Yesterday, Swedish streaming movie startup Voddler announced 35 million kronor in new funding to help “develop the service.” It was also announced that Bertil Villard of lawfirm Vinge would be taking a board position at the company. It was not announced who the money came from. So, how about some entirely rational speculation on whos handing out cash like that to companies with a very uncertain business model and and even more uncertain technical capability, shall we?
First, lets look at the facts. 35 million kr is not a lot of money. Especcially not when you consider that Spotify’s A-round was over €15 million, and arguably, both the licensing costs and infrastructure required to stream movies are much, much higher. Second, no venture firm is claiming credit for the investment, and a lawyer is taking a board position and not a “VC-guy.” This is potentially worrying since even the best connected corporate lawyers fall short of being considered “smart money.” Since thier connections are usually with other corporate lawyers, politicians, and finance types, not the tech and media masters that Voddler will need if they intend to scale and, you know, BE SUCCESSFUL. So, where did that secret money come from, and why aren’t they talking?
There are several possibilities. Given Vinge’s and Mr. Villard, Esq.’s experience with private equity and other assorted M&A stuff, it could be that he’s fronting a group of wealthy individual investors who are caught up in the Spotify hype, or even the general movie and showbiz hype. Hey, it’s happened before. This could mean that Voddler needs money but was turned down by established VC firms, and had to go this route. Not an outstanding sign as far as active ownership is concerned, but could leave the door open for more money later without changing the board.
The other main possibility is that it is real VC money, but there is a conflict of interest with another portfolio company, and so the investment has to be concealed. One of the movie studios themselves could also be the investor, and would surely be backing several different companies, and might not want to favor one over another.
Who’s really behind this little “A-and-a-half” round won’t be known until Voddler has become the “new black” and it seems safe to brag about it. So…maybe never.