Motricity acquires Infospace mobile assets

Now, this is a big deal: Motricity puts $135m in cash onto the table of the under-pressure Infospace people to acquire the remains of the Infospace mobile business, including search, storefronts, portals and messaging. The deal was financed by existing investors Carl Icahn and VC Advanced Equities (see reporting from MoCoNews here and here).

The acquisition marks the end of an odyssey into mobile by Inforspace, in which it first acquired and then effectively destroyed some of the brightest stars on the mobile content sky, including game developers Atlas (bought for $6m, sold for $1.5m), Elkware (bought for some $26m and then closed) and IOMO (bought for $15m, then closed in August 2007) as well as ringtone giants Moviso. They lost people, money and ultimately the businesses (e.g. IOMO's founders have recently opened their new shop, Finblade). What a battlefield...

Motricity's, so far predominantly a platform and storefront provider, entrant into the increasingly competitive content publishing space comes at a time where more and more players try to extend their reach on the value chain: one sees platform providers expanding into master content provider relationships, one sees publishers (e.g. Player X) seizing the same position, and all are in a quest to concentrate enough revenue and margin in order to be able to run a profitable business in an environment where still the majority of players are losing money.

The challenge for Motricity will be to grow its business outside the US, and this is arguably where the risks are hiddedn. In the US, the company claims to have now grown their distribution footprint to 11 of "top 13" North American carriers (which leave another 10 that are apparently not top), which however seems OK since they add two of the biggies which they couldn't reach before, namely mighty Verizon and AT&T (I still prefer the name Cingular!). The gamble is arguably being mitigated by the presumed synergies through the search, portal and messaging business, and this is where I suspect the balance of risk lies in respect of the financial considerations: because it harnesses Motricity's existing business, the venture into the publishing side of things appears somewhat less risky. All in all, a deal that might just make sense; if the money is adequate? Who could say? What proportion of growth will come through which part of the business? Hmmm. There have been deals that, on the face of it, looked more reckless in the past (remember the seemingly atrocious $145m Jamdat paid for Blue Lava [incl. $8m non-breakup fee to Tetris, LLC])? It paid off for them as then EA bought them for a rather sweet $680m. I would not suggest that the same will happen to Motricity although, looking at the monies invested into them to date, it will just about have to be the exit its investors are looking to.

1 comment:

  1. Well, that was inevitable... Aggregators, aggregators, aggregators... pur-leeeese!

    There are so many of them trying to carve their niche as middle men that its hard to understand where they are getting 1/ their deals and 2/ their volume - clearly they need volume to survive... hence the earlier story here on Oasys and now Infospace being acquired.

    There's others in the market trying... really they have nothing to offer, except other content from other publishers. It's one thing to be a publisher with your own distribution channel, but your business doesn't add up to more than a car dealership when you are aggregating content from others without adding any value along the way.

    Here's one to watch out for:


    (I think the name works in Asia?)