Grouper – Profile
HQ: Mill Valley, CA
Management: CEO is Josh Felser who was President of the music service Spinner which was acquired by AOL in 1999 for $320M. He stuck around and worked for AOL for a couple of years. President is Dave Samuel who founded Spinner.
Investors: Company launched with $1M in angel seed funding and in March 2005 it raised $2.5M led by Duff, Ackerman & Goodrich.
Business Model: Grouper is a downloadable application that provides secure P2P file-sharing functionality limited to small, invite-only groups, so as not to violate potential anti-file sharing laws. Users can stream music files, photos, and digital movies as well as Word documents and spreadsheets. In fact, Grouper expects that audio/video file swapping to be a Trojan Horse that will get users hooked on Grouper and start using it as a workplace collaboration tool for small and medium-size businesses. They also expect Grouper will be used as a tool for universities where students can form study groups to share notes and collaborate on projects.
Competitors: Qnext, PiXPO , Mercora, Hello (Google), Yahoo 360, Groove Networks (Microsoft).
Dirt: Grouper’s approach makes a lot of sense in the wake of growing dissatisfaction with Kazaa’s business model – monetization via adware. It also should be a safe model if the courts try to shut-down fully-open P2P file sharing. Currently, Grouper does not have revenues as its software downloads are free but it has signaled that it will begin charging for premiums or gold versions once it gets momentum. Grouper has seen fair success on Download.com. Reviews have been generally good but not overwhelming and the big search players all have the same vision. Management seems laid back so perhaps they will take the pressure in stride. It’s good to be in a crowded space but Grouper has to lift its game to become a leader.