Sunday, April 13, 2008

FON raises more money...

But is it good news?
FON the Spanish company that wants all of us to share our broadband connection through wifi announced last week that they raised another $9.5 million in a C round.
Now while this might sound like good news I have my doubts.
Look at these facts:

- In February 2006 Google Inc., Index Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Skype Technologies SA invested $21.5 million in FON.
- Last year the same investors coughed up another $13 million.
- Now they announce an additional investment of $9.5 million led by Coral Capital Management, a Minneapolis-based venture capital arm of Sistema, Russia´s leading telecommunications company, and strategic partner British Telecom PLC.
- FON's CEO Martin Varsavsky announces this news in the same blog-post that mentions
tough markets, bad market conditions and having to spend less money.
- FON has reduced their burn rate from an innitial $1.5 million p/m but still manage to accumulate losses of $800K per month in the last half year.
- A lot of people that bought FON's cheap routers reflashed and put them to a different use or just unplugged them.

It has also become clear to me, through discussions with "Foneras", that the amount of traffic going through FON's voluntary network is relatively low. So that's a lot of routers shipped, hard cash spent on their back-end but relative low return (by the looks of it). I wonder if their progress is measured by revenue or profit?
Another point is why in this third round of funding has not been less interesting for Google Inc., Index Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Skype? Surely if their previous funding had led to favourable results they would not allow a number of outside investors to come in and get a slice of the pie. Especially seeing that this C round funding came at a premium to previous investment as stated here.
Now I can see why BT invested. BT recently entered in a big partnership with FON and that would end as a fiasco if FON would run out of funding. The other main investor is Coral Capital Management, a Minneapolis-based venture capital arm of Sistema (Russia´s leading telecommunications company). I just wonder if FON's announcment of an expansion into Russia is a condition for this investment...
They also announce the launch of the Fonera 2.0 (the fonera that uploads and downloads stuff to and from the internet while you are doing something else with your laptop). I just wonder what this "stuff" is and how happy Foneras are to have this happen...
Would it be that they are building a P2P network and will use spare capacity on your laptop or networks hard drives to store data?

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