Yeah, this round of funding is huger than huge. Well, at least for Europe. And while it may be nowhere near Groupon’s, like, billion-dollar-round, it is definitely amongst the bigger deals on this side of the Atlantic.
Multiple sources have confirmed that they are currently in discussion with Luxemburg-based Wikio Groupe, who is in the process of securing a very large round of funding. While no official information has been released, the 8-figure number could easily hit 9-figures in USD given the current exchange rate. That would make it one of the biggest rounds of funding to take place in Europe this year.
The company founded by Pierre Chappaz, who also founded price-comparison site Kelkoo (which went to Yahoo in 2004 for €475 million or $670 million), could be on his way to building the European internet giant everyone has been waiting for. The so-called “European equivalent of Demand Media” currently manages 6 flagship products, including blog platform Overblog, Wikio News, Wikio Experts, Wikio Shopping, local search engine Nomao and recommendation site Ebuzzing. According to internal statistics, these 6 properties counted over 120 million monetized visits for the month of February alone.
The last half of 2010 was especially active for Wikio, who merged not only with Overblog but also Nomao. Apparently, the fusion with Overblog has proved very successful; in February Overblog reported its strongest growth in traffic to date, hitting 98 million visits for that month alone. Then, towards the end of 2010, the company announced a €4 million round of funding followed by the launch of Wikio Experts, a “content on demand” platform for publications to source freelance writers.
The 140-person company seems to be working its way towards becoming the European social internet leader. But does it make sense to call Wikio a potential Euro internet champ? For starters, there are currently 11 seasoned entrepreneurs in Wikio’s management team, incuding Fréderic Montagnon, Julien Romanetto, Bertrand Quasada, Laurent Binard and Yves Languepin (in addition to Pierre Chappaz). These entrepreneurs are not on their first startup and they’ve gone through previous acquisitions. In addition, the company is generating cash and is almost profitable; it was not seeking to raise any money after the round that it closed in December. And finally, the multiple platforms of this pan-European group are complimentary in nature and continue to hire across Europe.
Still, while the company’s investors include Lightspeed Venture Partners and TF1, Wikio is potentially lacking an A-list investor needed to take it to the top. Furthermore, the company could be criticized for being slow to integrate with social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. And it was a little late to get on tablets and mobile platforms.
Naturally, this round of funding will be very telling for the company’s future. We’ll see shortly whether the capital is provided by European investors or by American investors that are preparing to facilitate Wikio’s transatlantic development.
We contacted Wikio’s team for comments. The company’s marketing director, Frédéric Montagnon, tried to remain rather under the radar but didn’t hesitate to mention that “if there is a round of funding, it’ll be a big round do to things on a bigger scale and why not go beyond Europe…”