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Summary:

The upside of conferences such as The Future of Web Apps confab (currently underway in San Francisco) is that you run into folks you never expect. Today, I ran into Tariq Krim, chief executive officer and founder of Paris-based Netvibes. While I have often Skyped him, […]

The upside of conferences such as The Future of Web Apps confab (currently underway in San Francisco) is that you run into folks you never expect. Today, I ran into Tariq Krim, chief executive officer and founder of Paris-based Netvibes. While I have often Skyped him, it has been difficult to overcome the geographic distance and meet in person.

A journalist-turned-entrepreneur, Tariq’s little project recently got the tongues wagging when the nine-month-old company raised $15 million in venture funding from the likes of Accel Partners and Index Ventures. The company counts Marc Andreessen, Martin Varsavsky (the founder of WiFi network, FON) and Pierre Chappaz (founder of Kelkoo) amongst its backers. After spending a few minutes discussing my recent Business 2.0 story on the widgetization of the web, we discussed the state of Netvibes.

Krim says his company now has five million active users and growing fast.


He says nearly half the users are from the U.S., and are amongst Netvibes’ most demanding (in terms of using features and bandwidth) users. The company is days away from launching an updated service that would address some of the growing frustration with “too many social networks.” I did get to see the new feature, and even to my jaded eyes, pretty hot.

After some querying about the state of finances, Krim did tell us that the company is making some money from referrals and affiliate deals. In the near future there will be premium module deals. I suspect you would see more companies to follow in the footsteps of travel search engine, Mobissimo, which announced a Netvibes module today.

Such deals are vital for the company, which might have generous VC backing but it is facing deep-pocketed challengers including Microsoft and Google, as well as other start-ups nipping at its heels. The company’s features are becoming commonplace. What would make them different form others? (Read Niall Kennedy’s essay that is pretty comprehensive.)

Tariq told Liz while she was working for Red Herring that Netvibes was going to try to get distribution deals with big media companies to have branded personalized homepages. That sounds like a promising business, but skepticism prevails. Blame much of that on the copious amount of VC dollars!

Nevertheless, when I see Netvibes, I see a company that is offloading a bulk of heavy lifting to the client, aka the browser. Not very different than Skype, you could say. I see a tool that if nurtured properly could become the gatekeeper to my attention. Just like MySpace has the attention of its 100 million plus users, Netvibes can do the same, but as a starting point for our digital journeys.
Of course, the company has to keep innovating and coming up with ways to extend their ecosystem. And they need to maintain unwavering focus on making the service easier, faster and more convenient to use.

  1. “What would make them different form others?”
    They have won the style / usability stakes by a country mile.
    If they only had the sever grunt of the ugly Google and improved MS.

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  2. Netvibes claims 5 Million users…

    Man about town Om Malik bumped into Netvibes CEO Tariq Krim at the The Future of Web Apps conference in San Francisco. Tariq told Om that Netvibes now has 5 million users, so naturally he is very optimistic of its…

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  3. With Netvibes it’s not surprising to see that they manage to grow its user base to this number… It’s really useful for one. And if you are able incorporate more of the well known services api into it. They will do very well.

    Only worry is just how they are going to make money eventually. Ads sales again… I wonder. Wonder what’s the expectations of the VCs for them. :P

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  4. I was a heavy netvibes user, but once you get over 20 or so feeds, it becomes unusable. I’ve recently switched to newshutch.com which handles many feeds much more simply and gracefully by only showing what hasn’t been read. Netvibes has more modules, but for straight rss reader, i could see it getting eaten by giants and other readers.

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  5. I have a netvibes account and a protopage account. Netvibes is better in almost every way except for the fact that on protopage I can read multiple feeds in one box. I don’t understand why netvibes doesn’t create something like this.

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  6. I do agree with Mike, with more than 20 feeds Netvibes is very slow. On Digg I discovered last week Webwag.com, far more efficient on that point.
    I heard their audience is skyrocketing, and Alexa shows that are close to reach PageFlakes already. Webwag CEO is the former Google France boss and claims a few business models…worth following

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  7. I would really like to know the exact definition of “5 million users”. Is it signups (registrations), visits/month, visits/week, etc. Is it people who regulary use the site on a daily basis? Just don’t like this vague definitions that much – those terms are almost used in an inflational sense. Makes you wonder.

    Cheers
    Ole

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  8. I agree with Ole. I for one am one of the presumably thousands of users who hear about the site via digg/gigaom/techcrunch/etc register to check it out and then abandon my account after a couple of days (not because the service is bad or anything, rather I have no need for it). Im hoping the ’5 million users’ is indeed active users and not the number of registered users on file.

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  9. ‘Krim says his company now has five million active users and growing fast’
    But maybe not as fast as it was.
    In March 2006 TechCrunch reported that ‘Over a million home pages have been created on Netvibes’ (http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/03/22/netvibes-to-announce-seed-financing-today/)
    In June 2006 Nial Kennedy references Tariq quoting four million users, ‘Netvibes has amassed over 4 million users in its first 9 months of operation’
    (http://www.niallkennedy.com/blog/archives/2006/06/netvibes-4-million.html)
    This month the number is five million from Tariq’s own mouth (above).
    So:
    1 million in the first six months (average 166,000 per month)
    Then it jumps to around 1 million new users in April and over 1 million new users in May to get to 4 million in June.
    Then, inexplicibly, it slows right down, because over the next three months, they only add another 1 million users.

    It looks very strange on a chart. Either the numbers they are quoting are wrong – or their growth is slowing down. Wonder which it is?

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  10. I like Netvibes, I use it as my homepage and it does the job very nicely. I was a MyYahoo fan for many years but switched when I stopped using Yahoo mail.

    Netvibes does the job very nicely, it’s simple to use and fits enough feeds for me without becoming too cluttered. Agree with the person above who said that perhaps they should only display new content (rather than still showing greyed out links).

    As for how they will monetize it, well thats a very good question and I too wonder what the VC’s are expecting. Either advertising or possibly charging content providers to be included, or even having unique content that users may want to pay for? I don’t know, but while it does the job for me I’ll continue to use it!

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