In a courtship that began at CES earlier this year, smart TV app company Flingo is now getting hitched to billionaire technology and digital media expert Mark Cuban.
Flingo announced $1 million of additional financing by Cuban and Gary Lauder (of the “Estée” Lauders) alongside the February investment received from August Capital. This brings the company’s Series A to a total of $8 million. Although not publicly announced by the company, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told us that A+E Networks also contributed to this new investment.
Flingo is the largest publisher of Smart TV apps. Its Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) software is like “Shazam for TV content” and can identify what’s playing on the screen in seconds. The company then uses this information platform to deliver contextually relevant content to the users first and second screens in real time.
“This was the key in attracting Mark,” says Flingo co-founder and former BitTorrent founder Ashwin Navin. “Mark has been critical of TV tech products in the past. I think he and I both agree that there are two types of TV technology companies, those who think of broadcast as merely an app and those who think of it as a platform. Google TV, Hulu, and Netflix are the former. Flingo is the latter. We really focus on enhancing broadcast.”
In addition to its ACR features, Flingo has some of the deepest social network integration possible. Navin says that both Google and Twitter have dedicated considerable resources to its SyncApps feature to allow direct publishing to social streams from within the app. On Facebook, users can enable frictionless sharing analogous to the Spotify listening feed and the Washington Post Social Reader. Simplicity of sharing, in most cases, is good. Frictionless sharing, however, is rarely a welcome addition.
The company is one of the few positioned to bridge traditional broadcast with digital technologies. Flingo integrates media companies, brand advertisers, and TV hardware manufacturers by creating entirely new revenue streams. Theoretically, they accomplish this without cannibalizing broadcasters.
Flingo’s manufacturer partners include Samsung, LG, Vizio, Insignia, Sanyo, Western Digital, and Netgear. It has thus far developed apps for FOX, A+E Networks, Showtime, Warner Bros., PBS, and CBS among others.
The union with Cuban is a natural one based on his experience as founder of Broadcast.com and current roles as chairman of HDNet, and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theatres, and Magnolia Pictures. He has also been a vocal critic of the “demise of broadcast” theory.
Navin says, “[The initial meeting] almost felt like a pitch on Shark Tank. Mark was great. We did a 20 minute deep dive and he completely got it.”
Rather than requesting the traditional due diligence documents like a pitch deck and financial statements, Cuban instead sent Flingo’s APIs to his new media app teams to start building around them. When they came back with positive feedback the deal was all but done.
“We’re not announcing anything at the moment,” Navin says, “but based on Mark’s relationships and portfolio, I’d say it is fair to expect announcements of additional Flingo integrations in the near future.”
The company’s plans for the new capital include growing its engineering team and expanding its datacenter infrastructure. In contrast to the majority of other early growth technology companies, Flingo is bypassing hosted cloud servers in favor of installing its own datacenters across the country. This is a strategy typically only seen from companies at much larger scale.
Navin says, “We’re finding it’s much more efficient to run the datacenters ourselves than on a hosted cloud. Our team has actually had to dust off some IT skillsets that are not in use much around the valley these days.”
He claims that the capital raised to date will be sufficient to complete its North American build out, but that more funding will be needed to achieve their ambitious international plans.
Flingo’s “social TV for everyone” product is currently available on a reported 8.5 million screens in 118 countries worldwide. Smart TVs are approaching mass adoption at the same time that tablets and other second screen devices are making simultaneous Internet browsing a regular part of the TV viewing experience.
The addition of Mark Cuban’s brand, on top to the might of Flingo’s existing hardware and publisher partnerships, has the potential to be rocket fuel on an already burning fire.