Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Boxee Goes Hunting for Big Bucks

Boxee, which makes software that makes it easy to watch Web video on your TV, celebrates a big milestone this week, when the first Boxee-branded hardware starts shipping to consumers. The start-up is celebrating with an event at New York’s Irving Plaza.

But the company’s next big move likely won’t happen in public view: Sources say Boxee is out trying to raise a significant funding round, likely in the $10 million to $15 million range.

I’m told that existing investors Union Square, Spark and General Catalyst, which have helped Boxee raise $12 million to date, all plan to re-up, and will likely pick up half of the round. No word on who the new money is, or how close the round is to closing.

CEO Avner Ronen will need it sooner than later, though. His two-year-old company now has a significant payroll–33 people, at last count–and very little revenue coming in the door.

The new Boxee Boxes shipping this week won’t change that. Boxee isn’t trying to succeed by charging manufacturers like D-Link, which is making the devices, big licensing fees.

Instead, it’s trying to build a significant audience by getting its software on lots of hardware–TVs, Blu-ray players, game machines, etc.–and figure out a way to turn that into money down the line. Boxee is at 1.4 million users now, but that’s not nearly big enough. It wants Pandora- or Netflix-like scale.

This is an interesting time for Ronen to be out pitching: The existing TV industry is ripe for disruption. And the idea that consumers will watch Web video on their TV is moving from science fiction to reality, spurred on by the likes of Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV and now Google TV.

But Google TV’s mission–to merge Web video with traditional TV on one screen–is pretty much the same as Boxee’s. If Google figures it out, it would seem to crowd out the competition.

On the other hand, TV programmers who are wary of Google’s dominance might very well welcome multiple competitors. Which may be one of the reasons that Ronen is supposedly getting a much warmer reception from traditional TV executives than he used to get.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik