2010 ended on a down note for VC funds. Word came this week that 2010 represented the fourth consecutive year of declines and the slowest annual period for venture capital fundraising since 2003, according to Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA).
The silver lining, the NVCA said, is that downsizing of the venture industry has positive implications for investors and entrepreneurs. “An agile venture capital model likely translates into more capital efficient and fewer duplicative deals in the IT arena,” said its president, Mark Heesen in a release, adding, “The most innovative and efficient companies will continue to be funded by the venture community.”
That must be happy news for semantic web movie and TV “taste engine” Jinni. 2011 started out on a good note for the site, with its announcement that it closed a series B funding round for $5 million. The round was led by two strategic investors: Belgacom – Belgium’s leading telco – and an undisclosed Tier-1 connected-TV manufacturer. Jinni’s service enables Belgacom to offer its customers personalized movie recommendations and discovery, on TV, mobile and web platforms. Venture capital firm DFJ Tamir Fishman Ventures (which previously led Jinni’s Round A funding) also participated.
“Once potential customers recognize the value of the company they want to make deep use of your product and participate in the outcome of that success, that’s what you call strategic investors,” says Yosi Glick, Jinni CEO and co-founder. And that may be a secret to unlocking the door to further success with the VC community. “When there is significant money on the table [from customers], VCs are happy to participate.”
The funding can be put to good use in Jinni’s plans to extend the service’s capabilities, including its intent within the next few months to add U.S. pay TV channel lineups as part of its service. “So not just movies and tv shows but the lineup will be part of the service so can apply your entertainment personality across all media,” says Glick. The entertainment personality, introduced a few months back, is what Glick describes as “the soul of Jinni — that we have a way in a semantic session to describe your personality.”
Users can rate movies and Jinni uses that information to create a sketch of your movie “genes,” and relates that to those mapped in its Movie Genome Project, in order to understand and recommend entertainment that would appeal to your personality. No two people will have exactly the same personality sketch. As compared to just relying on typical genre definitions to create movie recommendations, the Movie Genome maps multiple aspects of movies and tv shows, exploring content mood and tone, plot elements, structures, flags (for violence, for instance), and external factors such as awards received, to come up with some 2,200 tags. About fifty genes are automatically tagged per title. “With Jinni you get very granular, detailed definitionsof each of your tastes with your personality,” says Glick. “That’s the news – that now you can have the semantic technology to power your personality.”
There’s also the notion of getting recommendations from neighbors in Jinni. Those are people similar to you in entertainment personality, which Glick says makes their recommendations about movies or tv you might like more relevant than, say, Facebook’s Open Graph-protocol-enabled like button. “I think the like button can be useful if you want to know what is the buzz and what are people interested in to be part of the discussion,” he says. “But it’s a different ballgame when you want to have the social sphere recommend something to you that you would like. In such cases you need to know that those who recommend it are similar to you in terms of their personality. Then you can trust that.”
The Movie Genome project has added a couple of foreign languages to its English base – French and Dutch. And more European language support should come online this year, as Jinni pursues more customers on the continent. “It’s equally important as a market to us as the U.S.,” says Glick.