Lot’s going on in Silicon Valley’s start-up/finance world:


In Limbo — BusinessWeek’s DealFlow points us to Limbo, a San Mateo mobile game start-up that raised $1.1 million in December from VC firms Azure Venture Partners and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The first service is a hybrid of game and auction. From DealFlow: The lowest unique bid wins the auctioned item, and everyone else gets “loot” that can be redeemed for merchandise. In other words, nobody loses (hmm, and how does Limbo make money?).
Limbo indeed.

He’s got it all — Toni Schneider has left his post at Yahoo, where he was responsible for developing many of its Web 2.0-like initiatives, and is becoming a VC and a chief executive. Yep, the cake and…

icing too. He is joining the latest valley VC firm, called True Ventures, made up of the following: Braughm Ricke, VP of Finance, formerly of 5AM Ventures, Artiman Ventures, Sofinnova; John Burke, General Partner, formerly of Blacksmith Capital, ABS Ventures, BMI Software; Jon Callaghan, General Partner, formerly of Globespan Capital, @Ventures, Summit Partners; Phil Black, General Partner, formerly of Blacksmith Capital, ABS Ventures, Summit Partners; and Schneider himself, Venture Partner, formerly of Yahoo!, Oddpost, Aureal Semiconductor. Note that Callaghan and Black recently invested together in Meebo. Schneider blogs about his move to become a venture partner here.

And if venture partner isn’t enough, Schneider is also becoming CEO at San Francisco’s Automattic, the blog provider company launched by Matt Mullenweg to manage WordPress.

What’s with these numbers?Om says the folks from 83 degrees have gotten together and formed a calendar product called 30 Boxes, which “will be to calendars what Gmail was to Email,” though the product is still not publicly available.

Active Decisions — Here’s the Mercury News story about the San Mateo company that has developed a computerized wine matchmaking kiosk, enabling customers to walk into a store, plug in a bit of information about their beverage preferences and get recommendations on wines they’ll like. Like many good wines, this company is an older vintage. It has raised $40 million since 1998. Several food stores and discount chains are in discussions about installing the company’s Active Wine Advisor by May, Chief Executive Jeff Dunn said. “We believe there are tens of millions of wine drinkers like myself who enjoy wine, but don’t know wine that well,” Dunn said.

An occasional wine drinker who heavily salts his food, puts plenty of sugar in his coffee and hates diet sodas would be matched with Beringer White Zinfandel, 2004 or St. Supery Moscato, 2004, an Italian wine.

We can’t wait to taste this Zinfandel.

One thing Silicon Valley has got going for it — We don’t have many seventh-generation former millionaires who complain they are homeless (sub required) and destitute on $36,000 a year (even if that’s true if you live out here).

Thomas Weisel IPO in trouble? — In an unusual move, Goldman Sachs, one of two underwriters set to take the investment bank Thomas Weisel Partners public, has pulled out of the deal, a person briefed on the situation said last night, according to the NYT. According to its prospectus, Thomas Weisel Partners earned profit of $22.7 million on net revenue of $283.4 million in 2004. But for the nine months ended on Sept. 30, 2005, the firm lost $13.1 million on net revenues of $178.2 million. Which raises the question: Why do we need another publicly traded investment bank?

Apple switches to AtherosApple made the switch from Broadcom chips, but why? Haven’t the foggiest. Atheros, in Silicon Valley, is located only about 10 miles away from Apple. So maybe its easier for their sales people to wine and dine the Apple procurement team?

PlayFirst has competition — The Merc reported last week that PlayFirst, a San Francisco video game maker, raised $5 million more in venture backing. And Dean Takahashi, our Mercury News colleague who blogs about gaming, posts about it here. Alarm:clock notes PlayFirst has several competitors.

So alpha it hurts — After the hype, we’ve got dia-riya: My experience with Riya’s alpha release has been very disappointing. Well, to start with, it is probably my fault because I had high expectations, especially after I read this on Wired “Currently in alpha testing, the software has proven sensitive enough to tell the difference between twins and recognize members of the same family.”. Forget twins, Riya failed to recognize the exact same snap of the same person. In my testing, Riya failed at some very basic image recognition test cases. We suspected the Wired piece was a bit hyped when we first read it. It is too bad, because this only damages Riya’s rep.


Closed store at iBloks — San Francsico-based iBloks, a social networking play that is a bit hard to grasp, has raised $500K in angel funding, according to Alarm:clock. iBloks was founded in August 2005, and casts itself as “Flickr meets MySpace meets xfire meets video games.” The company gives consumers a tool to mix images and songs with puzzles, but they can’t use iTunes. It wants to sells media bits to help users to build their portfolios for $.99, but when we went to their online shop, it was still closed. Ok, we are in a bit of a punchy mood this morning. And while we’re at it, what’s with the letter “i” in front of these names? inods, iBloks, imeem…..enough, already…imtired. In any case, Alarm:clock notes the interesting investors in iBloks: Michael Ostin, former Warner Music and Dreamworks exec; Freddy DeMann, founding partner of Maverick Recording; and Maurice Marciano, founder of Guess – the apparel company.

Sharing video on mobile — Talk about hot intersection. Mywavez, a Menlo Park developer of mobile video-sharing solutions, has raised $3.04 million in Series A funding led by Menlo Ventures, according to PE Week. The company’s site, www.mywavez.com, shows it is still in its earliest days.

MailFrontier/Scalix get more cash — Topping up the kitchen sink this morning are two fundings by Silicon Valley start-ups we’ve covered before at the Merc. Palo Alto email security company, MailFrontier, has raised $1.5 million in a third round, according to PE Week. Backers include New Enterprise Associates, Menlo Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The company has raised $16.5 million in total VC funding since its 2002 inception. Meanwhile, Scalix, of San Mateo, a Linux email platform for large companies, has drawn $6 million of its $6.8 million second round. Return backers include Mayfield, Mohr, Davidow Ventures and New Enterprise Associates. We mentioned Scalix’s struggle for mindshare in this piece about Zimbra.

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