Picture-sharing is a pretty crowded market, so you have to find ways to stand out. One way is to gain celebrity backing, as Israel’s Mobli has done in style — we’re talking Leo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Serena Williams and (cough) Lance Armstrong. Even better, though, is an investor who can literally put your app in front of the noses of millions of customers.
Enter Carlos Slim, América Móvil chief and dueller of Bill Gates for the title of “world’s richest man”. Slim’s Mexican communications giant joined in a hefty $60 million funding round for Mobli this week, in a strategic investment that will see the Instagram rival introduced to América Móvil’s users “throughout the Americas,” as Slim said in a statement.
Considering América Móvil has close to a quarter of a billion subscribers throughout the Americas, that should provide a bit of a boost for Mobli.
As with other photo-sharing operations such as EyeEm, Mobli is trying to make its images as searchable as possible, so people can vicariously “share” experiences. The Israeli firm said on Wednesday that América Móvil’s investment would allow it to launch and expand its “visual search engine”.
Large telcos are notoriously rubbish at developing their own value-added services to run on top of their data pipes, but, while there are many telco-sponsored accelerators out there, the operators don’t tend to invest in established startups much. Instead, many enter into partnerships in order to entice their customers with free premium subscriptions and the like – witness the deals struck with Spotify and Evernote.
América Móvil, however, has form in making big bets on the startup front, having put $40 million into audio-recognition outfit Shazam just a few months ago. It will be very interesting to see how it manages these investments, and precisely what it wants to get out of them.