UK mobile voice-to-SMS provider Spinvox recently won business with Telefonica (NYSE: TEF) in Latin America. It’s easily its biggest carrier deal so far. Any more like that, though, the company may need new growth finance…
“You’ve got to remember that if I get another two or three deals like this — which will inevitably happen in the next few months — I’m going to have to scale up my business to support that,” co-founder Daniel Doulton told me.
“The nature of the beast is that you have forward-invest to support that.” The company’s $100 million second round funding last March was one of the biggest European VC deals of 2008. Doulton says Spinvox is fine for now, but will “probably” need more cash sometime soon — it all depends on how fast it grows in next nine months.
– Where next for Spinvox?: The horizon may look sunny for Spinvox, but, despite 27 international deals it still doesn’t have a carrier on board at home in the UK and is still at the stage where it’s “shaping and defining” its own segment, Doulton says, but: “We’re now at the stage where networks see the benefit of this for all of their users. It’s become a standard feature for everybody and that’s a real tipping point for change.”
Doulton says Spinvox carriers like Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) in Spain have seen SMS and voicemail rise by between five and 25 percent annually. What next? Expect some paid-for add-ons from next year: “We are working on a whole roadmap of additional features… this is only the beginning — you have to build out the platform before you can do the other things you want to do.” Possible new features may include social network integration for carrier services and enhanced B2B voice products.
– UK deal?: One market Spinvox hasn’t quite cracked is its native UK. What chance is there that customers of O2 — the exclusive iPhone carrier in the UK and a Telefonica subsidiary — could get Spinvox SMS built in? Doulton won’t comment specifically but says: “There will be similar deals. I don’t mean this as sitting back after the Telefonica deal: this gives the other networks proof points of the value of the network at scale. In Europe and other parts of the world you’ll see similar deployments, whether it’s email, SMS, applications on the iPhone or Android, IM or Facebook. That will happen.”
– Recession: There aren’t many companies expanding at quite the rate Spinvox is — it’s begun expanding its 350-stong staff both in the UK and abroad to keep up with its carrier deals. Could the recession have helped it? Doulton: “Well, it has: timing is everything and in terms of the recession and where networks are we are tapping into SMS and voice — it’s not a big 3G, 4G risky product that involves a lot of investment… it’s an EBITDA pill.”