 12 incubated, and which he told the Merc a few years ago was his real passion, and reason for why he left CNET.
And in October 2004, Minor put up $50 million of his own money to form On Demand Venture Capital Fund, which was supposed to incubate startups that would be customers of Grand Central’s hosted integration platform — another complicated sort of relationship thingy (at least, it seems so from the outside, without looking at it closely).
At Swivel, former BEA and current Grand Central executive Brian Mulloy is rumored to be Swivel’s top executive, Farber reports.