Most entrepreneurs we talked with this week said it would be crazy to go up against Google or Yahoo to try to become a mobile phone homepage destination for search, and so they’re biting off little parts.
Here’s our Mercury News story today about the handful of start-ups that want to serve you information via mobile phone.
Note that 4Info‘s Pankaj Shah is an exception. He wants to take on the big guys, by eventually offering such a mobile homepage for search. As we reported earlier, he is offering a text message service via 4Info (you message 44636) for things like sports scores and movie times. And he announced a deal Tuesday with Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper company, which calls for an investment by Gannett into the Palo Alto start-up and for Gannett’s properties, including USA Today, to heavily promote the service.
How did Shah swing such a sweet deal? Why, with Silicon Valley connections of course. Chris McGill, who negotiated…
the deal for USA Today, used to work for Ellen Siminoff, an early angel investor in 4Info. The two had stayed in touch, and Siminoff suggested McGill get in touch with Shah. The rest, as they say, is history… (The terms of deal weren’t disclosed, including the exact amount invested, but we used some inside knowledge and some math to estimate that the amount was at least $1 million, and probably more. Shah wouldn’t comment).
Note that we also mention in the story a bunch of fresh start-ups that are offering free directory assistance voice calls. One we didn’t mention San Diego company, 800ideas.com, because we were focused mainly on Silicon Valley start-ups. But it is worth noting that you can use it here, by dialing local versions of its 800 number. For San Francisco, you’d dial 1-800-SAN-FRANCISCO, or for San Jose, you’d ring 1-800-SAN-JOSE. But it’s not as convenient as the nation-wide numbers offered by inFreeDA or Jingle, which we mentioned in the story.
Correction: In the Merc story we linked to above, we misspelled the name of a company that is doing much the same as 4Info, only is doing it for third-parties. The correct name is Synfonic.