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Startups like Vancouver-based EQO, which have been working on getting more support from Skype as a mobile partner, got some bad news recently — competitor iSkoot scooped up a coveted deal to help Skype mobilize. While three-old EQO didn’t seem too pleased with Skype’s moves in a meeting last week, the company is already retooling itself.
On Tuesday morning EQO will release — what else? — a widget for MySpace, and other social networks Friendster and Tagworld, that will enable users to send multi media messages to cell phones with the tagline “EQO Me.” The company will also make an EQO Mobile Browser available, which it calls an “evolution of its EQO Mobile for Skype,” product. Is this a desperate move from a company that has lost its raison d’être?
EQO CEO Bill Tam doesn’t think so, and says these are just the first applications in a move that will include other services for managing real time presence, messaging and voice for social networks and communities. The company plans to detail its other services and partnerships at CTIA in September. Tapping the 100 million MySpace users with a widget is a common plan for startups these days, and Clearstone’s David Stern has some strong thoughts on the matter. Like most MySpace widgets EQO doesn’t have a specific business relationship with the company, and the tool is mostly meant to bring attention to its future premium services. That leaves the company and its business exposed to the whims and fancies of the MySpace management.
Mobilizing social networks is a sizable trend, with a crowded market of startups. MySpace already has a mobile deal with Helio, the Earthlink/SK Telecom MVNO, but that deal is expected to end as early as the Fall. EQO’s Tam describes the company’s mobile social network plans as “a juvenile blackberry experience,” and the “next generation of the mobile phone book.”
The company is venture backed by the Working Opportunity Fund, and managed by GrowthWorks Capital, and BDC Venture Capital, but doesn’t disclose the exact sum of the company’s backing [the company decided to disclose its funding in an email later in the day, see below]. The company says it has had discussions with a number of firms down on Sand Hill Road and elsewhere and will be looking to find a venture partner for another round sometime later in the year.
The company’s MySpace and other community applications could prove popular, but the problem is for these initial basic applications there is little barrier to entry, and a lot of competitors who want to create similar services. The EQO team has a strong telecom background and says its has important softswitch proprietary algorithms that might be hard to replicate, so it could have a better chance than most. We will wait and watch!
Update: The company said in an email at the end of the day that the total amount of funding is 4 million in Canadian dollars, which comes to $3.58 million in U.S dollars. EQO also wants to add that these newer social networking applications were part of the company’s original plan.