MOLI's $30m privacy-based network de-cloaks in Dublin, then de-robes a new user

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A lot of people this side of the Atlantic are sitting around scratching their heads as we learn that Ireland-based MOLI has – as if it were a Klingon starship in an episode of Star Trek – ‘de-cloaked’ in the middle of Dublin with a brand new kind of social network and almost 60 staff on its books. Who knew?

It turns out US-based Mainstream Technologies, which runs MOLI from its international headquarters in Dublin’s ‘Digital Hub’ area, raised almost €20.3m ($29.6m) from backers including the founder of the giant US Home Depot chain Bernard Marcus, and the chain’s co-founder, Kenneth Langone. They were joined by US hedge fund Vantis Capital Management, founded by Langone. Indeed GigaOm reports that founder Dr. Christos M. Cotsakos, former Chairman and CEO of E*TRADE and AC Nielsen, has already previously seeded the company with $20 million of his personal funds, plus $6 million from private investors. He has been busy.

So what is this innovative new business model? Annoyed with how Facebook only gives you one identity to manage friends, family and work? Well MOLI is designed to address the core issue of privacy. Users can create and manage diverse personal profiles via one user identity and a single, customised home page. In other words, mashup LinkedIn (work), Facebook (personal) and Musical tastes (MySpace) and then put some privacy controls in. That’s the theory at least.

There is no limit to the number of profiles, which are free with your first URL but further URLs cost $1.99. Cotsakos himself has 13 profiles, some personal, some work-related and some hidden. Users can decide which of their profiles are shared and to whom.

But this is not just a Facebook / LinkedIn mashup. MOLI is a social network aimed at “enterprising individuals above the age of 18 and small business owners”. These are people you probably know – people who have talent or a skill, often creatives or artists. So, for a mere $3.99 a month, you can have a retail site linked to a profile, which is in turn linked to a network you can, if you want, sell into. Think Facebook meets eBay or some other web store. So now you can sell your home-made wood carvings to your friends, while also pimping your hi-tech consultancy to your work network. Billing is by Google Checkout, or PayPal. MOLI also comes with an analytics engine, CoVibe Live, which MOLI has filed a patent for.

And there is more to MOLI – which stands for “money and living” – than meets the eye. Mainstream has three main operating subsidiaries in addition to MOLI: CoVibe TECH, Tertiary Productions and MOLI Kids. CoVibe TECH is the underlying MOLI platform which they plan to license to other businesses. Tertiary Productions provides original, high-definition video content. And MOLI Kids is an online destination under development for children ages five and older.

However, there could be an ice-burg heading MOLI’s way, and it is the heady but potentially dangerous blend of private, casual content with professional marketing and selling. Yes, you can pay $2.49 a month to make your experience ad-free, but what happens when your ‘friend’ flips into work mode and starts trying to sell stuff to you?

Furthermore, one Ireland-based blogger, initially thrilled at the news that an Irish startup had secured such backing for a what seems to be a pretty sophisticated and well designed social network, has instead highlighted a concern about the level of controls in place inside this new network. Internet marketer Sabrina Dent, blogs:

“For all the positioning and talk of “protecting your privacy” MOLI fails at the most basic hurdle. Because it doesn’t cloak new joins; in fact, it has to be displaying them somewhere, because within 15 minutes of joining, the spam started.”

She goes on to detail how the granular controls on profiles she expected did not appear to be in place (and has also had some over-enthusiastic MOLI employees trolling her blog, alas).

But for now, let us hope that MOLI can address these concerns in the weeks to come. In the meantime, it’s nice to see such a big project appear in Dublin.

  • MOLI wins $30m to keep your public and private life separate

    […] However, MOLI may need to tweak its privacy settings. Ireland-based blogger Sabrina Dent has highlighted a concern about being spammed by users as soon as she joined, since the site doesn’t cloak new joins. But for now, let us hope that MOLI can address these issues soon. [There is a more detailed review of MOLI on TechCrunch UK & Ireland]. […]

  • MOLI wins $30m to keep your public and private life separate

    […] However, MOLI may need to tweak its privacy settings. Ireland-based blogger Sabrina Dent has highlighted a concern about being spammed by users as soon as she joined, since the site doesn’t currently cloak new joins. But for now, let us hope that MOLI can address these issues soon. [There is a more detailed review of MOLI on TechCrunch UK & Ireland]. […]

  • Paul Campbell

    Ironic that this announcement comes on the evening that Paul Walsh hosted his inaugural dinner for a new Irish digital media association. He talked very passionately, got me all worked up anyway.

    There’s SO much desire for a breakthrough, nay a series of breakthrough Irish companies, the whole countries like a pressure cooker about to explode. Yet another American company making use of Irish government initiatives simply compounds the frustration that there aren’t enough Irish people out there taking the chances that seriously need to be jumped on.

  • Sabrina Dent

    To add an update:

    The “enthusiastic employee” was in fact an astroturfer – a MOLI employee who did not reveal himself as such when posting in my comments to tell me how “awesome” Moli is and that by the way, the spam I was getting wasn’t really spam.

    After a bit of digging, guess what? Said employee is’s Director of Customer Service. Meet Daniel DiFiore, “Hawk5721” and Lawn Boy for Moli.

