GenuineVC David Beisel's Perspective on Digital Change

August 9, 2005

Yesterday, Masthead Venture Partners, along with syndicate partner Avalon Ventures, announced an initial Series A investment in InterCasting Corporation.

The company’s vision is to “enable the mobile media network revolution” by becoming the “first Location-Aware Media Networking Operator (LMNO) providing applications for personal mobile devices.” InterCasting has already launched its first application, Rabble, currently available on Verizon and soon on many other carriers’ handsets. Rabble is part blogging, part location-based personal networking application that connects individuals in a unique and intuitive way by turning “users” into “producers” with mobile user-generated content. And this product is just the beginning – as they are building a platform to create markets for many types of user-generated location-aware mobile content.

Working with both Rich Levandov and Brady Bohrmann here at Masthead, along with Steve Tomlin at Avalon, I’ve been closely involved with the deal. And like I outlined with our NewsGator investment in April, I wanted to highlight why I personally like this company and the investment in it. In short, I believe that InterCasting is at a unique intersection of “the right time & place” with “the right people to do it.”

The right time and place.
There are numerous converging trends that position this company in a unique situation. First, the company is riding the wave of the mobile phone’s transformation towards a fully integrated personal media device (PMD, as the company calls it). In addition, the rise of user-generated content as a viable mode of self-expression and information gathering, while greatly proliferating on the web, is still in its infancy in the mobile space. The introduction and of location-aware meta-data through location based services (LBS) likely later this year will also have a profound affect on mobile applications and content. And finally, the potential opening of carrier platforms because of alternative data sources and the increased acceptance of social networks as viable personal introduction & connection source also provide support for our investment thesis. Each of the previous trends plays a vital role in determining “why” this opportunity is distinctive and exciting, along with establishing the reason “why now.”

The right people to do it. Both founders, Shawn Conahan and Derrick Oien, have a true drive and passion for the business. Shawn is a real visionary to lead the company, as evidenced by the thoughtful and articulate writings on the InterCasting blog. As President of Moviso, Shawn built the company into the largest ringtone provider in North America before it was sold to InfoSpace in 2003. Derrick is equally as impressive, with a successful track record of building and running growth media business. He was both President of VUnetUSA (a division Vivendi Universal) and COO of MP3.com, leading to its sale. One testament to their ability to execute is the fact that they were able to fully develop and launch a mobile application while still in bootstrapping mode.

The perennial venture capital discussion is whether to bet on the right market or the right team. Sometimes this tradeoff is really a false dichotomy, when both are outstanding, as I believe it is in this case. There are number of exciting opportunities emerging in the mobile space, and I believe that the InterCasting ship has the wind against its back with a great crew.

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