Photo- and video-sharing startup Mobli has gotten a lot of attention since it launched for signing up celebrity investors. Well, you probably haven’t heard of its newest investor — at least, not unless you pay close attention to Eastern European petrochemical industry. But that investor is throwing a lot of money at the company… $20 million worth.
Mobli is announcing today that it has raised $22 million in new funding, including $20 million from Kazakhstan businessman and investor Kenges Rakishev. The other $2 million came from Mobli’s existing investors, which is made up by an all-star group of Hollywood celebs and superstar athletes such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Lance Armstrong, and Serena Williams. Mobli has raised a total of $28 million to date.
Rakishev has made a couple of other significant investments lately, including investing $32 million in Internet and mobile publisher Net Element, and another $5 million into cloud media services provider TriPlay. In both cases, Rakishev was expected to bring those technologies into Eastern Europe, and with both investments he gained a board seat. He will, not surprisingly, also be getting a seat on Mobli’s board.
But here’s the thing: Mobli, while taking a lot of money, is aligning itself with kind of an unknown entity in Rakishev. And that’s after taking its previous investments not from institutional investors, but from celebs that it hopes strategically will help it capture more consumer interest. Mobli SVP Gil Eyal acknowledged in a phone conversation that the company has “taken an untraditional path as far as fundraising is concerned.”
But will it work? Serena and Lance have been making original content — but in most successful startups, the celeb endorsement usually comes after they’ve successfully aggregated a large enough audience. You know, so celebs have someone to connect with, instead of bringing the audience to the startup.
For what it’s worth, Mobli isn’t necessarily trying to be the Instagram for video. In fact, most of its volume comes from photos. Eyal says it’s getting hundreds of photos uploaded for every video. So is there room for another Instagram clone? Unlike some of the other photo-sharing companies out there, Mobli hopes to be the place where content creators feel more comfortable telling stories with their content. Whatever that means.
But who knows? This is the company that’s putting its trust in investors who are better known for their sports prowess or film starpower than, you know, building a sustainable business. And some Kazakhstan dude who just started putting money in some random companies. I guess the good news is that, you know, they’ve got plenty of money to burn.