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Next2Friends Lines Up VC Funds, Eyes Retail Partnerships

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imageAnother upstart mobile social media platform, Next2Friends, will announce a “multimillion-dollar” first funding round in the next four to six weeks. Term sheets are being signed for the company to take investment from “a large US entity”; more UK individuals including a “household name” in software are also joining the board, CEO Roy Shelton told me.

Next2Friends was formed when Shelton’s Dropjaw Ventures bought the IP from science software maker Genetibase last year; Genetibase raised a friends-and-family round, Shelton gave seed funds. Shelton of Nottingham, England, told me cash burn is now “getting pretty substantial” – 30 staff are scattered around offices and makeshift HQs in Manhattan (four) and Minnesota (16 R&D) in the US and Brighton, Southend and Yorkshire in the UK. The cash will support continued R&D, ongoing cash requirements and the search for a permanent UK office.

But Next2Friends’ greatest challenge may be focusing the proposition. While rivals Qik and Flixwagon simply offer live video, Next2Friends adds photo upload, ask-a-friend, Bluetooth personality matching and, soon, mobile blogging, as well as four mobile apps. But Shelton says: “We will be consolidating in to two apps and then going wider in terms of platform support.” Windows Mobile 6 support launches in the next 10 days, with more systems to come.

As a business model, the company is targeting both mobile advertising, white-label deals and deals with fashion retailers, from where Shelton says users will upload photos of outfits to ask friends’ opinions prior to purchase. Next2Friends has just signed its first white-label deal with an unnamed org, has just inked a deal with US property group Simon and, despite being a startup itself, is already targeting its own acquisitions to follow its BluetoothMeet acquisition in May, claiming several discussions are currently taking place. “We’re not just another one-trick pony,” Shelton said – and, with such an array of services, that’s certainly the case.