Why was Zeebox so coy about who invested money in its first round? Milo Yiannopoulos wonders if there’s something strange going on.
“I have seen the future of TV and it is called Zeebox,” wrote paidContent’s Robert Andrews in 2011, gushing uncontrollably about how marvellous Zeebox’s contextual information service for live television broadcasts looked to be.
Which was all well and good, except something troubled me about the fact that $5 million had been raised from “undisclosed investors”. That’s rather a lot of money. What did they have to hide?
This $5 million round was followed by another one, with the money coming from Sky this time. Sky’s stake is rumoured to have cost them $15 million. Why, unusually for a business of this nature, were no venture capitalists involved?
So I did some digging, looking first at who is listed with Companies House as a director of Zeebox. Most of the names are unremarkable: Ernesto Schmitt, Anthony Rose and Max Regner-Bleyleben, all of whom are co-founders and executives of the company.
But I also discovered Elio Leoni-Sceti, the former chief executive of EMI, who is now one half of LSG Holdings, an investment, fund advisory and corporate finance group that appears to have a venture capital arm.
Ernesto Schmitt is also a former EMI executive, so it is reasonable to assume the two were acquainted at the company.
Zeebox is listed among LSG’s “portfolio” companies, making the secrecy around Zeebox’s funding announcement peculiar. Also appearing in LSG Holdings’ venture capital portfolio is social games company Zynga, who were unavailable to confirm to me yesterday that they have any relationship with LSG Holdings at all.
So who is LSG investing in? And where is the money coming from? One investment into MSD Industrial Ltd., a crane hire specialist based in Darlington, was part of a refinancing operation that gave the company six months’ worth of life suport before the liquidators were called in.
Another investment of Leoni-Sceti’s, into We R Interactive, was reported by the Guardian in May 2011.
But why the secrecy about Zeebox? LSG Holdings did not immediately return a request for comment this afternoon, but we understand from outside sources that Elio Leoni-Sceti is, even now, keen to keep his investment into Zeebox on the down-low, despite its logo appearing on his website.