Dave McClure, the famously foul-mouthed founder of Silicon Valley seed fund and accelerator 500 Startups, has invested $100,000 in online comparison tool VERSUS IO.
A search on the 500 Startups website suggests this is McClure’s first deal in Germany, at least through that investment vehicle. It’s the third investor for Berlin-based VERSUS IO, following €500,000 from High-Tech Gründerfonds and €200,000 from JMES Investments.
VERSUS IO is a natural language-styled comparison platform. The technology is simple – find and clean data, put rules in place to deliver natural language results – but the vision is ambitious: provide a tool to compare anything from mobile phones to real estate, food, cities and people. So far, there are just six verticals in play, mostly gadgets. Next year, it’s likely at least another few dozen verticals will be introduced.
McClure is currently travelling the world with a coterie of “Geeks on a Plane” to learn about different tech hubs, make contacts and scout new investments. The geeks’ stop in Berlin in September included a visit to the Factory, home to VERSUS IO’s parent company URGE IO and other tech companies including SoundCloud, Views and Toast.
How the deal went down
VERSUS IO founder Ramin Far (above), a former MTV Northern Europe exec, confirmed he first met with McClure during that visit.
“I had this presentation there, I was presenting VERSUS – then I left, I had another appointment. Jenny [Jung] from the Factory, she called and said ‘Dave wants to talk to you’… I interrupted my appointment and ‘drove’ back to the Factory with my bike.
“I met him in front of the building – and he said straight to me, ‘I’m interested, what do you think?’ We started to talk and the rest was just paperwork.”
The new funding is through 500 Startups but VERSUS IO will not be joining the accelerator programme. And, Ramin explained, it’s not so much about the money – it’s about having McClure on board. “It’s our step to the US, to the West Coast – to get really international.”
New features, business plans ahead for VERSUS IO
As well as price comparison and affiliate marketing (sending users to where they can purchase products), Far will be pushing ahead with banner advertising and the licensing of VERSUS IO’s content to other publishers:
“We are going to license our content to publishers, so every big publisher can license our content as a white label. This is one of our main goals – I want to quickly close a lot of deals in the US.”
It’s too early to say if that strategy will find success but the site is at least generating decent traffic – VERSUS IO expects to close the month with 2.5m visits to the site, with 80 per cent of those from unique visitors. Future steps include optimising the site for mobile phone browsers and new, more interactive features for users.
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