On the very same day that a certain search and Internet advertising giant based in Mountain View, California has made public its plans to soon bring to market an open-source operating system that it hopes will give Microsoft a run for its money when it comes to powering the netbooks of this world, a lone startup from Paris, France has raised millions in financing to do exactly the same thing. I’m talking about Jolicloud, Netvibes founder and former CEO Tariq Krim‘s new company, which has just raised $4.2 million in Series A funding from Atomico Ventures and Mangrove Capital Partners.
With the investment, Jolicloud not only gains capital from two of the most widely respected venture capital firms in Europe, Krim also wins two heavyweight entrepeneurs / investors on its board of directors as well as one experienced advisor. Atomico Ventures’ Niklas Zennström (of Kazaa, Skype and Joost fame) and Gilles Samoun (current fotopedia CEO) will both take seats on the startup’s board, and Michael Jackson – partner at Mangrove Capital Partners and former COO of Skype – will take up the role of advisor.
I was one of the few people to get their hands on a developer, ‘alpha’ version of the Jolicloud operating system – my hands-on review – and ever since I installed it on my Acer Aspire ONE (which I use when I travel or attend short meetings) it has yet to disappoint me. The OS ‘just works’ and has changed the way I think operating systems should function in a digital world increasingly dominated by web applications and cloud services (that is, get out of my way and focus on simplicity, speed and a well-designed interface).
I realize full well that Microsoft, Google and Intel are to be taken into account when looking at the slowly but surely growing netbook OS market in the coming years, but I think it doesn’t hurt to have a couple of startups trying new things and keeping them on their toes. I talked to Krim about this and Google Chrome OS in particular, and he sees a lot of holes in today’s announcement from Google. He’s hardly the only one to point out the inevitable internal conflict that should soon surface between the Android and Chrome teams, the fact that it’ll take quite some time before a working version of Chrome OS will enter the market, and furthermore he sees this as a welcome validation of what he’s trying to achieve with Jolicloud i.e. building an OS designed to meet the needs of future netbooks and users who grow more and more accustomed to do both things for fun and work using cloud-based services and web applications. Others point out the netbook market isn’t booming at all, and that Linux distributions so far have not fared as well as predicted on the small notebooks.
I for one respect Krim’s ambition – more of this attitude in Europe, please – and I understand why investors would be interested in Jolicloud, but only time will tell if a combination of a good team, idea and execution will prove enough to effectively challenge the American technology behemoths who are eying this market in a big way. It sure isn’t easy.
The road to success, if any can be found at the end of it, will prove to be very rocky.