  • TechCrunch Japanese アーカイブ » MOLI、公私の生活をわけて$30Mを獲得

    […] しかし、MOLIはプライバシー設定の微調整が必要かもしれない。アイルランド在住のブロガーSabrina Dentが強調していたように、現在サイトは新規加入者を非公開にしていないため、メンバーになったとたんにユーザーからのスパムの標的となることについての懸念がある。しかし、今はMOLIがこれらの課題にすぐに取り組むことを願おう。[MOLIのより詳細なレビューはTechCrunch UK & Irelandにある] […]

  • David Petherick

    Well, the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy don’t have an opt-in tickbox, which last time I checked, was not quite the way to comply with Data Protection for UK consumers.

    It doesn’t seem to like Safari very much, as the flash ‘type these words’ element to stop spam registrations doesn’t display at all – but works fine in Firefox.

    I think with a title strapline like “Control your Privacy” they are definitely heading for a fall, but it looks good so far – stylish and customisable enough for ‘yoof’, slick enough for business…

  • Ivan Pope

    So when I put my Zip/Postcode (Postcode) in, it insists I have to put in a US zipcode (though it hasn’t asked me where I live). So I put in a cod NY Zip code and hey presto, I’m registered as a NY resident.
    Hey, good start.

  • avanlanche

    Why do you think this is a Ireland based company and something we should be proud of? All local papers in Florida say it is based and run out of West Palm Beach? Get the facts straight!

  • Kyle MacRae

    Interesting that they’ve already registered

  • Gary Reid

    @Paul – I’m sure many San Jose residents feel the same when they see new starts importing staff from around the world, yeah the local government in San Jose doesn’t dole out grants, but in real terms the UK and Ireland are a long way behind, so the money may help kick start what could be the next silicon valley.

  • Judy Balint

    Hello Mike,

    In response to this article, I want to extend my personal apology to all your readers for our associate not identifying themselves appropriately as being from our company when they responded to a post on an Irish blog that unintentionally mis-represented how privacy works on MOLI. As a result, we have issued a policy to all of our associates worldwide to ensure that they include their name and title in all posts about company information going forward to ensure absolute transparency.

    I would also like to clarify that MOLI’s office in Dublin is our European Regional headquarters with only a few people at this point in time, and not 60 as your article implies. Our company ‘s global headquarters are actually based in southern Florida were the majority of our 55 associates are based.

    Should you be interested, I’d be more than happy to give you a personal tour of MOLI and show you how are privacy features work and answer any other questions you may have.

    With Best Regards,

  • John Handelaar

    Seems you’re just as much of a weasel as your underling.

    “A post on an Irish blog that unintentionally mis-represented how privacy works on MOLI.” ??

    You brag all over your front page about how privacy matters. She joins the site. She gets multiple spam messages instantly. That’s the truth, not any kind of misrepresentation.

    Your pool boy didn’t make an honest mistake by “not identifying himself appropriately”. He slimed his way all over the web over an extended period, engaging in a calculated and deliberate deception.

    He lied, over and over again, and you’re now telling us he didn’t. Act like a grown-up for once, and apologise properly.

  • Sabrina Dent

    Dear Judy,

    Thank you for adding comedic value to this episode. There was no “unintentional mis-representation” here. There was:

    a) An accurate representation of my experience on, which on a site that assures me as its key market differentiator that I can “control my privacy” resulted in two friend requests from people I do not know offering me, respectively, environmental products and an “EZmoney” opportunity.

    Given the volume of traffic from your company to my site today, I’m fairly confident you’ve seen the screen capture that verifies these “friend” requests. If not, you certainly know where to find them.

    b) A completely intentional mis-representation from Daniel DeFiore, not a distant “associate” but your Director of Customer Service. Dan posted as Hawk5721 on several sites, pretending to be an average user who “signed up” for MOLI and thought it was “awesome” and great option for people who were “frustrated with Facebook” – the last instance of astroturfing taking place on TechCrunch, in fact. At no point did he disclose that his “signing up” was signing an employment contract with your company.

    Astroturfing is an egregious and deceptive practice that has had serious ramifications for those who have engaged in it. I assume you are internet savvy enough to Google “GiveWell+astroturfing” and “shelfari+astroturfing”.

    I suggest you do so, and then cease trying to spin this under a rug of “misunderstanding”. This was not a misunderstanding, it was deception.

    And, I sincerely hope, the very definition of gross misconduct at

  • Green Ink

    Jesus. Dig up Judy, up!

  • Sabrina Dent: Pixel Pushing Ireland » MOLI Fails at Internet Bingo

    […] At about midnight my time, I finally got an email from Judy Balint, President and COO at +1! Printing her correspondence would be a violation of her privacy, but I can tell you that it is almost identical to her comment at TechCrunch UK. […]

  • avanlanche

    I guess if I were reading a local Oxford paper moli would be hq there. Seems wherever they can get press they are based out of. Shame on you guys!

  • TechCrunch UK » Blog Archive » As Ericsson cuts 4,000 jobs, is a tech recession biting?

    […] as the recent launch of Moli, a new UK/US/Ireland social network for freelancers and small businesses attests, US […]

  • TechCrunch UK » Blog Archive » Ireland - Tax incentives for US tech firms, but what happens to local talent?

    […] case in point is the recent launch of Moli, a Florida-based company with $30 million in venture backing which, though it initially looked like […]

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