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Vonage Nets $200M In VC Funding


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Vonage Nabs $200m VC

May 9, 2005

By Rhonda Ascierto

In the biggest venture capital deal so far this year, Vonage Holdings Corp will raise $200m in equity funding, fuelling speculation over the future of the leading Voip seller.

Vonage will sell $200m worth of convertible securities to 22 investors, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Ontario, Canada-based Vonage declined comment on the filing.

Vonage investor Sandy Miller, managing director of 3i Technologies LP, said the money is to "fuel growth and defend the company's leading position." Vonage will use its newfound wealth to target SME markets, develop new products and expand in both Europe and Asia, Miller said.
New investor Baird and Co joined existing investors 3i, NEA Enterprise Associates and Meritech Capital Partners in the new funding round.

Miller said the funding was not in response to the increasingly competitive landscape Vonage treks. "We really haven't felt pressure from competitors curtailing our growth in any way," said Miller, who also sits on Vonage's board. His Menlo Park, California-based firm first invested in Vonage in January 2004, when it led Vonage's second VC round.

The sale will bring total VC raised by Vonage to $408m. While impressive, the investment may show Vonage is not mature enough or ready to become a public company. In March, the company said it had about $100m cash in its coffers, but IDC analyst Will Stofega said Vonage is likely not profitable and perhaps not even cash-flow positive.

By opting for such a large chunk of venture, rather than public, capital, Vonage may be readying to be an acquisition target at some future point, Stofega said.
Or, given the relatively small size of the VoIP, compared to the broader telecom industry, the company may just be playing it safe. "They're still a very rapidly growing company and I think it would be worth it to achieve a little bit more general size" before going public, said Aaron Nutt, an analyst at telecom market researcher Atlantic-ACM.

While Vonage faces an ever-increasing roster of "white-label" rivals, companies that buy out-of-the-box Voip reseller services, its chief long-term threat is from large telcos and cable companies bundling Voip into their services, analysts agree.

The pressure from telcos may ease in the short term as the industry's behemoths grapple with proposed mega-mergers. The Verizon-MCI and SBC-AT&T deals give Vonage a window of opportunity, Stofega said.

But that window won't be open for long. Just last week, Qwest Communications, the fourth-largest U.S. telco, re-entered the market with its OneFlex Premier, $30-a-month Voip service. In August 2003, it became the first major phone company to sell VoIP, but scalability issues saw it quietly withdraw. Qwest said it rolled out its revamped service in its 14-state territory last week.

By having control of their own networks, large telcos may have an inherent advantage over Vonage, especially in serving enterprise customers. "It's very difficult for Vonage to really serve the enterprise customer market because the scope of services required is very deep and they need a lot more in terms of network management," Nutt said.

On the other hand, since Vonage rents network resources, it has lower capital costs and can direct more cash on marketing to new customers and be more nimble. "One of the bets is that Vonage can outmaneuver some of the bigger guys," Stofega said.

U.S. Voip service revenue totaled $1.3bn last year and will surge to $19.9bn in 2009, said a report released late last week by Infonetics Research. Business adoption of Voip shot up 46% last year. By the end of 2005, the researcher predicts 29% of large, 16% of medium and 4% of small companies in North America will have adopted VoIP.

There are some 1,100 Voip service providers in the United States, creating what Adam Braunstein, an analyst at Robert Frances Group, calls an industry bubble. Still, with Voip customers comprising just 1.5% of all lines in the country, there remains room for growth.

Richard Nespola, analyst at IT consultant The Management Network Group Inc, expects consolidation of the market, but not for at least another 18 to 24 months. Braunstein agreed and said it will be three years before we can expect a steady wave of announcements.

Vonage's VC deal is the largest so far in the United States, according to VC tracker VentureOne. The second largest was a $108m round for Webroot Software Inc of Colorado in early February. U.S. drug developer Jazz Pharmaceuticals took last year's top deal spot by raising $250m in March 2004.



 
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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See www.vonage.com/911 for details.

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