Viber has to be the first case of a truly global startup to have such a huge exit.
Viber is incorporated in Cyprus, has development centers in Israel, Belarus and China, was started by Israeli entrepreneurs who live in the US and was acquired by a Japanese company.
VCs are traditionally weary of outsourced development in emerging countries, as the cost benefits are usually outweighed by the communications problems and risks of slowing down. But Viber has shown that the model can work. It is extremely hard, but with the right leadership it can definitely be done successfully, and cheaply.
My opinion is that we’ll see more and more companies trying to be truly global in the coming years, but that only a handful will be successful in doing so – potentially from serial entrepreneurs who have already managed such distribution.
There’s a lot of talk about crowdfunding and the disruption of venture capital in tech and VC circles. But while people are busy talking, VCs are hard at work at finding the next huge successes.
Techcrunch posted a very interesting story of Plain Vanilla, the makers of QuizUp. For those of you who don’t know it (where do you live?) QuizUp is a marvelous social trivia app which scored 1 million downloads in 8 days and is the top free app in the iOS App Store. It’s incredibly well executed and addictive.
The most interesting part of the story for me is the additional funding round, which in my opinion has the potential to go down as one of the best investments of the year.
Sequoia and e.ventures found about QuizUp while it was in beta and rushed like crazy to close a round and wire the money before the app launched in the store. If they had waited just one more week the round could have been extremely more expensive and crowded.
Plain Vanilla was basically faced with the following question: accept $2M from two leading investors pre-launch or wait for the launch and either raise at better terms thanks to the traction or potentially die if it does’t go that well. I think they made the right choice.
This demonstrates what sets great VCs apart. Massive congratulations to Sequoia and e.ventures for getting into it before everyone else even noticed.
I’ve been more and more interested in the venture studio / production studio / startup foundry model, and started researching different ones around the world. I’ll also have a post in the next few days on what I actually think about the model. But for now, here are the ones I found:
Idealab was started in 1996 and created some massively successful companies. They had more than 30 exits on ~75 companies created. They were involved with eToys, Overture, Shopping.com, Commission Junction and Compete.
Betaworks is a company which builds companies in. Their studio in NYC is currently focused on Bitly, Digg (which they recently acquired), Chartbeat and SocialFlow. They also double as an early-stage investor.
Hattery - acquired by Google
Hattery is a hybrid foundry, venture firm and incubator in San Francisco. They invest in companies and help them out with design and other services, as well as start their own.
Redstar is a company builder focusing on 3 different themes: aging demographics, the future of media and the underemployed. Their first startup is LoopIt.
Youweb is the incubator that spun off OpenFeint and CrowdStar.
Started by a TechCrunch co-founder, Keith Teare, Archimedes is a foundry, incubator and investor, which recently spun out Just.me
Launch Code is building a platform to launch consumer internet companies, working out of RAA Venture’s office. They’re focusing on subscription e-commerce in the beginning.
Stealthy product lab.
Celebrity entrepreneurs’ vehicles
Obvious is the factory of Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jason Goldman which spun Odeo, Twitter and more recently Medium, Branch and Lift. The founders actually recently announced that they were “closing” the foundry to each focus on a startup, as they really like to focus.
Monkey Inferno is Michael Birch’s entrepreneurial vehicle. The model is very interesting: everyone can come up with an idea, and if enough people think it’s valid, they’ll start testing it out. They’re very fast in killing the ones that don’t work, and everyone gets equity in every company created.
Sherpa is new a mixed foundry and fund headed by Shervin Pishevar and Scott Stanford. Looking forward to seeing what comes out of this, as the names behind it are really heavyweights.
HVF is Max Levchin’s new company. He seems to be focused on big-data problems with this one. Apparently Max tried the production model earlier and spun out Slide and Yelp. Not too bad. HVF stands for “HARD, VALUABLE, FUN”.
Tasty Labs - acquired by Walmart Labs
Tasty Labs is Joshua Schachter’s foundry. They’re working on Jig, Skills.to and Human.io.
Expa is Garrett Camp‘s the new holding company. He is best known for having founded StumbleUpon, Uber and Blackjet.
Prehype is a foundry which works with corporations, acting as their external R&D studio.
Cofounder.co is exactly what it sounds like. It acts as an early co-founder for your company.
Probably the most famous one, having built Alando, StudyVZ, Jamba, BigPoint and a million other clones, but most European countries have a lot of them.
Forward labs is the foundry of the Forward group, which dabbles in entrepreneurship, venture capital and private equity as well. Their model makes a lot of sense as they’re able to leverage their services in all of their companies, no matter the stage.
Fastlane is Russia’s Rocket Internet, they launch companies in 50 days out of their office in Moscow.
Germany also has Project A, Found Fair, Venture Stars, Rheingau Founders, Hanse Ventures and Founders Link, Denmark has Rainmaking, Italy has Banzai, Boox, Nana Bianca, Digital Magics and H-Farm while Switzerland has Centralway. Europe is really big on the studio model, and I’m sure I’m missing many, many of them.
Let me know the ones I missed.
The premier Chinese incubator.
DFR is an asian studio with offices in Shanghai and Tokyo.
A foundry focused on Latin America.