VCs Pump $18.8M Into Skype
The company has signed up 3.5 million registered users of its free VOIP-enabling software since its launch last August, with founder Niklas Zennstrom and his team providing numerous upgrades and additional free features since then (see Skype Offers Free Conference Calling, Skype Adds Asian Languages, and Skype Rings Jingle Bells). It's not known how many of those who've registered are regular, active users.
The company is to use its new funding to add to the current 30 or so on staff, and develop further features and applications that will be part of the paid-for premium service Skype is planning to launch later this year.
The new funding round is led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Index Ventures; the identities of other investors are not being revealed.
The firm's undiclosed initial funding round closed in mid-December. That cash came from Tim Draper (as an individual investor), Draper Investment Co., Bessemer Venture Partners, and Mangrove Capital Partners.
With its large, and growing, user base, Skype represents a bit of a threat to the established voice players, as the quality of its service has led telecom industry analysts such as Kevin Mitchell at Infonetics Research Inc. -- and not just students and other bargain-hunters -- to use and praise the service.
And the upstart has clearly got under the skin of established carriers looking at ways to corner the VOIP market for themselves, as it was singled out for a verbal assault at last week's VOIP service launch by BT Group plc (NYSE: BTY; London: BTA) (see BT Does VOIP – With Strings Attached). BT Retail's director of online services Andrew Burke described Skype as "primitive" compared with BT's new offering, quipping that the company was aptly named, as "there's a lot of hype around Skype."
No one was available from Skype to respond to talk about its plans for paid-for premium services that might counter BT's "primitive" jibe. Zennstrom, the only Skyper who's allowed to talk to the media, is currently traveling. He did, though, give us his view of the world last summer as he was preparing to launch Skype (see KaZaA Founder, Niklas Zennstrom).
This year is shaping up to be a critical year for the development of VOIP applications that will bring packet voice services further into the mainstream, and Light Reading's sister site for the service provider industry, Boardwatch, is running a poll on the subject: click on this link to add your vote.
Today also brought encouraging news for one of Skype's key suppliers, Global IP Sound AB, which announced a new deployment (see WebEx Chooses Global IP Sound). The vendor's technology provides echo cancellation capabilities and enables Skype's software to translate analog voice into digital packets.
— Ray Le Maistre, International Editor, Boardwatch
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