While we are on the topic of PlaceID and PeopleID, I should tell you about my recent visit with Plaxo’s CEO Ben Golub, and VP of Marketing John McCrea. Ben Golub was, prior to Plaxo, the CMO of Verisign. Ben’s first Silicon Valley job was cutting apricots in an orchard which was paved over to build the Apple Computer headquarters.
Plaxo’s stated mission is to become the platform that keeps people connected to everyone they care about across the social web. They hope, in some not too distant future, to become a central repository of people’s contact data, so that if I know you, and you have moved, and Plaxo knows that I know you, your movements are going to be updated on my addressbook on Plaxo, and propagated throughout the other addressbooks like my PDA, Outlook, as well as, hold your breath – the social web.
In fact, Plaxo wants to redo the social web as a consumer play now, and I get the sense that Mike Moritz, having missed out on Facebook AND MySpace, wants to take a crack at Social Networking. I came away thoroughly unconvinced about Plaxo’s social networking strategy. Besides telling me that they will do it right and everyone else is doing it wrong, I got no real sense of a vision for next generation social media.
Plaxo’s second business is a carrier business, whereby, it has signed up Comcast to become the address book repository for all of Comcast’s Triple Play customers. Other carriers are evaluating Plaxo, versus each having their own Plaxo-like service. Plaxo would like to be Switzerland, offer interoperability, and a central, global address book.
The company has so far raised $28 Million in four rounds, from Sequoia & Ram Shriram (Series A; 3/02, 11/02; $3.8M @ $7.5M post), Globespan Capital (Series B; 7/03; $8.5M @ $33.5M post), Cisco (Series C; 4/04; $7M @ $64M post), and DAG (Series D;
8/06; $9M @ $122M).
The only traction data that I was able to extract out of Ben was that Plaxo has over 15 Million users. He kept diverting my revenue question to valuation. Well, I just don’t buy the $122 Million valuation number, just as I don’t buy that Facebook is worth $10 Billion, or Geni’s CRV financing round was worth $100 Million. Technorati has tremendous usage, but no business model, and it happens to be imploding at the moment. So I am sitting here, trying to imagine why some sucker paid that kind of valuation for the company!
And it doesn’t even do PeopleID, which, if it did, might justify that valuation.
I did find one compelling nugget in Plaxo’s strategy. I couldn’t resist throwing off my journalist hat, and putting on the consultant one at the end, and told Ben, that if he could bring together all the Telecom carriers around the world (and Postal Services) and get them to use Plaxo as the central address repository, that would be really cool. REALLY COOL.
This repository, could, indeed, also become the administrator of the PeopleID. Hey Ben, remember Verisign?
Anyway, in a nutshell, while we’re on the topic of PeopleID and PlaceID, I wanted to bring up Plaxo as one of the best positioned
companies to attack the PeopleID problem. In doing so, however, I would seriously advise them to forget the juvenile social media ideas. And focus.
This segment is a part in the series : Web 3.0