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A Tale of Four Venture Backed Companies

You’ve probably seen the nasty headlines over on TechMeme and TechFuga yesterday. You know the ones, like this one about how Venture Capital has dried up.

Before I leave for Davos, Switzerland on Monday morning to attend the World Economic Forum, I wanted to get around to a bunch of San Francisco and Silicon Valley-based companies. In the past two days I’ve met with six companies. I’m beat. But Friday I got to four companies and I found them to be impressive. One of them, iWidgets, will announce its A round of funding next week.

The videos I shot reveal how these companies got funded (one, Kosmix, has received $50 million so far from its investors).

Let’s meet the four companies:

SkyDeck. Video: 28 minutes. SkyDeck takes your cell phone and makes it much more useful. They just shipped a new version this week. They say they are getting business from big companies who are looking to save money on their cell phone bills and make their workers more productive. I’m using it here and it tells me all sorts of stuff about my bill that I didn’t know, and the new version does a lot more than that — on some phones it takes over your voice mail so you get voicemails sent to your email and much more.

iWidgets. Video: 23 minutes. This company has an easy-to-use tool that lets you build widgets for most of the popular social networks out there. This looks and feels a lot like Visual Basic, but it is much more interesting because it lets you design apps for Facebook. They are closing a round of funding next week, weren’t quite ready to announce who their investors are.

JaJah. Video: 22 minutes. JaJah lets you make overseas phone calls for very little money. One of the co-founders explained why their service is better than others and showed me a cool VOiP application for iPhone Touch. Says that they will soon announce their new user numbers, which they told me are “dramatically more” than exist today.

Kosmix. Video: 33 minutes. Did you know that one of the co-founders had a chance to buy Google and turned it down? I learned that story on the video as well as got a tour of this new kind of search engine. This showed me a path for Microsoft to get back into the search market. Do you see it? I’m already an addict of this site and will visit it every morning. Shows me interesting news and search from around the Web.

Lessons I learned from all four companies?

1. They all told me of friends who are having trouble getting funding, so funding isn’t flowing easily. But…
2. Some of these companies have received funding recently. In the case of iWidgets they are closing a round next week. So it’s not impossible. But…
3. They bring something unique to the table. All of these are interesting, fun, engaging sites that I will use (I already use SkyDeck and added Kosmix and JaJah to what I do). It’s so nice seeing four companies that provide total solutions that have some depth to them.
4. Kosmix talked about how they convinced investors to pitch a lot more money into the company in the past few weeks: demonstrate adoption, they said.

Anyway, hope you enjoy this little tour. One other thing, these videos were made with my Nokia N95 cell phone with the just released Kyte.TV app on it. It gives dramatically better quality with the Nokia than they had previously. More on that vs. Qik in a later post.

Anyway, looking forward to bringing you to Davos with me. Talk to you next week!