Can you name one successful mobile software start-up, e.g. one that sold for $100m+ and generated nice returns to its VCs? If you cannot come up with a name, you might agree with a VC partner I recently met, who claimed that Mobile has so far been the graveyard of VC money. With that in mind, I went crawling the web for the successful mobile exits.
The mobile telecoms industry is one of a mere few trillion-dollar industries, like automobiles, tourism and military. It generates more revenues than either the advertising, TV, Internet or software industries. Is it conceivable that despite its size it did not produce a single YouTube, Flickr, Hotmail, Skype or a Facebook?
I tried hard, but really could not find a single big exit for a mobile start-up. There are only a few that could be considered runner-ups to the titles “successful” but each has its issues:
- AdMob is still private but going after the big prize of the #1 mobile advertising network. They might make it to a $100m+ sale but with CPMs plummeting they will have to hang in there for a few more years at least.
- Zyb generated a nice return to its VC but was still only a $49m deal.
- M:Metrics at $44m, was not a huge deal either.
- Loopt is still private, well hyped and with zero revenues, despite ABI’s dreamed-up target of $3bn for this segment. With Google Latitude zero rating location-based-services, I doubt if their revenue model will stand.
- JumpTap has with already raised $73m in funding since ’05, so I sure want to see how they drive a 3-5x return with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft buying operator deals for nine-figure sums.
- Don’t get me started about MVNOs like this one, or this one or any of these ones.
- Others like Shozu, Amobee are even further away from becoming the next big thing.
Unless someone can come up with a start-up which I have missed, it does indeed look like Mobile has been a graveyard for VC money so far.