Monday, April 27, 2009

Hard Times: Airborne Sells A Board Seat For Pocketchange...and it's News

Wow!, you know times suck when MocoNews and several other trade blogs picked up a story about how venerable veteran publisher Airborne Mobile received $500k from private investor Skuli Mogensen (never heard of him) in exchange for seat on the Canadian company's board of directors. I'm not sure why the company is telegraphing this information...because to me it reeks of desperation and seems a sad turn for a former North American personalization powerhouse, legendary for it's irreverent style and outlandish parties (as well as outlandish style and irreverent parties). The company, founded during the mobile content paleolithic (1999), was built upon a slew of high profile (expensive) licenses like Family Guy, Maxim, NHL, etc., as, well as solid carrier distribution. Peak revenue was probably in the $30mil range. In 2005 founders Andy Nulman & Garner Bornstein sold to Japanese hotshot du jour Cybird Holdings for ~$ an era where Japanese firms (like Index & ForSide) were snapping up Euro/US publishers willy-nilly, ultimately with disastrous results (but that's a whole separate story). Nulman/Bornstein, who continued to run the company during the unremarkable Cybird era, bought it back last summer (for a song, I'm sure) and raised $2mil in January from iNovia fund the elusive "next big mobile product." The ultimate plan, presumably, is to package Airborne up for sale 2.0...a non-trivial task now that all the dumb money has dried up and in light of the decreasing relevance/value of their existing products and relationships. But, I get ahead of myself...based on today's news I think their short term goal must be to keep the lights on at their Montreal offices.


  1. A note from Garner:

    Jeremy, I usually leave the blogosphere to Andy but your post was so utterly moronic that I’ll make an exception in order to set the record straight.

    Firstly, people don’t pay for board seats, they GET paid to sit on boards. However I will consider it a compliment that you believe that the “prestige” of sitting on the Airborne board is worth “pocket change” of $500,000.

    Secondly, raising $2,500,000 in 2009 should be your first clue that “the lights are on” at Airborne and things are going extremely well for us.

    Lastly, as a personal comment, I did take the time to read through your other postings and I noticed that virtually every one of them has a negative and biting perspective. I’m not sure whether this blog is an outlet for some personal frustration of yours, but I would suggest, if your intent is to be taken seriously as a "journalist" in the mobile space, that you develop a more balanced and informed approach.

    Surely, with all of the new and exciting things going on in the space, you can find something positive to write about.

    Garner Bornstein

  2. Jeremy—

    Never mind “fact-checking,” what ever happened to the concept of facts themselves? After reading your fact-lite diatribe about our most recent financing and board appointment, I think it quite necessary to point out some of the outright falsities it contains.

    First off, while you have “never heard of” Skuli Mogensen, a perfunctory Google search on the man would’ve told you that he is a native of Iceland, an entrepreneur with an admirable track record in the mobile space and most recently founder and CEO of Oz Communications, a mobile email/instant messaging provider that was acquired by Nokia last September.

    That said, terms of our recent financing deal with iNovia Capital was the addition of an independent board member. Given his expertise, intelligence and vision, Skuli came highly recommended. After a number of meetings, he was appointed to our board, and was so impressed with the company that he asked to invest in it; hardly a move that, as you so dismissively put it, “reeks of desperation. That is not only insulting, but misguidedly wrong.

    What’s more, describing Skuli's $500,000 investment as “pocket change” is a disservice to those companies trying to raise funds in challenging times. Perhaps your exit package from Universal was substantially more generous than industry norms, and a mere half-mil isn't what it used to be…

    Your presumptuous dismissal of our business, and of our valued relationships with our carrier and brand partners (which, unfortunately, does not include your former employer…yet) is a low blow and irresponsible.

    Yes, as you put it, these are “Tough Times” for all of us, but we’re not worried about “keeping the lights on” at our offices. Our lights burn bright continuously, as they are powered by 60 motivated and hard-working people who believe in the future of this industry, and are taking the necessary risks and next steps to help build it.

    --Andy Nulman